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When the Rev. Henry O. Sheldon wrote his original Sheldon Magazine in 1855 he believed, as was the common assumption at the time, that all Sheldons in the United States were descended from one of three brothers. Two of the brothers, as passed down in family tradition, were an Isaac and John with the third brother being a William, assumed from the known history of Salem, Massachusetts. This John #2 was the second of the three brothers of that old narrative, and was listed as the father of John Sheldon #8 of Providence, Rhode Island. The problem is that the Reverend and other Sheldon scholars of the time were extremely limited in their access to original source material and DNA had not yet been discovered. They did their best to piece together a 200 year old jigsaw puzzle with 90%+ of the pieces missing.
The Reverend knew that there were three different early John Sheldon’s in the colonies – John of Providence, John of Billerica, and John of Kingstown – with some very vague clues as to where they belonged. Where they fit into the larger tree was largely a guessing game and having three early colonial John’s, all about the same age, didn’t fit. They couldn’t all be the brother of Isaac – so they must have been nephews? This logical conclusion, flawed as it may have been, led the Reverend to create this older John and label him #2. John #4 of Billerica became the brother of Isaac Jr #5, both the sons of Isaac Sr #1 – a logical (but also erroneous) assumption probably based on them both being in Massachusetts. John #8 of Providence was then assigned as the son of this John #2, as mentioned previously, and John #13 became the son of the only remaining brother – William.
By 1973, when the Sheldon Family Association reprinted their new edition of the Magazine, they made some corrections. They had since discovered Godfrey with substantial documentation, and attached John of Billerica to him. A move in the right direction. This then removed John of Billerica as the brother of Isaac Jr, but they didn’t replace him with one of the other John’s. They left John #13 of Kingstown as the son of William, and John #8 of Providence as the son of John #2. Now with the two Isaac’s left alone, and with an erroneous assumption that Isaac Jr was the son of a Ralph Sheldon and Barbara Stone of Derby, England, the older Isaac #1 was removed from the trees completely in the 1980’s and 90’s.
Now, in 2023, after having conducted an extensive Y-DNA study, we have found that the John #13 of Kingstown is a perfect match to the two Isaacs and was just 1 year younger than Isaac Jr. of Northampton – confirming that he was the brother John in the stories that went to Rhode Island. A re-examination of the known documents do indicate the existence of the earlier Isaac after all, and neither of them match Godfrey or the Sheldons from Derby, England (note also that Godfrey has a solid paper trail to Derby). John #8 of Providence, on the other hand, was a match to the Godfrey line, but a slightly more distance relative with their common ancestor being a few generations further back in England – therefore suggesting that John of Providence was his own progenitor. And we had already established in the paper record that John #4 of Billerica was the son of Godfrey and the #4 was passed from John to his father – now Godfrey #4. Godfrey’s son John became #4×4.
So in the end, all of the three early John’s have been accounted for, and none of them had a father John. This John #2 appears to have been an amalgamation of John #13 and a fictional earlier John. Therefore he has been removed from our modern databases.