The Sprit of Volunteering

The Sprit of Volunteering

You may have heard the phrase, “The spirits moved me.” Often this is in reply to a call to action. This is a call to all members with the hope that the spirits will move you and summon you to volunteer for the Sheldon Family Association.

The SFA has been in existence since 1939, with an additional history that goes back even further in time. Its mission is much the same now as it was when it was started. In a few phrases:

  • To learn about and teach all things Sheldon, to anyone who is interested.
  • Documenting and sharing a number of Sheldon trees, and places where Sheldons lived and came from.
  • Gathering and sharing knowledge about how Sheldons impacted their surroundings and fellow man.

It has always been about pursuing the knowledge of who, what, when, where, why and how. It is amazing how much has been accumulated and learned through the years. The effort of previous leaders and the huge participation of volunteers over these 83 years is phenomenal and awe-inspiring. All of this takes selfless people to research, organize, write, and distribute the growing wealth of knowledge and to do so in keeping with the times.

Volunteering is not that onerous, and it is not tedious, either. Yes, it will require that you devote three to four hours
during a week if you are President, or it might be as little as a couple of hours a month if you serve on some of the
committees. The amount of time depends on what it is you seek to do and the level of engagement you wish to make. You have to remember that any amount of contribution moves all of us Sheldons forward. It is rewarding, educational, and very worthwhile. It can even become a passion.

The upcoming year will be one that requires help from new blood. Bottomline: We need some members to step up and be or become the next wave of SFA leaders. The election in July 2023 will be for a new President and a new Secretary. We also need to fill some Director at Large seats. There is a lot to do and a lot to sustain. You can take it in small steps if you wish by first becoming a Director at Large and learning the ropes and responsibilities. Can you heed a call to leadership and help?

Currently, we have a need to fill the Vice President role since the term ended in August 2022. Our VP is still filling in for her role as well as remaining as our leader of the Annual Reunions, but she has new responsibilities to help her immediate family, so we need a VP ASAP. The VP role is obviously active. The VP is a Board Member on the Executive Committee, and the backup should something happen to the President. Being in the loop is critical to this role. My real hope is that this person becomes our Policy and Procedures Manager.

We need to fill a void by having someone take up the mantle of our Social Media accounts and oversight. You do not need to be on the board to fill this role. The SFA has several social media sites. This person is there to keep them current and monitor the activity. This July will be the end of my fourth year as President. While I will remain on the Board and shift my focus to other things SFA, such as the Finance Chair, the Nominations Chair, and a member of the ACPL review team, I am also active in my community and have a growing responsibility as a caretaker, so a step back is required.

Finally, we always need volunteers on our committees for DNA research, Reunions, By Laws, the 501(3) exploration, research, and ACPL data review are at the top of the list. You do not need to be on the board to fill any of these roles. If you want more information or if you want to throw your hat in the ring, please let me know by emailing me at


Michael B Sheldon

President’s Report (September 2022)

Board of Directors activity

During the past year, the SFA Board of Directors met ten times, with at least one meeting per quarter in compliance with the SFA Bylaws. The meeting minutes are on file. The frequency of the meetings was primarily dictated by the SFA property issues with the subsequent filing of a complaint detailed below. Some new policies were created based on membership requests for research data and dues refunds.  At each meeting, the status of the business was reviewed regarding matters of membership growth/retention, finances, and committee activities with a focus on the website, media sites, and the FTDNA study.

SFA Annual Business Meeting

There were 18 members on Zoom, and 15 were present in person. This was sufficient for a quorum. A total of 25 members and guests attended the Annual reunion activities. All comments about the meeting and activities were very positive.

The following is an extended version of the President’s Report given at the annual meeting in Chelsea, Mass., on Aug. 20, 2022.

There were three significant disappointments this year. I begin with the passing of an SFA board member, our SFAQ editor Joseph Uphoff. I will miss his ways and his quirks, but I miss most of all the love he exhibited for SFA and his passion for trying to improve the SFAQ. He relished his role as editor. It was a shock when we learned of his sudden passing.

The second item was the inability to make progress on the public viewing of Sheldon documents on the ACPL website. The September 2021 board meeting and activities were epic, with the effort put forth by those that went to Fort Wayne. We saw tons, learned tons, planned tons, had tons of fun, and developed a very good comradery. Unfortunately, the issues of Covid and some of a personal nature got in the way for both SFA and ACPL, and while scanning has been done, the visual output is not there for all to see because of SFA not being able to review all the content.

Lastly was the difficult but necessary organizational changes in leadership structure. At issue was that over time, membership, research, data management, and finance all fell to one person.

September 2020 saw the addition of some very talented individuals, and the opportunity to shift and distribute roles was a natural evolution. Unfortunately, the desire to change was met with resistance. Requests were made and ignored. There were also rogue actions taken that were not authorized by the president or the board that put SFA at risk. There are many details, and I can assure you the board has been very aware of them and discussed them. For some, this was too much, very unpleasant, and they understandably resigned.

In August 2021, SFA saw a full-on frontal assault with the specific intent of replacing SFA. Because of their collaboration, the group that created this organization was able to obtain and retain copies of all the financials, DNA data, membership information, research records, and entire database in different formats.

The board made many attempts to resolve the matter of having its research, records, membership records, and financial records returned. In June of this year, it voted to proceed with creating a legal complaint that is now a matter of public record. During the week of August 8th, 2022, SFA filed a complaint with the Superior Court of the State of Washington State in Mason County. The complaint was served on Aug. 22, 2022. It specifies SFA’s intent to take our former treasurer to court for breach of her fiduciary duty as an officer of Sheldon Family Association and failing to comply with the association’s bylaws fully. SFA seeks to collect from her the digital/electronic SFA Quick Books client records and specific membership and research records that are the property of Sheldon Family Association.

This matter has been time-consuming and expensive for our small organization. After the treasurer’s resignation, SFA received some information from her. With mediation, just a little bit more, with two letters sent by the lawyers even a bit more, the most important of which was finally returning to SFA control of our social media accounts. Despite this gradual acquiescence of data and power, the fact is that the most critical things, such as the client files with supporting documentation on Quick Books and assurances that the membership and research records we firmly believe to still be in her possession will not be used for personal or commercial benefits, have not been given.

The board was unanimous in its decision in June to file because it firmly believes that our organization must protect its history, files, and membership. SFA has been a leader in many areas over the years. Many have contributed significantly to its collection of objects and data. SFA was a leader in converting its data from paper to digital. It was a leader in DNA research and its collaboration with FTDNA. It will continue to strive for the return of its data and records.

Now the good news:

Thankfully, those board members who remained have been amazingly resilient and productive. Our most recent addition to the board and our webmaster has created a masterpiece of an SFA website. We keep an open mind and keep moving forward with our goal to deliver a quality product for our members and potential members. Our webmaster and membership chair have made keeping membership current and meaningful. Their additions to the SFA website, including the Sheldon Family Places Map site and the chat rooms, increasingly differentiated it from other sites. If we could get more volunteer help, there would be more than we already envision.

The restructuring of the website has helped to reduce some of our operating costs, which has allowed us to consider such things as making contributions to places like the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, VT. The board sees gifts like that as being in line with being a charitable organization and contributing to public education. It also keeps us in tune with maintaining historical sites with Sheldon connections. The message is that SFA and the monies you contribute or pay are not just about a family tree; it is SFA’s mission to protect and preserve the actions, activities, and records of Sheldons anywhere in the US. It is about 83 years of organizational history. It is about tying things together from the DAR, SAR, and Mayflower records. It is about letters SFA received from Sheldons years ago, and decades of SFAQ Newsletters and manual research. It’s about the journey of Sheldons’ research, starting with HO Sheldon himself and the findings they made and attaching it to people in our trees.

This year we finally re-initiated the annual reunions after a two-year hiatus with a visit to Salem, Danvers, and Boston. Salem is a historic site with solid ties to the Godfrey line, and Boston is home to the Red Sox and Sheldon Patriots, some of whose gravesites we visited.

We had new challenges arise, which the board investigated and discussed. Several people approached us about donating enduring records and research. We have no office or place to store such material physically. Electronic storage is different. It is good news that ACPL has indicated its willingness to continue collecting more durable records and materials, whether personal genealogy or the Association’s. ACPL Director Curt Witcher spelled out the requirements, and we have written them up into a guide to help those who choose to add to the Sheldon collection.

