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…

About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: