Robert Swain Gifford was born on December 23, 1840, in the township of Gosnold, Massachusets, on the island of Naushon, the largest of the Elizabeth Islands, lying between Buzzard’s Bay and Vineyard Sound.
His father was William Tillinghast Gifford, sailor, pilot, fisherman, at one-time skipper of the yacht Fawn, owned by Robert Swain, son of William Swain, then a part owner of Naushon, for whom the future artist was named.
Swain Gifford’s mother was Annie (Eldridge) Gifford, daughter of Stephen El- bridge of Dartmouth, Massachusets.
His birthplace was a humble little house in an isolated spot with a tiny garden and a few gnarled trees about it. Thence the family moved to the mainland, about two years after his birth, and settled in Fair-Haven, Massachusets, a suburb of New Bedford.
Here his boyhood years passed uneventfully in the study, work, and play.