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Can someone exist without having/showing a birth certificate?

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#1
I have been looking for the birth record of my maternal grandmother for over four years now, without success.

Her name was Florence Swain, and I have found lots of records of her existence, including:
Florry Swain (three years old, born in Nottingham) on the 1881 census
Florrie Swain (13 years old, born in Nottingham) on the 1891 census
Florence Swain (21 years old) on 1899 marriage certificate
Florence Walker (23 years old, born in Nottingham) on the 1901 census
Florence Walker (33 years old, born in Nottingham) on the 1911 census
Florence Walker (69 years old) on 1946 death certificate

However, I cannot find a Florence/Florry/Florrie Swain registered as being born in Nottingham during the three years from 1876 to 1879: there was a Florence Swain registered in Mansfield in 1878, but it was a different person - I have traced her through to 1901 on census records.

In fact, from the records I have found (assuming the ages given are accurate) I have worked out that Florence would have been born between mid-April and early October 1877 - but still no birth record.

My question is, could she have gone through an entire (69-year) life without needing to use a birth record of some kind? Would she have had to produce a birth certificate to get married? Or to register in 1918 to vote? Or for other 'official' purposes? Presumably she would have had an old-age pension from 1938, and would have needed some proof to claim it. And is there any way of tracing her birth record through these other sources?

All advice gratefully received.
 
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DaveHam9

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#2
I'll leave the UK members to answer your questions re the possible need to produce a birth certificate.

Can someone exist without having/showing a birth certificate?
Yes, seems so. My great grandfather was born in 1854 in Liverpool according to all records I've found. I have his baptism record from St Peter's Liverpool but there is no sign of a birth certificate.

Dave
 

juliejtp

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#3
Hi,

I'm not sure about needing a birth certificate for a pension. One of my grandad's changed his name, probably about 1914. It maybe because of his criminal record and joining up for WW1. He used his alias for 60 plus years. He had a pension but what name he applied it under I dont know. He did have his original birth certificate, we know this because he asked an uncle many years ago to get it from a drawer or tin and of course uncle saw the details and when grandad was questioned about it he clammed up. We still dont know what happened to the original certifcate but have a copy of it now.

Who did she put as her father on the marriage ceritificate?
 
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Guy

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#5
It is really only since the 1970s that people required ID in the UK.
I certainly did not require any ID when I married in 1981.

Pensions were provided using baptism records and most other things including a passport only required someone of standing (doctor, teacher, etc) who had known you for a while signing to say they knew you as that person.
Cheers
Guy
 
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#7
Thank you for all of the replies:

@DaveHam9: There is no baptismal record in the village church, although the local archivist says this may have been because her parents/grandparents were Methodists.

@juliejtp: On the marriage certificate, her father is given as William Swain, "Stationary Engine Driver" (deceased). Her grandfather in the census record is William, and he was an agricultural worker: he had died in 1894. She also had a brother William, but he was still alive at the time of the marriage - he is shown in the 1901 census as married with a family.

@davelambert271: I have considered but rather discounted the possibility of adoption. Florence is shown on the 1881 census as a granddaughter of William Swain. He was 57 at that time and an agricultural labourer whose youngest child was then 17. Seems an unlikely candidate to adopt someone.

@guy: I think you may be right, although as I mention above, I have not been able to find a baptismal record either.


There's one other nugget to this quest. When I was growing up, I was told that my maternal grandparents - Florence's parents - had died in the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879. Apparently my other cousins were told the same story. It's not true. The Tay Bridge collapsed in a violent storm on the evening of 28 December 1879, taking with it a local train and about 75 people, of whom 60 were identified. There was no-one from the Nottinghamshire/Leicestershire area among the known victims, and no mention of any such deaths in any of the local papers. It seems to have been a myth, created either by Florence or by her grandparents, to account for the lack of parents. All very odd!

I will keep digging, but any other advice would be gratefully received.
 
