In a bind about relationships ...

+24 votes

I have (this project has) a slight issue with concubine relationships on many pre-1700 (and even pre-1800) profiles. Strictly speaking according to WikiTree policy non-traditional family [also called ad-hoc] relationships should be mentioned in the bio's, as in this example. But it would be great if we could have those relationships also recognized because of the sheer amount of them in our project alone, and the children that were born out of these relationships. This is the current example of how Maria van Negapatnam has her relationships shown in WikiTree (and we haven't even yet created profiles for all of her children). There is also the situation of both a father and a son who possibly had a relationship with her (and therefore children). This still needs to be investigated.

My issue is that we have so many of these profiles and it isn't easy working from the bio's instead of seeing the relationships as one would if they would have been married. This is how the same profile is shown on another website. Now this is the profile of one of her sexual partners on this same website: Coenraad Janse, Jansz "Koenraet, Coenraat" Visscher aka Visser- clear is that he has had more than one concubine (which was common practice in those days). Also with children ...

Could it be possible to have a system - perhaps in a slightly different color of font - for these relationships? - it would in the short term and long run be very helpful in discerning the correct familial connections, whereas bannishment of this data [read non-tradional concubinal relationships] to the bio's is not easy to work from and work with.

WikiTree profile: Marij Visser
in Policy and Style by Philip van der Walt G2G6 Pilot (164k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway
Hi Phillip

I agree with you. These unmarried relationships should be visible on the partner's profiles. It is extremely difficult to see the full picture and find duplicates and mistakes when they are not visible on the profile.
The current display is
::Only married spouses
::All children of spouses and partners
This gives a totally wrong impression of the profile.

May I suggest in support to your proposal that if a change in the system is implemented that the display be altered to show as follows

::Spouse/partner's name
::Their Children
::Spouse/Partners name
::Their children
::Spouse/Partners name
::Their children

What I intend to to say is that (as I understand it) only married people get the appropriate fields in WikiTree. I.e married, date, place, until ...

There is an exception for non-traditional families, but those are only meant for people for have been divorced, or have another reason to be "under the radar".

The proposal is that if a child was born out of wedlock, or adopted, or out of prostitution, these relationships should also be visible in the main data fields, and not to be "gathered" or "understood" via the biography only.

In other words, marriage equals adoption equals concubine equals even same sex relationships [I know - blasphemy in da house] as far as the appropriate fields go, only to be somehow differentiated by a color code.

Bottom line - it is a drag that many relationships can only be "explained" in the bio's, whereas a simple "relationship-status" field in among the main fields as name, dob, place of birth, gender, dod [etc.] would make in once glance the picture a lot clearer. In this way WikiTree would reflect the reality out there, and not just the traditional "married" relationships ...

Philip, I am not seeing any requirement that Unmarried Parents should not be connected.

I think of it as flexible. Marriage is a social-legal construct, whether through a church of by the state.

So I tend to connect them as *spouses* if the relationship is at least long-term, and co-habiting. To not do so just seems silly to me, for a co-habiting long-term relationship, regardless of any children..

I see it as optional to not have to record it as a marriage, depending on the situation in each case. But I prefer to have the people connected, for example if they would show up in the same census together, or the same city directory household. It only makes sense that way with the sources.

Forcing them to be unmarried merely to fit into some WikiTree rule would not be rational.

We can even hide divorced spouses. So that's another option.

Thanks Steven, in full agreement ...:-)

I have solved it like this for my great grandmother , and a familymember who is not married but living together and in a long term realtionship with his ''wife'/ girlfriend'' as so many people are nowadays, did the same . 

We just added the person (partner) they had (have) a relationship with and added No Marriage-Relationship to the place field . This way it's immediately clear people were not married but did have a relationship or were living together and children are listed  and clear as well

Looks good, Bea. I do something similar, for instance with a long-term engaged couple, or long-term cohabitants.

That's one major advantage of the open-ended text field format. It provides the ability to include the maximum relevant information in the most simple way.

For instance, I have one couple, aged about 20 years apart, but who lived in the same household for three decades after her widowhood. That's a couple, as far as I am concerned, and what they personally did or did not do in the privacy of their home is not my business.