I mentioned that we finally got control of our social media sites. On Facebook, two are open to the public, and the other is only open to active SFA members. We experience more insights and draw off both the new and old on these sites. At a cost, however, since recent phishing probes mean we need to be a bit more guarded. We have a plan currently in discussion as it relates to our website. We need your help here. I am the first to know that electronic communication for our more mature members is challenging. A number of our members are in their mid-nineties, and computers and handheld devices present challenges (updates, button size, jargon, etc.). At issue, though, is cost; again, our senior members are the least able to pay more. So, it is a balancing act for those who can; please create your member logins on our website. More and more information will be placed behind the membership wall for your membership benefits. What we will do with the open-ended social media sites is to be determined. We need a volunteer to help us here!

Through it all and despite the passing of our editor Joseph, we kept up the SFAQs because our heroine Wende Warren stepped in to take on the publication/formatting of it. Many thanks to the authors who contributed in the last year. Please keep it going, and now I am proud to announce a new editor: Jim Berrie is our new SFAQ editor and has also been elected to the board of directors. Jim has a lengthy background in newspaper journalism.

Wende’s membership report is on record. We are status quo in our membership numbers from a year ago. Given the year, I could not be prouder of what has been accomplished. The SFA Ancestry Tree data has grown by almost two thousand names. In addition, the tree now identifies any Patriot, as proven by the DAR, with ongoing work to add data from SAR and Mayflower. We will do what we can to identify other veterans and attach notes from personal contact and through our records at ACPL. If this interests you, please contact us through

SFAs financials, like membership, are stable. The bank account numbers a year ago and today are about the same despite giving a $1,000 donation to the Henry Sheldon Museum restoration project. We saved during our website transition and cut back on some of our research newsletter purchases. I expect that in 2023 SFA will have to draw on our savings account because of our legal expenses.

I want to say a few words about recognition. The board honored E. Hortense Sheldon this year by placing her name on the memorial plaque. She was the essence of being a Sheldon. She did phenomenal, if not epic, work on the Isaac line. She was a Godfrey descendant. She went to many places in her research and had insights into the origins of Sheldon from England. I would ask that you might log on to read the tribute written about her as well as the others we have memorialized.

In closing, I want to make my final remarks with recognition of the board. It has been challenging, yet we have had a few laughs. I give each of you a sincere heartfelt thank you. Two officers cycle off this year but have agreed to stay on until replacements are found. One will also remain as our reunion administrator, and the other will stay in the role of historian. I am delighted to have Kevin Sheldon and Jim Berrie on the board of directors, each with a three-year term. We have the positions of president and treasurer up for election in 2023. Finally, the coffee mugs (pics on social media) we gave out to each reunion attendee were a hit. We will be ordering more—price and shipping to be determined.

See you next year at our next annual meeting in July 2023 in Fort Wayne. The exact mid-month dates are to be determined. If you are a genealogy buff, this is one of the best record archives in the USA!

President’s Report (July 2022)

To all SFA members,
First, I am pleased to announce that the Board has appointed Kevin Sheldon as a Director at Large for the remainder of this year. Kevin, as the webmaster, has regularly attended all our meetings since his appointment and is aware of SFA’s current issues and status. Wende Warren asked Kevin if he would consent to be a Board member, and he agreed. I appointed him at our June 26th meeting, and the Board ratified his appointment. His name will be put forth as a nomination from the floor at the 2022 Annual meeting to be officially elected to serve a three-year term. He remains our webmaster.

As already announced, August 20, 2022, will be our Annual Membership meeting. You can either attend in person or join on-line via Zoom. A reminder will be sent out shortly, and the actual Zoom meeting invitation with the time will be sent out (emailed) to all members in good standing ten days before the meeting. July is a high membership renewal time, which will help minimize sending out multiple invites. If you choose to attend in person, the conference will be at the Double Tree by Hilton Boston Logan Airport Chelsea. The address is 201 Everett Ave, Chelsea, MA 02150. 617-884-2900. If you plan to attend the meeting but not the Reunion, please let me know so we can arrange for proper space. We pay for the meeting room, so I ask that you help us with that cost. It will likely be about a $10 to $15 registration fee. If you attend the reunion, that cost is already included in your registration.

The Bylaws require that any election ballots for offices and Board members be sent out either by mail or electronically no more than fifty (50) days before the meeting. All votes should be received by email or mail ten (10) days before the meeting. Several requests for nominations, as well as a call for any proposals for bylaws, were sent out via SFAQ and social media. No names were received as nominations, and no Bylaw proposals were made. Consequently, we will take nominations from the floor during the annual meeting. The positions up for election are Vice President, Secretary, and Board of Directors members. Our Bylaws also stipulate that if no one is nominated and elected to the positions up for election, the current officers will remain in place until a successor is found and appointed. Both Libby and Elizabeth have agreed to stay on if that happens.

