How to handle handshake marriages

+10 votes
227 views
I know it is easy to simply speak of marriage in the Traditional Church or Registered sense, however there are a number of other 'marriages' perhaps traditionally understood as handshake marriages. My Mother had no children within her only registered marriage, and four children within a handshake marriage. I was doing some history the other day and I realised that King Cnut had no children by his Church Marriage (perhaps a political arrangement) and two children by his handshake wife. Is the best option simply to note this in the bio, or is there some other way.
in WikiTree Tech by Philip Barrington G2G1 (1.1k points)
retagged by Maggie N.

3 Answers

+5 votes
Thanks Philip for bringing this up. Not only are there handfast marriages but Traditional marriage in Native American Tribes.
by Anonymous Roach G2G6 Pilot (185k points)
and many other kinds too :) All valid.
+6 votes
WikiTree is about family history; we don't need to emulate a bureaucracy or an ecclesiastical court in regard to marriage.

It seems to me that if two people appear to have been regarded as married in the cultural context in which they lived, they can be connected as  spouses in the WikiTree data system. Specific details (to the extent that they are known) of "handshake marriages" or similar arrangements can be included in the text section.

From a practical standpoint, there are many past marriages that very probably were entirely legal, but are not document in extant records. We can't insist on a legal document in order to say that two people were married.
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Not that I disagree with you at all, but I'm now just waiting for the other side to show up to this conversation. People furious that a woman was attached as a "spouse" to a man by whom she had children when there was no legal marriage, and who insist that such connections only be handled in the narrative.

Frankly, I think that wikitree needs to alter its display methodology to allow for something other than only husband/wife of...
+4 votes
I have an example of the opposite problem -- two documented marriages for both man & wife where the first marriage was still in effect... Both were committing bigamy in a time & location where it was illegal. The "gentleman" in the case was brought up in court on bigamy charges & paid a fine, but nothing changed otherwise. There was no mention that his current "wife" was also committing bigamy. I've so far found no record of the first "wife" or "husband" ever filing for abandonment...

I linked both couples to both spouses, & noted the circumstances in all four profiles. Thankfully, this was far enough in the past (colonial Virginia) that no toes were stepped on by doing so. I would have to think hard about how to handle the same situation if it occurred in the last 100 -150 years...
by Kitty Linch G2G6 Mach 4 (40.7k points)

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