What will it take to have additional options in Marriage field?

+22 votes
I know that most geneology programs support variations in the "marriage" field. Unmarried. Partner. Common law. Others. But Wikitree does not. (I don't know how Wikitree translates those alternatives from imported GEDCOMs, do you?)

Limiting that connection to only marriage severely limits the display of family and lineage relationships that make up our families' and ancestors' histories. This is particularly relevant when there are children of such unions. Their lineage gets "interrupted" if a non-marital event has occurred.

What will it take to expand the use of what is currently called the Marriage field to include other relationship forms?
asked in WikiTree Tech by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (666k points)
edited by Keith Hathaway
They seem to handle this ok on this profile:  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Smith-545.
Not sure if there's a tongue in your cheek, Kitty. Assuming not, In this example they were actually considered spouses-- at least by some. So it makes sense to use wikitree's marriage field as is.

But what about the royalty that generated famous (or not famous) bastards-- many through long lived relationships with mistresses? What about more recent couples who choose to create families together without the legal paperwork of marriage?

And bottom line perhaps: why isn't wikitree's software aligned with so many genealogy programs that have multiple choices for the relationship field, not just marriage?

I agree with you completely. It would prevent the type of confusion that I often encounter when someone has children with someone who is not listed as a spouse. Even though you can notate in the biography the relationship, not everyone writes biographies and the children can become a source of contention or just get removed.

Right now, I am thinking of a profile from the late 1700s where a man had a life long wife with many children and a life long mate with many children.  It is even more complicated when the children do not take the father's last name.

There are many other good reasons for having these other designations, which you have already outlined. I just wanted to point out that it could reduce confusion and prevent mistakes if the relationships were clearly noted in the data section since not every profile has a written bio at this point.

Thanks for bringing this up!

Indeed thanks again Jillaine - at least twice before if not more I have stated that this needs rethinking. In the project that I mainly am concerned with (not even speaking of modern times where same-sex and biological same-sex children with more than one parent are become less polemical and more the "state of the times") concubinal relationships were rife and DNA research is providing important information on parentage. This is an feature that needs re-modelling. @ Chase - I couldn't disagree more. This traditional view of what a marriage constitutes, is sorely disruptive to serious research in the sense that the "form" (i.e. "other" relationships banned to the bio's) does not facilitate that research sufficienntly enough. Just one example out of countless in this project alone: https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Gabrielsz-1 

4 Answers

+5 votes
Supporting Jilliaine's comment... it really isn't a radical new one. Common-law marriages and mail-order brides were abundant in the "old" times when justices of the peace could travel only by horseback throughout the newly-settled Midwest.
answered by Dorothy Coakley G2G6 Pilot (170k points)
I also support Jillaine's comment.

However, mail-order brides can be accommodated in the current arrangement -- assuming the people actually got married.  But we do need to be able to record a variety of other kinds of liaisons that weren't/aren't formal marriage (and that sometimes have produced children).
+7 votes
To play devil's advocate here, why do we need alternatives? You are either married or you are not. A common law marriage is a legally-recognized type of marriage and should be treated as such in the marriage field. Unmarried, partner, and other forms of relationship that are not legally considered marriages would not be reflected in the marriage field but just in the bio. Parentage fields are independent of marriage, so no issue there. Wikitree policy is to base parentage purely on biology, so marriage is irrelevant for lineage.
answered by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (117k points)
As was recently pointed out in another thread, the strictly-marriage limitation prevents parents and children from showing up on family group sheets when there is no marriage.

If wikitree is about biological parentage, then displays that exclude biological parentage due to a non-marital event break the chain.
Also, as my opening comment pointed out, most genealogy programs do not follow the "you're either married or you're not" approach. They offer a variety of ways to describe a relationship. Wikitree's binary approach to relationships (you're married or you're not) is not compatible with most genealogy software.
Re family group sheets just showing marriages - I admit that I've never used the family group sheets, but it seems that they were designed to only reflect marriages and not parentage. Wikitree could change them to reflect parentage if they wanted to. Even if wikitree added the ability to show non-marriage relationships in fields on profiles, it wouldn't change what shows up on the family group sheets unless they decided to revise family group sheets to show those relationships.The issue of what sort of relationships you want to show on the family group sheets is a separate question from what types of relationships do you want to have profile fields for.
What sorts of relationships do we want to have fields for? I agree that if someone had 2 co-habiting romatic partnerships in their lifetime, each for 5+ years, it would be nice to show that, particularly if the person had children as a result of those partnerships. Shorter or more casual relationships maybe not. But what about shorter/casual relationships that produce children? There is something odd about seeing children listed on a profile without any indication on that profile as to who the other parent was.

This is all admittedly of only academic interest to me because I have yet to work on a profile whether non-marriage relationships was an issue.
Common-law marriages are not recognized in California.

Chase wrote: "There is something odd about seeing children listed on a profile without any indication on that profile as to who the other parent was."

Not sure I understand. This already happens. When a man has multiple wives, all children are listed and you can't tell which mother applies without clicking on the child's name and going to their profile. Or do you mean something else?

I would like to see the Family Group sheet show all of the children for the person for whom you selected the Family Group sheet display.

In other words, if you have a father who married twice (or had children with two different partners), you would possibly have three groups shown on that page -- one for each partner and one for children who are only connected to the father.

This would make it much easier to correct connections that are missing, find duplicates, etc.

The current display for Family Group sheets shows only children who are connected to both parents.
+2 votes
A bit off the topic but worth considering--relationship styles vary.

In Thailand, there are different levels of wives and girlfriends.

1. "First wife"-top rank, boss of other wives living in the same house. (If registered, she will have full inheritance and property rights.)

2. "Mee-an oie" (or minor wife), usually does not live in the same house with First Wife. May have children with "husband" and will receive support.

3. "Geeg" (girl friend), does not live in family home. May have children with bf. May receive support.

To "formally" marry one has two choice--register the marriage with the local government or marry before a monk. The two types are different legally. (Reportedly most Thai do not register the marriage.)

The third type of "marriage" is the man and woman live together as husband and wife but neither register nor go to the temple. If the union is approved by the family it is seen as an "honorable" union.

All of the forms are accepted by the locals as valid. (I am not expert here so there is much I am not detailing. For the sake of simplicity I will not discuss Muslim marriage.)
answered by M B G2G6 (8.7k points)
+1 vote
Here's another example of why we need alternative designations in what is currently the "Marriage" field:


Herodias lived as a common-law wife, without any documentation of marriage, with George Gardiner and gave him 10 children. When she sought a legal separation from him (also seeking protection of assets), she claimed they had never been married.

We want George to show up on her profile page as one of her linked partners, but they were not technically married.
answered by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (666k points)
Great example, Jillaine!

For a lot of early ancestors, there is no actual record of a marriage. We typically assume that a couple was married before the first child arrived. There may be many more arrangements like the one between George and Herodias, but as  long as the couple stayed together, the non-official nature of the relationship wasn't documented the way it was for George and Herodias.

It seems to me that the current policy is predicated on an assumption that "marriage" as defined in certain countries/cultures during most the 20th century is the only kind of relationship that is valid to be recorded. That's short-sighted.

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