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Florence Swain born 1877 - allegedly

I hope this is the right place to post - this is my first one - and please forgive the long explanation.

My maternal grandmother was Florence Swain, and I have a lot of information about her, but I cannot find any record of her birth. I have her marriage certificate, death certificate and her record on censuses from 1881 to 1911 inclusive. I even have her photograph at my mother's wedding.

On the 1881 census she is shown as "Florry" the three-year-old granddaughter of William and Mary Swain of Redmile, near Grantham. Florry is shown as having been born in Nottingham, whereas all of the other Swains were born in Redmile. However, she is a Swain, so she was either illegitimate or born to a Swain son; in the 1871 census there is a Henry (at that time aged 12) who would be a possibility, but he does not appear on the 1881 census.

In the 1891 census, she is Florrie, aged 13.

She got married on 5 January 1899: on her marriage certificate, her age is given as 21 (indicating a birth year of 1877) and the father's name as "William Swain, deceased" a "Stationary Engine Driver". Her grandfather was William Swain, who died in 1894, but he was an agricultural labourer. William had a son William, but he was still alive in 1901 - a policeman in Nottingham.

On her death certificate (October 1946) she is shown as aged 69.

Another small piece of information: the family legend, told to me by my mother, and to my cousins by Florence's other children, was that Florence's parents had been killed in the Tay Bridge disaster in 1879. The date would fit, of course, except that there is no evidence of anyone south of Gateshead dying in the disaster, and no married couples among the 60 known victims.

It seems reasonable to deduce that the Tay Bridge story was made up to cover the fact that Florence was illegitimate: she probably believed the story herself, which is why her children passed it on. It's possible (probable?) that her mother was one of William Swain senior's daughters: one, Emma, would have been 22 in 1877 but does not appear on the 1881 census, so might have died in childbirth.

As can be seen, we have a lot of information about Florence. The problem is that there do not appear to be any Florence Swains whose birth was registered in Nottingham in the late 1870s.

My questions are these: is it possible that her birth was never registered; could she have been registered with a different forename or surname, but used the name Florence Swain on official documents during her life; and could she have been born earlier or later than the date indicated by the census, marriage and death certificates (which point to 1877)?

Long and rambling first post, but you can see the problem. All offers of help gratefully received.

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