Category Archives: Clifford

Possible Thomas Family Photo – Winooski, Vermont

I purchased this vintage “cabinet photo” on eBay from a man in Pennsylvania because the woman in the photo reminded me of my great-great-grandmother Anna Clifford.

Unknown Couple - Winooski, VT c1895

Unknown Couple – Winooski, VT c1895

I only have one photo each of Anna Clifford and her husband Horace Luther Thomas, and both photos were taken in the 1920’s when they were older.  This photo seems to have been taken about 1890-1900.  Anna would have been about 45 or so, and Horace would have been about 50.


At first glance there is a resemblance in both cases, but not so much that it’s a “slam dunk” at all.  The man has the same exact hair style as my grandfather did, with the part on the left, the swoop over the right eye and the exposed patch of forehead by his temple.  The nose is also remarkably similar, as is the cheek/jawline and the distinctive almond-shape of the eyes.  The feature that is most dissimilar is the thickness of the nose between the eyes.  Horace’s nose is very narrow there, and the other man’s is a bit wider.  Obviously, Horace’s eyebrows are very dark in the later photo which is different from the other man’s, and in the bottom photo it looks like Horace’s eyes are perhaps brown, where the man in the top photo looks like he might have hazel or even blue eyes.

Apart from the hairstyle and the wire-rimmed glasses, there’s not a lot that’s exactly the same between the two women.  But as women age their faces can change dramatically, especially during those hard times.  I’ve seen photos taken 10 years apart that you would never believe were the same person.  I have four or five photos of my great-great-grandmother Wilhelmine Winkelmann and she doesn’t like like the same person in any two of them.  At all.

The other factor is, of course, that this photo was taken in Winooski, Vermont which is where Anna and Horace lived for 50 years of their lives.  And it wasn’t exactly a huge town.  My thinking was that there are certain odds of someone looking like Horace, and certain odds of someone looking like Anna, so the odds of people who look like both of them being together are much steeper.  When you calculate the odds of a couple about the right ages who look like Horace and Anna and live in Winooski…  it becomes more improbable still that it’s someone else.

So what do you think?  Personally, I’d give it a reasonable chance of being them.  If it’s not, maybe someone will see this and be able to positively identify these people and we’ll have saved one more couple from being “lost”.

Father’s Day – 2013

As I did on Mother’s Day this year, I put together a collection of photographs of all the fathers in my family tree who contributed to making me the person I am.

Happy Father’s Day, my ancestors!


Mother’s Day – 2013

For Mother’s Day this year I decided to pay tribute to all the mothers in my Family Tree who contributed to making me who I am.  Of course there are tens or hundreds of thousands of women in my direct line of ancestry, if you go back to the beginning of our species.  My family tree goes back to the 1500’s in some places, to my 11x or 12x great grandparents.  As I’ve said before, that’s about 20,000 grandparents in your entire family tree to that depth.  Obviously there’s no way I can pay meaningful tribute to 10,000 women, so I decided to put together a collection of all the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers that I have photos of in my tree.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Happy Mother’s Day, my beloved ancestors!

The women who made me who I am.

The women who made me who I am.

Clifford Family in Winooski, Vermont

I just noticed this today:

In 1900 Sarah Clifford and her sisters Margaret and Elizabeth all lived together in a house on River Street in Winooski/Colchester, Chittenden County, Vermont.  All three are working as weavers in the wool mills.

In 1910 Elizabeth and Sarah are still living there together at 93 River Street.  Sarah doesn’t seem to be working, but Elizabeth is listed as working in the wool mills as a weaver.  Margaret is living separately in Bridgewater, Windsor, VT and working as a weaver also.

In 1920 all three are living together again back at 93 River Street.  Sarah isn’t working, but Elizabeth and Margaret are still weavers.

Elizabeth died 6 February 1929 from a heart condition.

In 1930 Sarah and Margaret are living at 93 Water Street together.

Sarah died 18 March 1935 from a fractured femur.

Margaret is still living there in the 1940 Census, so she must have died sometime after that.  She was 74 in 1940.  Haven’t found a death cert yet.

As far as I know none of the three ever married or had any children.

Today I just noticed that the house they lived in is on the corner of River Street and Clifford Street.  It was called Clifford Street even in 1900, so I suspect it was the family home where they lived with their parents Robert Clifford and Agnes McWhirter.  The family moved there from Alburg, VT sometime around 1872.

93 River Street, Winooski, VT

I might just write to the current residents and request a photo.

Family Photos… When It Rains, It Pours

Kind of an unprecedented day today in terms of family photos.  Three cousins simultaneously sent me photos today, so I thought I’d just throw them all up here with some brief notes.

The first batch is from John Burrell, who is the son of my grand-aunt Elizabeth “Betty” Forrest.  It’s a photo of John Prescott “Red” Forrest (1923 – 2004) and his mother, Lulu Cairns Coutermarsh (1888 – 1975), which looks like it was taken about 1974, shortly before Lulu’s death:

John Forrest and Lulu Cairns

The next one is my grandfather Fred Thomas Jr (1918-2006) with his sister-in-law, Betty Forrest Marshall.  It looks like John Burrell in her lap, and my father and his two brothers Dick and Dave on my grandfather’s lap.  Probably taken about 1949:

Thomas and Marshall families.

Next is a photo of my grandfather, Fred Thomas Jr. that was sent to me by Tom Forrest.  Looks like it was taken about 1947.  He’s holding a sapling:

Fred Thomas and Sapling

The rest of these were sent to me by Martha “Marti” McDonald Benz, who is the daughter of Grace Thomas, my father’s “Aunt Grace”.  I called Marti out of the blue and she was just amazingly kind to me and very interested in the family history work I’ve been doing.  I’m so glad we connected!

The first photo is of Anna Clifford (1851-1929), which is from a pair of photos with her and her husband Horace Luther Thomas (my 2x great grandfather).

Anna Clifford, about 1910.

The next is of Anna Thomas (1876-1971), her daughter, who later married William McBride.  Anna and her husband Bill took in Aunt Grace after the death of their mother in the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic:

Anna Thomas McBride

Here is Anna and her husband William McBride much later in life.  Probably taken in the mid-1940s:

Anna and William McBride

Finally, here is a picture of Grace Thomas (1916-1999) herself on her wedding day, 11 June 1941.  Grace was the sister of my grandfather, Frederick Thomas Jr.  She married James McDonald (1914-1982).  I’ve been meaning to write more about her, but haven’t managed to get around to it yet.

The photo was taken in front of the family home at 186 Summit Street in Burlington, Vermont.

Grace Thomas McDonald, Wedding Day.

FHC Records

I spent a few hours at the Madison Family History Center (this is a branch of the Mormon Church) going through some films I had ordered.  Just noting here that I did that.  The two films I had ordered were:

Film: 2027350
Methodist Church of Canada. South Stukely Circuit (Québec)

This was ordered before I realized that these records are already online.  I had already found everything I needed from South Stukely (Robert Erwin Clifford’s family records).

Film: 245492
Kirchenbuch – Evangelische Kirche Weißenhöhe (Kr. Wirsitz)

I had hoped to find records from Wilhelm Schmidt’s family since Weissenhöhe is very near where he was born and might have actually been the town in which he was born.  I only found one record I would consider a “possible” hit.  It’s puzzling and I still have to have someone who speaks German take a look at it for me.  I’ll post about that separately.  There were many “Schmidts” in the records, but since it’s a name about as common as “Smith” here, that was not surprising.  Nobody that I could identify as being from my family definitively was found.

Robert Clifford and Agnes McWhirter – Church Records

I’ve been trying to get my hands on church records for Agnes McWhirter and Robert Clifford. I started with Rev. Craig Smith from a church in Winooski I basically selected at random. He referred me to Anne Brown, the communication minister for the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. I had written to her:

I’m researching my family history. My great-great-great-grandmother, Agnes (McWhirter) Clifford was a member of Trinity Church in Winooski. She lived in Winooski, Burlington and Colchester. Her obituary says “Mrs. Clifford was a member of Holy Trinity Church, being one of the organizers of the society”. Her funeral took place there about July 26, 1898 after her death in her home on Clifford Street in Winooski.

I’m really hoping that some church records might be available to tell me more about her and her husband Robert Clifford. They both immigrated here from Ireland, and without definite birth dates, or places, or names of parents it can be almost impossible to track their families across the ocean. Sometimes churches have little biographies or other information on members, especially founding members. I’m wondering if such a thing exists.

Ann wrote back to me to apologize for the delay in responding, then said:

I am not sure what church that might have been — there is no Holy Trinity now in Winooski. The only one we have is in Swanton, quite a ways north. I have forwarded your note to our diocesan historiographer, who may be of more help. Her name is Elizabeth Allison, email: She is in the office a couple of days a week, so you may not hear from her right away. Feel free to write back to me if you don’t hear anything from her in a week or so.

Elizabeth wrote back:

There was a mission in Winooski – Trinity, not Holy Trinity. The only Holy Trinity is Swanton. Off the top of my head, I don’t know what we have on Winooski but will check and try to provide an answer to the query.

Anne assures me that the records should be there in Elizabeth’s collection. We shall see!

Update: 29 Mar 2012

Heard back from Elizabeth. No good news:

Dear Charles,

Your request followed a circuitous route in getting to me as Historiographer of the Diocese.

Unfortunately, while Trinity Mission, Winooski was established in 1876, the pre 1899 records are limited to subscription lists for the building. I checked the 4 lists for 1875-1876 and found no references to McWhirter or Clifford families. I did scan the post 1899 records but found no references to either family there. The single history of the Mission published in the 1890 Convention Journal contains no mention of either family.

I am certain all of this is very disappointing to you and unfortunately, I have no idea where to direct you in your research to find any other records.


Elizabeth E. Allison, Registrar and Historiographer, Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

Robert Clifford – Station Agent

Received an email this morning from the Quebec Railway Historical Society. I had written to them asking for information about what a “Station Agent” was, and if they had any employment records for the Eastman train station where Robert Clifford worked prior to his death. He admonished me lightly for not writing in French, reminding me that only 40% of people in Quebec are proficient in English. So I wrote him back in French. :).

About Eastman. A Station Agent is an employee (a kind of laborer) who worked to handle freight stock, handle the track switches, sell tickets, and perhaps might have done accounting or operated the telegraph.

The former name of Eastman station is Warne’s Crossing. This name was assigned by the Waterloo and Magog Railway, the first line to pass through the area, in 1877. This company ceased to exist in 1888 when “the CP short line” (Atlantic North West Ry.) was built, including the construction of a big trestle over the village of Eastman. The station reopened in 1892 when the Orford Mountain Railway was in operation between Eastman and Kingsbury.

You might have more luck if you contact the “Brome County
historical Society” (

Also, I suggest a book : Railways of Southern Quebec, Ed. Railfare
( This book will have more information about Waterloo & Magog, Atlantic North West, and Orford Mountain Ry. It was written by Derek Booth.

I am also sending you a picture of Eastman Station (c1905) from the Brome County Historical Society.

Yours truly,

Claude Martel, geographer-historian
Institut de recherche sur l’histoire des chemins de fer au Québec

The photo he attached shows the Eastman train station where Robert Clifford worked from at least 1886 to his death in 1891:

The Mystery of Robert Erwin Clifford (continued)

Read the first part here:  The Mystery of Robert Erwin Clifford

It was a seemingly innocuous and almost apologetic note I received today written in French by the “Research Team” for the Center for Archives in Montréal.  It said (translated):

Hello Mr. Thomas,

We have only found the “act de décès” (the burial record) of 23 February 1891, South Stuckley Methodist Church.  Nothing else in our database, files or microfilms.  There is, to this day, a large railway routing station in Farnham.  You can ask for help from a genealogical society for more in-depth research:


Research Team
Direction du Centre d’archives de Montréal et des archives privées, judiciaires et civiles
535, avenue Viger Est
Montréal (Québec) H2L 2P3

Attached to this note was the following record.  Again… seemingly innocuous:

The important part is the witness.  Jennie A. Clifford.  I knew two of Robert’s sisters traveled from Vermont to attend his funeral, but he had no sister named Jennie.  She was, in fact, his wife!