This also works for closeted lesbians and gays of years past, who were indeed a couple, cohabitating for life, but the social norms never allowed them to acknowledge it either legally or socially. So linking them as *married* in the tree gives them a complete consideration that was just lacking in their own time. And in cases like this, I think the linkage is much more accurate as a solution, than simply relegating such a relationship merely to a buried bio note would be.

Thanks Steven & Bea, I'm going to use this formula now as well. Starting with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas ...:-)

I think these ladies really would be pleased for this final recognition of their relationship ...
Indeed ...
The only problem with this (well two) is:

1. The place field isn't supposed to be used for anything but place names.

2. The profile display still says "wife of..."

But until we get a solution to this problem, I see no way but breaking the rules for the place field as done here.
Thanks Jillaine ...:-)

6 Answers

+6 votes
Frankly, I see no limitations to displaying it the way you desire. We are permitted to use images, but not html.  Wording is up to tge profile managers.

Am I missing something?
by Terri Rick G2G6 Mach 4 (41.7k points)
Terri, you clearly have no understanding of what Phillip's problem is.

1. Did you know that on a person's profile only the spouse to whom he is married may be displayed a per the instructions of WikiTree that can be found here

2. The problem is that on the profile when unmarried parents have children the children are displayed with the children from the spouse that a person was married to and there is no place where the unmarried partner is displayed on the profile.

This means that the appearance that the profile represents is not representative of the facts.

 Wikitree says to write it in the Biography section. This does not work because some Biographies are large and it is impractical to read each biography when you are working with thousands of them.
Then I must have missed something and given your passion in this area, I'll gracefully exit the posting.

Hi Louis, remember rule IV of the Honor code: We know misunderstandings are inevitable. We try to minimize them by being courteous to everyone, even those who don't act accordingly.

I appreciate you defending me, and the passion with which you do it, but not at the expense of courteousness (and by giving a down-vote [if that was you] you also give yourself less points).

I am not aware that I am not courteous. That is the way it translates into English- not my home language- So, if I offended someone, my sincerest appologies

I, too, did not read anything discourteous in Louis' response. Upon re-reading, I think the offending phrase may have been "you clearly have no understanding of..." and given Louis' response that English is not his first language, I think we should give him some leeway.

Now, responding to Louis' other comment; namely: 

The problem is that on the profile when unmarried parents have children the children are displayed with the children from the spouse that a person was married to and there is no place where the unmarried partner is displayed on the profile.

Not true if done correctly.

On the child's page, you can attach as mother the birth mother whether or not she was married to his father. That way, on the child's page, his/her correct parents are listed at the top of the profile.

It's just that on the FATHER's page, the birth mother will not show up in any relationship way except if added to the profile narrative.


Thank you Jilaine,

What you are saying is exactly what I meant. I probably didn't state it as clear but it is true that on the child's page it shows the parents, but the problem is the page of the father and of course on the mother's page the father will not appear in the relationship either.
+7 votes
I pretty much agree with Terri insofar as that there is no substantial limitations in WikiTree concerning "productivie" relationships. The question is who the biological parents of a person are.  The nature of the relationship which led to the production of a child is to be put into the biography.  The parents are "called" father and mother in the information part of the profile simply to simplify the system.  There are cultural and moral considerations as to how a birth is viewed, but that doesn't affect the DNA.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (423k points)
This does not adress my question, though it illustrates the motives for my reasoning.
I'd like to be able to easily identify both my DNA grandparents/sperm donors AND my grams who adopted my mom. Both have a place in my tree.
Well, first remember that in WikiTree there is no "my tree" there's just one world tree.  But this solves your problem immediately.  Of course if your mom's biological parents are known just put them in as mother and father.  Otherwise leave them unknown and in addition, create (or find) profiles for the adoptive parents and then link to them in your mother's biography as "X was adopted by Y and Z"  And in their bios put the same.  This lets you connect with one click, same as with biological parents.  The same can be done for friends neighbors, same sex partners, etc.
+10 votes

A work around that I have used - with no complaints yet - is to show the couple as married and then in the bio - state something like "John and Mary may not have been married but their relationship produced 5 children"  or "John and Mary were not married but they had a relationship that produced 5 children"

Sure I know it may not fit the guidelines but in my mind a couple that has children might as well be listed as married - with full notes in the bio of course.  At least I do it this way until there are system changes that support these kind of relationships.
by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (327k points)
I agree, this is what I'd like to do as well, though it is not WikiTree policy to do so.

