The location of the birth of Robert Brown Elliott is quite the most uncertain part of his story, though there are other mysteries too. Web sites, even quite official ones, have wildly varying stories about where he was born - Boston in 1842, of West Indian parents; South Carolina, which was the location of his political activity; Liverpool, England. A Gleaner item on March 25, 1897, introduces another possibility - David Aurelius Corinaldi, MLC for 'Noble St James' claimed 'that parish produced a young man named Robert Elliott son of a carpenter in Montego Bay'. Further information certainly identifies Jamaica as the West Indian connection - but possibly Elliott was actually born in Jamaica, not just of Jamaican parents in Boston.
The accounts of his education are also fairly varied; the most common, though most unlikely, is that he attended High Holborn Academy in London (no evidence of its existence has been found), and graduated from Eton College (which has no record of him), which being a school did not 'graduate' students. That version is totally debunked. There seems some agreement that it would have been hard for a Black boy to obtain in the USA the type of education Elliott clearly had, hence the stories of schools in the UK. However there is also a story of a rich uncle in Jamaica paying for his education - which might have been received in Jamaica? Corinaldi has a thought on this too; he said Elliott was 'educated at a Scotch Academy'. That might suggest an education in Scotland, but more likely meant at the Montego Bay Academy, an excellent educational institution run by the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica. (click for more on Montego Bay Academy) Since the Academy was training teachers and catechists it was certainly accepting boys of all colours, so Black students would have been able to benefit from the classical education offered, and that could have included Robert Elliott.
The next mystery is - where did Elliott receive his excellent training in the law? Suggestions of law training in the UK cannot be sustained, yet the suggestion that he achieved his high level of legal knowledge through six months of study of the South Carolina Code seems unlikely too. Is it possible, if he was born and educated in St James that he worked, in some capacity, in the office of a Montego Bay lawyer? Corinaldi does not help on this point, merely concluding 'his father refused to let him pursue his trade [carpentry] and ultimately the young man went to the United States and became a member of the profession [law] that the member for Kingston [Philip Stern, a leading barrister] graced and then become an hon. member of the American legislature. And that, in a country where there was no secret that there was rank prejudice against his colour.'
One further query - did Elliott serve in the US Navy? It is frequently stated that he served in the British Navy, though there seems no basis for that statement; there is also reference to his service in the US Navy during the Civil War, which may be confirmed by this record: Robert Elliott, Place of Birth - Jamaica, Age - 22, Complexion - Negro, Occupation - Painter, Height - 5'5"; Naval Service: Place of Enlistment - New York, Date of Enlistment - May 30, 1861, Term of Enlistment - 1, Rating - Ordinary Seaman.[Obtained by a search at - Black Sailors: Howard University Research Project; 137 Black sailors from Jamaica are on the list.] The age and occupation are not very significant since information was altered to suit situations; place of birth would be harder to change, because of accent! This could be Robert Brown Elliott. The length of the term of enlistment has not been ascertained; it might have been for the duration of the war, or possibly for three years.
But one strange query still remains: if Elliott arrived in the USA in 1861, and by 1867 was associate editor of the South Carolina Leader (the first confirmed fact about him), having possibly spent a short time in Boston, working as a printer, when and where did he acquire US citizenship - or did he acquire it? At the time no one apparently queried his status, accepting perhaps the story of his birth in Boston, and the matter does not seem to have bothered anyone since.