Any proposed Bylaws submitted between now and the annual meeting or at the annual meeting will be acted upon at the 2023 Annual meeting. Bylaws must be reviewed carefully to avoid conflict with Maine regulations, IRS provisions, current Bylaws, and Roberts Rules of Order.

Besides elections, the Annual Meeting is also a time to give a “state of the association” address. This includes all the activities of the past year and our current financials. I look forward to seeing everyone in person or online.

Michael Sheldon
President, Sheldon Family Association

President’s Report (June 2022)

The success of any endeavor is a vision. As President of the Sheldon Family Association, I see my role much like that of an orchestra conductor leading a symphony that has a long history of providing great music.

So, what is a conductor to do? The SFA is approaching its 85th birthday. What a milestone! We have a long history of providing some fabulous research. Much of it was done with boots on the ground firsthand knowledge and research before the internet. The stories of Henry Olcott, Rose Sheldon Newton, E. Mark Sheldon, E. Hortense Sheldon, and of Keith Sheldon are all incredible. As President, I have taken the time to study them! It helps me to make my vision an extension of theirs. Conductors do the same. They learn from the maestros of the past, incorporating today’s technologies, and make fresh new music.

So, what is the correlation? You must have a vision of the performance you want the audience to experience. Guiding the section leaders to understand that vision, they impart that tone and mood to the musicians to do their parts in concert with the audience to get an experience that everyone enjoys.

2021 did not feel like an enjoyable year. No one could have foreseen the events of the last several years, such as Covid. Yet, there were signs from old minutes of SFA Board meetings that I have read that predicted some of the past year’s events. Then there were unexpected events for individuals who had health issues, personal challenges, or both. Through it all, the love for SFA shined through, and we still made some music for which I am incredibly grateful.

Let me start with the update

At last year’s Zoom call, I alluded to ongoing critical issues about finance, research records, membership data, and control of several social media accounts. I indicated that the SFA sought to solve these issues using a third-party approach. Regretfully, we were left with no option other than a legal one by sending a formal letter of demand from our lawyer. We are now making some progress. Please understand that the current Board feels strongly that the unauthorized retaining of these records violates your privacy, violates SFA Bylaws, and violates the fiduciary responsibilities that officers and board members pledge to observe. It is a matter of trust, understanding, and a special privilege that the records and data we are asked to manage belong to SFA. Keeping such data after leaving the Board is theft of proprietary business records. Such is the case we have been faced with this year. Recovering and, in some instances, rebuilding these data has absorbed a tremendous amount of time and effort.

In recent months another expression of abuse has emerged. The SFA started and initially funded the FTDNA project in 2007/2008. The records of how the SFA started the FTDNA project are clear. SFA made contributions to underwrite the study up through 2021. For reasons mainly related to a lack of technical expertise on the Board, the FTDNA project was transitioned in 2017 to then current non-Board leadership. Today, none of the Sheldon Family Association Quarterly Page 1484 leaders of the FTDNA project are members of the SFA. To be succinct, we do not recommend participating in this study. You can be sure that the SFA will no longer be funding this project.

Even with some sour notes, the group has caught up and plays on. We have many new members. Renewals are on track, but it is early in the renewal season. The process of joining and being reminded of membership renewal has been made more accessible, more precise, more transparent. Our website has been redone, and its management is much easier at less cost to the association. We have added several new and exciting interactive sites within the website. We continue to put out issues of SFAQs and are committed to keeping them going out regularly. We are actively looking for a new editor and am happy to report that we have a possible candidate. Our SFA tree continues to grow with new and refined data. The trees for the five progenitors have been put online with membership-only access. This was an incredible feat done by Kevin Sheldon and Wende Warren! Our membership records have been rebuilt. We have regained control of our Social Media sites and are in need of a Social Media Administrator.

Yet, we also stalled on the ACPL project after a strong start last September. In part this is due to distractions and issues beyond our control at the ACPL. I have been in touch with ACPL leadership within the last few weeks, and they assure me that they are emerging from their severe personnel issues brought on by COVID and the local job market economics. We are now at a point that we need to start building a team of volunteers to determine the process and sort through the on-line data at the ACPL.