I was subsequently able to find her in several census records.  Jennie Adeline Dingman, born 24 May, 1865, Daughter of Alvin and Harriet Dingman, sister to Hubert Dingman, James Dingman and Frank Dingman.  Listed as a “widow” in the 1901 census of Eastman, Canada.

Just as exciting, Robert and Jennie had had three children prior to his death, and I was able to find baptism records for all three of them!:

Jennie Francis “Francis” Clifford (b 28 Jul 1887)
Harry Gordon Clifford (b 26 Nov 1888)
Inez Winifred Clifford (b 17 Oct 1890)

Harry became an engineer, and I was able to find him in the 1921 Census living with his sister Francis in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Canada, which is just outside Montréal.  He is married to Margaret Estella “Maggie” Marshall, and has two children, Robert Marshall Clifford (b 4 Sept 1915) and Dorothy Evelyn Clifford (b 7 Feb 1919).  So far I’ve not found any further records on Harry or his family.’

I’m very hopeful that there are some living descendants out there somewhere, probably in Canada.

The Mystery of Robert Erwin Clifford

Robert Erwin Clifford (called by my grandmother “Robert Clifford Jr.”, but I’m not sure “Jr.” is really warranted because I think his middle name was different than his father’s) was born 11 Mar 1858 in Alburg, Grand Isle, Vermont.  He was in the 1870 census for Alberg, then sort of fell off the face of the planet.  My grandmother had noted in her records “Robert left home and was never heard from again”.  So I set out to find him.

The first thing I found was a very small news item in the “Winooski Wavelets” section of  the March 04, 1891  “Argus and Patriot” in Vermont.  It said:

Robert Clifford, a station agent at Eastman, P.Q., a former very popular townsman, died last week.  Lizzie and Nellie Clifford, his sisters, went to attend the funeral.

So this explained why he had “vanished”.  He had moved out of the country to Quebec, Canada.  It also showed that at least two members of his family knew of his death, even if the news didn’t make it to my family.  One source of confusion could have been that his father, Robert Clifford, died 14 March 1891, and the son (also Robert Clifford) died 23 February 1891.  So less than three weeks apart.  Perhaps the news of the “Death of Robert Clifford” got conflated?

I found the date of Robert’s death and his gravesite on  This is his gravestone in the South Stukely Cemetery, South Stukely, Quebec, Canada. Plot: Range 9 Lot 3 No 2:

I had sent an email to the Quebec Historical Society regarding him:

One of my Grand-Uncles Robert Clifford was working as a station agent in Eastman, Québec when he died at the age of 33 on February 23,1891.  I’d love to find an obituary or other source to figure out why he died so young.  He had run away from his home in Vermont, USA, and hadn’t told anyone where he was for years and years.  I have no idea if he was married, had kids, etc.  Are any of the newspapers you have online likely to have such an obituary?  Thank you.

And they responded today saying they had had no luck:

Bonjour Monsieur Thomas,

Research was conducted in the genealogy database Ancestry Library Edition unsuccessfully.

We looked into Baptism, Marriage, Burial directories of the region of Eastman-Orford without success.

We also searched in the Sherbrooke Gazette [microforme] MIC A 95 from 15 to 30 February 1891, without success.

Reference : Ancestry Library Edition

Paroisse Saint-Édouard de Eastman, comté de Brome, 1894-1993 : répertoire des baptêmes, mariages, sépultures et annotations marginales / ce répertoire a été compilé, édité… par la Société de généalogie des Cantons de l’Est inc.

BMSA de St. Patrick de Sherbrooke, 1889-2007 / ce répertoire a été compilé, édité… par la Société de généalogie des Cantons de l’Est inc. ; [ont collaboré à la réalisation du présent répertoire, Guy Lazure…et al.]

Protestant church records in Richmond and Drummond counties : births, marriages, deaths / [Société de généalogie des Cantons de l’Est inc.]

Sherbrooke Gazette [microforme] MIC A 95

We thank you for the interest you have shown in Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Do not hesitate to contact us as needed.

User services

Perhaps the South Stukely Cemetery might have an obituary saved in their records, or additional information about how he died.  Sometimes cemeteries save that kind of thing.

Click here for part 2…