Stanifer/Standifer Page

Written By John Midwood

82 Petrie Creek Road

Rosemount, Qld 4560


Phone: 617 5441 6412

Mobile: 614 1477 2031




Joyce Wallace, a native of Virginia, has roots going back to Middlesboro, and nearby Tazewell in Claiborne County, Tennessee where her father was born. To the left is perhaps the only known photograph of Sarah Stanifer, Joyce’s great grandmother. Joyce believes it was probably taken at the Cumberland Hotel around 1910 where Sarah worked as a chambermaid at the time.,




For those of you who may not know, the Cumberland Hotel stood on the corner of Cumberland Street and North 18th Street in Middlesboro, and faced the Louisville and Nashville Railway Station. Sarah does not show up on the 1920 US Census, or if so neither Joyce nor myself have been able to find her. Since she worked at the Cumberland Hotel, or Hotel Cumberland as I have seen it referred to in the Middlesboro Daily News of the day, we are hoping to find out what happened to the old personnel records for the hotel. Those records might yield a forwarding address for Sarah when she ended her employment there.

My name is John Midwood, and I am not from the local area. Like Daniel Boone who was reportedly the first white man to travel through the Cumberland Gap, I am from North Carolina. I met Joyce about six months ago when I wandered into the Genealogy Chat Room on AOL. When it comes to genealogy, Joyce Wallace is an angel, and the Genealogy Chat Room on AOL is Joyce’s ministry. Out of the goodness of her heart, Joyce helps people find their ancestors through online resources like, and Rootsweb just to name two.

Joyce’s search for her own ancestors began with a single question to her mom and dad when she was a little girl. “Where does my red hair come from”? She wanted to know. “I knew there were family secrets…not spoken…yet I kept clinging and praying….” Joyce told me recently. While much of Joyce’s support comes from Internet friends like myself, as well as from her sister, Joyce believes her true support comes from God. “There was one quote I always kept going back to”, Joyce explained. From the book of John, Chapter 8, Verse 32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”.

(The 1900 Claiborne County census has another family that may help connect Sarah to the correct line. Edward Brown and family are living in near proximity to Carrick Cloud and wife. Edward Brown was born in Germany in 1848 and family include wife Joda, son Charley, daughter Augusta and daughter Emma. Many will know that another son Edward, Jr. married and that a sister to Edward, Sr., Augusta married Leander Stone, son of Thomas W. Stone and Louivana Beeler. Lee and August Brown Stone are boarding with Edward Brown, Sr. and family in 1900)

From her family, Joyce learned of her grandmother, Flora, who was born around the turn of the 20th Century. At this point Joyce does not know for certain where Sarah was when she gave birth to Flora. Around the time of Flora’s birth, Sarah worked as a servant in the home of Carrick Cloud and his mother Mahula E Cloud in Claiborne County, Tennessee. Joyce was able to learn of this through the 1900 US Census.

In the 1900 census, Sarah is actually listed as Standifer. It was not until the 1910 US Census, when Sarah was enumerated at the Cumberland Hotel, that she was known as Sarah Stanifer. Joyce tells me that her father, Ralph Stanifer, changed his own name from Standifer to Stanifer in the 1930 Census. A even further variation exists if you go back to the 1880 Census just before Sarah’s birth when her father, John and mother, Mary’s surname appears as Staniford.

Sarah came from a large Claiborne County family. My record of the children of John Staniford and Mary Leonard Staniford are as follows:

Elisabeth, born 1872

Martha J, born 1874

Margret, born 1876

Pearly, born 1878

Robert, born 1880

Sarah, born 1881

Minnie F, born 1888

Samuel M, born 1891

I mention all of these brothers and sisters in the hopes that as they would have married and had children, and grandchildren of their own, someone reading this might know some of these other people, and they in turn might have kept up with their sister, Sarah.

If Joyce has one fear in this search it is, “that anyone who knows anything about Sarah is long since dead”. Which is where I come in. I suggested that Joyce let me write an article about her search, in the hopes that someone reading this might know what became of Sarah Stanifer. Even if you do not know anything personally, would you be willing to help Joyce in a way that I personally cannot help her?

What we need is someone in Middlesboro, Kentucky or in nearby Claiborne County, Tennessee who can look for Sarah in places that Joyce and I do not have access. Remember I told you Joyce lives in Virginia, and I live much further away, having left my native North Carolina behind to marry an Australian and now I am a dual citizen of both my beloved United States, as well as my new country, Australia.

As a former enumerator and crew leader myself on the 2000 US Census, I know where to look for information. You see, because of privacy laws, US Census documents can not be seen by the general public for 70 years after they have been enumerated, so in other words, the most recent census forms that the public is allowed to look at is 1930.

Other than census records, we all leave a paper trail behind. One source of information is the phonebook, provided of course that someone’s number is not unlisted. If that is the case, the phone book is of more use to you to prop your child up at the table. Perhaps an even better source of information is a city directory. Many people are listed in city directories even when they are not listed in the phone book, simply because all but the unfortunate homeless have an address, even if for one reason or another they do not have a published phone number.

Another valuable source of information are local newspapers, such as the Middlesboro Daily News. Much of what has appeared in the paper is available on the Internet, but certainly not all of it. Then too, a computer screen is not nearly as efficient means of reading a newspaper as a dedicated microfilm reader. Then too, when it come to the Internet, much of the information is only available if you have a credit card, which personally I do not have one. Even if I did have a credit card, unfortunately I am not so rich that I can afford to pay for every bit of information I may want to check out.

Cost aside, while a great deal of information is available on line, a great deal of it is not. For instance, many members of my family are from Rockland County, New York, and none of Rockland’s Federal Census records are on the Internet at this time.

If you have ever done any type of records search, then you yourself will know that many local and state government records are just not available at all unless you go to the courthouse and physically search the records there. Many courthouses will allow anyone access to the materials if you do the work yourself.

Please, if you can be of any assistance, if you can provide a clue to what became of Sarah Stanifer after 1910 and her time at the Cumberland Hotel, I urge you to share whatever you know with Joyce Wallace. Joyce can be reached via email at, or by snail mail as our US Post Office is affectionately known in this modern age at, Joyce Wallace, 1812 Chuckatuck Avenue, Petersburg, VA 23805.


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