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Florence Swain born 1877 - allegedly

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#1
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.
 

emeltee

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#2
Hi,
There is a Florence Swain in FreeBMD

Mar 1877 Mansfield 7b 65

If, as you suspect, she was illegitimate then her mother may have moved away for the birth.

Emeltee
 
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#4
Thanks emeltee for your thought, and apologies, I should have mentioned that we had seen the Mansfield Florence Swain and it's not our Florence. She is, though, the only Florence Swain registered in the whole of England in 1877

As you say, it's possible that the mother would have gone away for the birth, although this was a fairly poor agricultural family, and it seems that both William and Mary (the grandparents) were from Redmile, so where would she have gone. In addition, Florence was not the first unexplained grandchild: Henry Johnson Swain was born and died during the April/June quarter of 1871 and is registered on that year's census. His birth and death are registered at Grantham, the nearest big town, so why wasn't Florence's birth similarly registered?

I guess my bottom-line question is how easy would it be for Florence either to exist without her birth being registered, or to have been registered with another name entirely? She was married, had eight children, apparently adopted another one, and died aged almost 70, all as "Florence née Swain" born in 1877: could she have done that if she were, say, "Mary Smith" born in 1880?

Does anyone know how possible that would have been?
 

p.risboy

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#5
Hi Martyn,
I'm am going to ask some 'stoopid' questions, so bear with me.

1. Have you got her birth cert.
2. How sure are you that the entry EMELTEE found is the wrong one.

I had a rellie that was registered twice, with different surnames. Another that went through life having dropped her 1st name completely, and carried on with her middle name.
All scenarios are possible, that's what makes life interesting.:D :eek: :)

Steve.:)
 
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#6
Hi Steve

My apologies for the delay in replying.

First off, I don't think there are any stupid questions - it's only by asking that you find things out. To answer your questions:

1. No, we haven't got the birth certificate - if we can find a birth date/name, we'll get one, of course.
2. More or less 100 percent sure about Mansfield Florence, because her parents/home address just don't tie in at all. Her parents are married, and the father's name does not appear on any of the other Swain family records.

I know what you mean about relatives chopping and changing names. Our latest endeavour is to try and identify all of the female Swains born in Nottingham in 1876-80, on the basis that she may have had a different forename. That's actually quite heart-breaking, because infant mortality was so high: I got very excited by one with the same name as one of Florence's children, but she died aged 5 in 1882.

I'm still trying to find out how easy it would be to go through life and give a different name from your real one on every official document. She'd be locked up these days!
 

p.risboy

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#7
Hi Martyn,
I know what you mean about infant mortality. I have just recieved what I thought was my Gtx3 Grandad's death cert. only for it to be a 2 day old child.

I have a rellies children on various census, born as far apart geographically as Canterbury,Kent and Liverpool, so Emeltees suggestion is viable.
At least it's in Nottinghamshire.:biggrin:

Good luck.

Steve.:)
 

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