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#8
I notice that on 1881/1891 she is living with grandparents. The only female also living with them of child bearing age (just) in these years is Isabella.
Could Florrie be her child, although she would have been very young. I do notice that there are also four older siblings on 1871 any of which could be the parent. One of these older children was William who would have been 17 when Florrie was born, but as you say, he was still alive at her mge

With regards to adoption. babies born to unmarried mothers at Barnardos homes were deliberately placed with older 'parents' with grown up children as this was considered beneficial to the child, so I would not discount the possibility.

dave
 
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#9
@davelambert271: Yes, Isabel is a definite possibility. Illegitimacy was not unknown in the family: in the 1871 census, there was a Henry Johnson Swain listed, aged less than one month, who died just a few months later. The child's mother is given as Mary, who was almost certainly the 22yo daughter of the house (the mother was also Mary, but she was 47 at the time). No father is listed on Henry's birth certificate, and I assume that the "Johnson" was a nod in that direction.

If Florence was Isabel's daughter, she would have been 13 or 14 at the age she conceived. Again, not unknown, but perhaps a reason for "hiding" the birth: Florence was the only Swain child born in Nottingham and not in the home village of Redmile (17 miles away) and it is entirely possible that Isabel was sent to stay with relatives (or at a house for "fallen women") to have the baby.

I'm still no further forward, although it is interesting to note that my antededents were a real bunch of bastards. :biggrin:
 
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#12
@juliejtp: Yes, William and Mary Swain had a lot of children including at least six daughters: Isabella, born in 1863, in addition to the ones you mentioned.

No, I have not tried tracing Mary - I'm having enough trouble with Florence :). It is possible that she was Florence's mother, but there seems no reason not to register the birth, as she had with Henry Johnson Swain in 1871. For reasons explained in a previous post, I think that Isabella is a more likely candidate, but I am not sure how to trace a registration purely on the basis of a mother's forename. I have not been able to find a mother with the Swain surname in Nottingham, for the relevant dates.

One thought which occurred is that Florence may have been one of a set of twins: is it true that twins were sometimes registered on one certificate? Or did I imagine that??

The reason I thought of this is that the aforementioned Mary appears to have been one of two twins: in the 1861 census record, there is a John Swain, born - like Mary - in 1849.
 
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#14
This is something of a "spectacular bump", from an original post in mid-2013!

I've been trying to find my grandmother's birth record for about seven years, entirely without success. As mentioned on the first post, I have lots of records of her life, including a photograph of her at my parents' wedding, but no birth certificate or baptismal record. It's odd, because all of her notional relatives have birth records, but not her.

I recently downloaded the entry for my grandmother from the 1939 Register, and this gives her date of birth as 14 May 1876, and I was wondering if there is any way of tracing a birth record simply from the date? I'm assuming that the birth was registered in or around the Nottinghamshire area, which narrows it down.

Of course, the date may be wrong - my own mother's birthdate is given wrongly in another record - but all of those in my grandparents' record are correct.

All offers of help gratefully received!
 

Ladybird1300

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#15
Could she have been registered in Derby:

Name: Florence Swain
Registration Year: 1876
Registration Quarter: Oct-Nov-Dec
Registration district: Derby
Volume: 7b
Page: 482

Amanda
 
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#17
@Ladybird1300/@ptjw7

Thanks Amanda and Peter, and my apologies for the delay in responding to your suggestions. I'll try checking that lead. Derby is not impossible - it's about 35m from Redmile - although the October-December date does not coincide with the one Florence gave for the 1939 Register (14 May 1876).

Basford is roughly halfway between the Redmile and Derby, but 1839 seems too early for my Florence's parents to have been married: her notional grandparents would have been 17 and 15 at that time. Mind you, that assumes that they were really her grandparents.

Thanks again for your help. I will post more if I manage to find anything.
 
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BraisherT

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#18
It's obviously occurred to you that if Florence was illegitimate she might have been registered with her father's surname, rather than Swain (assuming she is the child of a Swain girl rather than a Swain boy!).

In 1876, there are 1 Florrie, 2 Florry births, and close to 100 Florences recorded in Nottingham district (although one of those, Florence Tutin, is registered twice, on two different pages, oddly). If you had all the time in the world you could try tracking each one to their 1881 census record to see if any of them go missing...

It wouldn't be quite so daunting a task if you began by believing the birth date you have and so exclude the earlier parts of the register. But still a lot of work for possibly no pay off!
 

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