The SFA has planned, and we would sincerely like to have you join us this August in the Boston/Salem area. Getting together and having a “normal” reunion will do wonders to make sweet music and move the SFA forward. We already have formative plans for the 2023 reunion and, like above, need people to help with the planning and logistics.

We are getting close to the end of this ode and will be starting our next song. Earlier, I spoke of some of the personal challenges members of the current board have pushed through. Life changes force a rearranging of priorities, and I speak from personal experience. I have been in this role for three years and pledge to finish my fourth ending in the summer of 2023. Beyond that, I plan to remain active in the SFA, but I must yield more of my time to anticipated caretaker needs. Again, we need new Board members, either as Directors or as Officers, to step in as the next generation of leaders.

Now the Vision

Rooted in the vision of past leaders, the SFA will continue to be a place to learn about the surname Sheldon and its numerous spelling variations. It will try to do what it can to support places/sites and graves that belong(ed) to Sheldons. It should build on the need to recognize/educate all those that served our country and made community contributions. We need to reach out to see what we have in common with Sheltons, Sheldens, Chiltons, and other spelling variations worldwide. We need to pursue the written and genetic history of all branches of Sheldons and spelling variations in England and Bermuda, Barbados, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. We need to write about the Sheldon trek from the colonial east coast to Alaska and Hawaii. All these stories are fascinating, and much is unwritten.

To Close

My role is to deal with the tough stuff and keep you informed. There are and were other “Sheldon” genealogy organizations out there. There is plenty of room to coexist. However, we firmly believe our collaborations need to be based on fairness, integrity, and respect. The Board will do what is right to protect you and our 83+ year heritage and history.

President’s Report (January 2022)

With the introduction of the new website, the SFA Board made a change to membership renewals at its January 2022 Board meeting.  Annual memberships went from August 1st through July 31st of every year, regardless of the date that you joined or renewed.  That worked fine in the past because most of the SFA business was done by those who attended the annual meeting. However, when the SFA took the annual meeting virtual a few years ago and began sending election and Bylaws ballots out to the entire membership in good standing, things got very complicated.

The change: New annual memberships now expire one year from the day you that you send in your payment (or multi-year payments).  For example, if you paid for a 1-year membership on January 1, 2022, your membership will expire on Jan 1, 2023.  This change makes membership much easier to administer, and the new membership portal automates renewal reminders for us. Additionally, you have the ability to create your own profile and manage changes yourself. Please create your profile so that you are able to make use of your membership benefits.

Important News

SFA had its ups and downs in calendar year 2021.  In the Spring, there was a reshuffling of responsibilities when Sue Sheldon resigned as Treasurer and also gave up her roles as Membership Chairperson and Database Administrator (our Ancestry Tree data). I reviewed some of this in my annual report during our Annual Meeting.  There remain several unresolved issues from her resignation and the Board continues to act on solving them. The Social Media Administrator also resigned. Wende Warren stepped up to fill the Membership, Database Administrator, Publications, and Social Media roles. Susan Russell filled in and was subsequently elected as our Treasurer. An earlier resignation by Marvin Parsons for health reasons left us a need to fill the Webmaster role and Archives. A big thank you goes out to Kevin Sheldon, our new Webmaster, who created our fabulous new webpage.  Elizabeth Townsend, our Secretary, took on the responsibility of the Archives.

The other Board members have also been working hard behind the scenes. Libby Wilson, our VP, is making progress on the Policy and Procedure Manual. Several of us are regularly talking with and in collaboration with the Allen County Public Library to create solutions to restart the ACPL project.

The financial year ended basically with a no net gain to put into our reserves due to donations we made to the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont to help with their renovations and to the FTDNA Sheldon DNA project to purchase more DNA test kits for English roots research.

Sadly, we also lost a member of the Board.  Joseph Uphoff, who was a Director at Large and our SFAQ editor, passed away in November.

As you can see, there have been challenges yet we have still put out editions of the SFAQ and we have grown our Ancestry tree by over 500 people.  We’ve created a new Facebook group and a new website.  We remain committed to recover unreturned property, regaining our (c)3 charitable status, and expanding the ACPL Sheldon site data.

Important Needs

I once again put out a call for volunteers to help SFA.  Be it a Director at Large, one our chairpersons (Social Media or SFAQ Editor), or a committee member, if you have some time to spare and want to contribute your skills to our 83 year old organization, please contact me at