Was she a Flo, a Flora, a Florence or a Flossie?


One of the most basic requirements of an ancestor search is an ancestor name. But what do you do when your ancestor’s name is very common and you cannot seem to move forward with your research? For example, you are looking for a John O’Shaughnessy, born you believe between 1892-1902 in Co. Galway.


One of the first places you check is the 1901 Census but there are 4 males named John O’Shaughnessy in Co. Galway in 1901. Of these, 2 are a possible fit for your ancestor, but you cannot be sure which is accurate. The only additional information you know, is that your ancestor John, had an older sister Florence. You check the Census again but you cannot find her. Where could she be?


Before disregarding ‘Florence’ as a means to learning more about John, your direct ancestor and identify him with certainty in the Census, it is important to think about your Census search. John is not likely to have been known or listed as anything other than ‘John’. However, could Florence be a Flo, Flora or Flossie? Perhaps too, Hannah is an Ann, Annie, Nora or Onny or Gertrude a Jerry, Trudie or Gertie?


Going back to the Census you check for variants of Florence in Co. Galway, hoping to locate a young girl, born before her brother. While you cannot find a Florence, there in the townland of Ely Place, Galway is ‘Flossie’, aged 1. You see on the Census her younger brother John as well as the eldest child Emily (named after her mother). The Head of Household is her father, Peter O’Shaughnessy, a publican.


You cannot locate Flossie in the later 1911 Census so you focus a search on other possible first name variants. There she is listed as ‘Florence’. By that time the family has moved to Middle Street, Galway and Emily is a widow. John, your direct ancestor is listed aged 10. You have learned more about your ancestor’s family in a very short space of time.


Making sure you use spelling variations in your search will ensure that any genealogy research you undertake makes best use of the records available.

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