So we show all concubinal relationships [if one can call it that - in this project alone there were hundreds if not thousands] as married and then just explain in depth in the bio's. It does make it so much easier to see at one glance who had a relationship with whom and which children were born from the relationship .....
Comment removed.
I've seen this discussed elsewhere, and some people enter "Never Married" in the Marriage Location field.
+8 votes
In the old days, church weddings were expensive and so some would be marriage partners would delay their marriage until they could afford it.  England was particularly hard on such "ad hoc" marriages and the laws prove it.  The marriage law made exceptions for Quakers and Jews.

Mistresses and concubines were more common as well.  Big Billy Stacy, my ancestor, had 35 children, 14 from each of his two wives and seven from his mistress (concubine?)  I didn't list Big Billy and his concubine as being  married, but I listed their seven children with both his and her names.  The other 28 were easier as both women were officially married to him.
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)

Someday we may see this properly displayed on Big Bill's profile:

spouse 1, followed by their children

spouse 2, followed by their children

partner, followed by their children

It may take years to achieve, but it will be worth the wait!

+7 votes
My viewpoint is that, rather than continuing to devalue non-sanctified (by religious authority) or unlicensed (by government authority) relationships, we should have a proper policy discussion to upgrade our couple relationships to reflect reality.

Connecting 2 individuals as a couple should not prevent their common and separate children from being attached to each of them in those proper relationships.

Twenty-first century technology should be able to accomplish this task. The only obstacle I imagine would be on the financial side
by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (244k points)
+4 votes
A solution might be a MarriageStatus field in the same way as the various DateStatus fields we currently have, but Bea's solution of putting it in the place of marriage (which clearly is unused if there was no event) is a good compromise.
by Dirk Laurie G2G6 Mach 3 (37.7k points)
I disagree that putting non-location information in a location field is a good idea. More importantly, it is against our Honor Code to input incorrect data intentionally.

We need to tweak the guidelines and adjust the proper fields to accommodate a broader mindset, rather than provide misleading data.

Compromising our data is not acceptable genealogical practice.

RoN, don't strawman me. I am arguing in favor of a MarriageStatus data field; the other remark is just an aside.

Not sure what you mean by "strawman me," Dirk (unless you mean my Preferred Name).

I don't believe my comment indicates any opposition to a "Marriage Status" type of field.

I am opposed to putting non-locations phrases such as "Not Married" in a location field. That just gums up the system and causes confusion and conflicts, in my opinion.

We don't need to compromise the integrity of our data; we need to adjust policy to fit the realities of genealogical relationships, not just of legal or church-sanctioned relationships..
"Strawman" just means to seize on something that isn't quite
the point but is easier to rebut.

We basically seem to agree that WikiTree needs some sort of expansion of what the data fields under Marriage mean. It is part of a larger argument about what WikiTree data fields mean when the simple model of

BiologicalParents = LegalParents =MarriedCouple

becomes inadequate to represent the complexities of families in a particular period.

Now if we are going to change the meaning of "Spouse" to mean someone never involved in any ceremony, or "Father" and "Mother" to mean a person not of the sex automatically assumed by WikiTree when you add someone of that description, I can't see why we need to be pernickety about the meaning of "Marriage Location" when there was in fact no event.

And I think it offensive to accuse people who ingeniously exploit the availability of a data field that would otherwise lie fallow of violating the Honor Code.
I don't believe I did as you suggest; you supported Bea's method as a good compromise and I disagreed with your opinion, giving my own.

Also, I did not mention changing the definition of spouse; I simply advocate expanding the marriage-related data fields to include all types of genealogically relevant partnerships.

Finally, I did not accuse any person; I attacked the practice of deliberately using a location field incorrectly as against our Honor Code (specifcally section II; accuracy). Whether or not a data field is used is irrelevant; but it should not be used incorrectly, in my opinion.
Point well stated. I agree. WikiTree needs to have the relationship fields updated to reflect reality.

Related questions

+6 votes
2 answers

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright