The origins of the Worden Family Association date to 1967, when Rev. Ernest Simeon Worden of Des Monies, Iowa, initiated a project to produce a comprehensive Worden genealogy. He was joined over time by Patricia (Pat) Worden of Midland, Michigan; Elmer Worden of Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan; Col. Waite W. Worden of East Haven, Vermont; Stanley E. and Dot Worden of Cedar Grove, New Jersey; Canon Robert Werden Stump of Walkerton, Ontario; Marjorie Webster Schunke of West Kingston, Rhode Island; and others.
In February 1969, a crew of twenty individuals began their work in earnest, under the direction of Ernest Worden and managed by Stanley Worden and Waite Worden. Crew members shared information with one another on their direct and collateral lines of descent from Dr. Samuel Worden using a standardized format developed by the crew managers. Marjorie Schunke, in particular, submitted a substantial amount of data based on her many years of archival research.
Unfortunately, the deaths of two of the prime motivators, Ernest Worden and Robert Werden Stump, and the growing complexity of the project brought it to a halt. The hoped-for comprehensive genealogy was not produced and it would be a decade before life was brought back to the project.
Instead of a comprehensive genealogy, it was decided to produce a quarterly newsletter. Many of the original “crew” were among the inaugural subscribers. The first issue of Wordens Past, volume I, number 1, was published in May 1980. In an introductory message to “Dear Worden Researcher,” editor Pat Worden reprised the efforts of the “crew members” who had pooled their Worden information in 1969. Because the “crew” had amassed a considerable amount of data for the genealogy that was never published, it was decided instead to launch the newsletter as another way of sharing information that had been and would continue to be acquired.
Over the years, Wordens Past grew from the inaugural four-page issue to 10-page issues. Subscribers were asked to submit their family information and raise queries that others might be able to answer. A database was developed to include the growing mass of Worden information. The database is still active and ready for queries.
The first of many Worden Pilgrimages was held in 1984 at East Dennis, Massachusetts, the adopted Cape Cod homeland of immigrant Peter Worden I and his family. Riding on the success of the first pilgrimage, the second was held in 1986 at Stonington, Connecticut, another Worden home base in colonial times. More pilgrimages followed at two-year intervals.
With increased research activity and the successful pilgrimages bringing diverse family members together, the Worden Family Association was established in 1988. The early Worden Family Association was simple, without officers or formal meetings—subscribers to Wordens Past automatically became members of the Worden Family Association and Wordens Past was the WFA’s official newsletter, which grew to around 20 plus pages per issue and was increasingly being distributed to genealogical societies and major libraries in the United States.
With emerging technologies, the first Worden Family Association World Wide Web Homepage was established in 1996. Although the newsletter had been composed on computers almost from the beginning, it was not until 1996 that authors started submitting articles to Wordens Past by mailing computer disks to the newsletter editor. Later, articles submitted for publication were transmitted as e-mail attachments.
After 10 years of informality, in 1998 WFA established an ad hoc committee to “organize a proper structure for the group based on its needs and objectives.” A mission statement was composed and by-laws were proposed. The Worden Family Association logo was launched on the front page of the newsletter in 1999. In 2000 Clayton Worden of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, was elected the first chairman of the board of directors of the Association at the biennial reunion in Newport, Rhode Island. The following year, the newsletter editorship was transferred from Pat Worden to Bonnie Erickson of Middletown, Rhode Island, who served concurrently (as Pat had) as the Worden Family Association archivist. Bonnie Erickson was succeeded in both positions by Rex Warden and Pat Warden, of Punta Gorda, Florida, as editor and archivist, respectively, in 2004. That same year, Richard Clarke, of Independence, Missouri, was elected chairman of WFA. Rex Warden, who had moved to Statesville, North Carolina, died in 2007 and the editorship of Wordens Past was taken over by his widow, Pat Warden.