What terms do we use for Unmarried Parents in various situations?

+9 votes
264 views
What terms would you use for the following situations and how would you document on WikiTree? Do you connect as husband and wife?

1. Unmarried but living together as husband and wife. Raised Children.  Common Law and connected on WikiTree?

2. Had children but never lived together, often leaving the wife to raise the child.  Illegitimate seems wrong these days.  How would you refer to the father?
in Policy and Style by Michael Stills G2G6 Pilot (394k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
Surely it all depends on where and when, and why and the legal repercussions possible at the time. I show bigamous marriages as marriages in the interest of the innocent but in some cases it seems that both partners knew what they were doing at the time. Common law marriage surely applies only in a time and place when such arrangements had meaning before the law. Minefield.

5 Answers

+5 votes
If they are common law marriage I would just connect them and explain in the bio they were never officially married.

For the case of they were never a couple but had a child I would check the option to not show them on the profile but explain it in all the bios.

We need some more configurations for these types of situations in WikiTree.

But I think as long as you explain every situation in the bio you are good to go. :)
by Sarah Callis G2G6 Pilot (105k points)
+7 votes
The cute answer to your question is that they are connected to the children as Mother and Father. And that's not just a cute answer, because it's the only kind of relationship connection that is fully endorsed by official Wikitree policy.

Describe them in the text any way you want. And I agree with Sarah that if they lived as man and wife, you'd be justified in connecting them as spouses, while describing the situation in the text.

WikiTree definitely does need to have additional labels in the spouse field, such as "Unmarried Partner". Could that simply be a data qualifier? (Currently there are no data qualifiers for spouses -- they also can't be marked as "uncertain".)
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)

Thanks Ellen, conversationally speaking, we say "illegitimate children".  But how do we refer to the father.  We might say "un-wed mother", but what do we say when refering to the father?  The word escapes me. I am looking for the short hand reference.  I do not want to say, "the father of the child but he was not married."  Un-wed father?

Related, we would not say they had an affair if they were single and consenting. Dalliance comes to mind.  "The dalliance between John and Jane resulted in Jim."  Crudely, we might say, "John, knocked up Jane and we got that bastard, Jim."  

I am trying to hone my language for genealogical purposes.  To give explainations and presentations with some level of precision but not be vulgar. 

I am courious how others talk of such relationships.

I don't see so much difficulty in describing these relationships without attaching negative labels to the people involved. For example: "Della's parents were Sheila and Fred, who were not married."
Yes, then depending on how the converstion is focused, we might say Shelia was the unwed mother of Della.  But saying Fred was the unwed father seems akward, structually it is the same but I do not think it is commonly said that way.

This is hard to describe over email.  It is easy to rewrite the structure in isolated sentences, but in the flow of a paragraph or a converstation, it comes out stilted.  I will dig around the Thesarus, dalliance comes closest.
BTW, it is several hours past my bedtime and I am alone tonight.  I am in that sleep drunk mode so I probably shouldn't be WikiTree'n.  My mind really starts to wander. G'night and thanks for the alternate point's of view.

Too much emphasis can be placed on the term marriage. If two people have an arrangement between themselves and produce children, that is all that is required for genealogical purposes. If marriage sources are found, they are included. 

Creative writing:
"Sheila's daughter Della was born on [date]. Sheila was not married at the time; she identified Fred as the child's father."
"Fred and Sheila married on [date]. Their first two children had been born earlier."
"Fred never married, but Della's birth certificate identifies him as the father."
"In his will, Fred acknowledged Sheila's daughter Della as his child and provides her with a bequest of $100."
Regarding WikiTree's indicators,

We have the option to indicate that a father or mother is non-biological or uncertain.

Parents-Married: Default, connect them

Parents - Unmarried Common Law:  No agreement here:  Connect them and explain not married in Bio. or Do not connect them and indicate in Bio.

Parents - Unmarried Dalliance:  Do not connect, indicate in Bio.

Father/Mother: Non-Biological: Do not connect and indicate non-Biological, explain in Bio.

From a WikiTree technology perspective, we default that a father or mother is biological and need to indicate if not biological so that the DNA matching can perform correctly.  The do not need to be connected as partners.

From a Genealogical perspective we connect them so that they show up as married husband and wife, defaulted.  

The rub then, is defining when to connect.  If common law marriage is on the rise, then should not these folks be connected?  Is the point of connection to show a legal marriage or a relationship?  From a genealogical point of view, we like to see all relationships resulting in either biological issue or some kind of significant relationship.  Adoptive parents being a corollary, with the non-biological indicator being created to accommodate this.

Yet we do not want to see every "one-night-stand" a person engaged in.  

So do we need to better define the purpose and use of connecting two individuals? Is it ok to connect a gay couple for example?

I see the unmarried question has been asked several times, indicating reoccurring confusion.

I believe WikiTree’s policy is to connect married biological parents only but allow connection to a non-biological parent in certain circumstances.

Much to read here, including the links within.

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Adoptions_and_Multiple_Parents
Absent Father perhaps?
+5 votes
"Just the facts" feels like especially good advice here.  Was their relationship accepted as a marriage by the community in which they lived?  It was a marriage, show the couple as husband and wife on Wikitree.  Was it not?  Then don't show it.  You don't have to show two people as married in order to show them as parents of a child.

In the narrative?  "During this period of his life, John fathered two children, Mary and Susan."  If the mother was only a momentary presence she need not even be mentioned.  If the father left, then state that:  John Smith was a presence in Sylvia's life for the next five years;  two children, George and Wilfred resulted;  then when the youngest was two years old, John joined others seeking gold in California, never to return.  Or if there was a relationship, call it a relationship.  "For the next seven years, Herbert and Josephine had a relationship.  Three children were the result of that relationship:  Dagbert, Ethelbert and Magdalene.  

Now, people at the time were much less kind or neutral than we might try to be.  I personally believe all children are entitled to the love of a family and whatever the relationship of the parents, no child is illegitimate, but my personal beliefs don't change history.  William of Normandy was called "William the Bastard" long before he was called "William the Conqueror" and who's to say part of his drive didn't come from childhood fury expressed as "I'll show the world what I'm made of!".  So in the section of his bio called ===Names=== "William the Bastard" has a place, not because of our opinions but because of how documents report him as being known at the time.

So if we have records of how the relationship was viewed, that becomes grist for the mill.  As genealogists we show relationships and as historians we both report facts and select facts to report.  But we try to avoid imposing our own attitudes and beliefs on those who lived in very different times and places.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (338k points)
edited by Jack Day
I would add that in writing the above, I realized that "mother" and "father" as verbs are not parallel in their usage.

If I father a child, I am the biological parent, but if I "became the father" of a child, I probably adopted it after it was born.  If I became the mother of a child, I was its biological mother, but if I "mothered" a child, I may have been an affectionate aunt or day care worker!
+2 votes
How about 'biological father'?
by Anonymous Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+2 votes
I found some interesting information in this Wikipedia article on Legitimacy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(family_law)
by Michael Stills G2G6 Pilot (394k points)

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