When will WikiTree update the way it displays couples who did not marry?

+21 votes
395 views

I’ve been pondering over this for a while so I though I’d ask. As things stand, the WikiTree profile “expects” couples to be married - if a date/place are not entered, logged in users see a little yellow box to prompt them to complete the information.

I have two couples in my tree who I know never married, even though they had children together. In one case, the woman was described in parish records as “supposing wife of John Easton” though I don’t know why they didn’t marry, and in the other case the couple never married because one of them was still married to someone else!

The other example I have in mind is me. I live together with my partner but we don’t plan to marry (though I’ve researched his family tree of course - what greater sign of commitment could there be?)

Stats show that this living arrangement is increasingly popular in England and Wales. And here’s a story from just last week: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/07/cohabiting-couples-fastest-growing-family-type-ons?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Would WikiTree ever change the way it displays non-married relationships on profiles? Would it be possible when a “spouse” is added to add an option for “no marriage”?

It seems like there would be increasing demand for it in future.

in Policy and Style by Katie Fuller G2G2 (2.4k points)
retagged by Abby Glann

In most legal contexts, Spouse means a married person. It has been mentioned elsewhere that Putative (or common-law, civil union, civil partnership, domestic partnership) Spouses are also accepted, it is just best to document that information in the Bio. This will help keep people from "chasing a wild goose" while looking for marriage records that do not exist.

Since marriages and parent-child relationships are recorded separately, it should be noted that we would never want to set two people as being married (spouses) just because they have a kids together. More info available at Help:Unmarried Parents.

...and in the other case the couple never married because one of them was still married to someone else!

In this case, I would definitely not recommend setting these profiles as married unless you could prove they were a putative spouse or were otherwise in some form of legal partnership.

I'm suggesting that Wikitree needs to get with the times (for want of a better phrase) as more and more people are living together without marrying, and it doesn't seem sensible not to have an option to document those sorts of long-term relationships. Just adding a link from the biography isn't the same, is it?

If we could tick a box that says something like "did not marry" or "no marriage" or whatever then that would avoid the issues you mentioned of researchers looking for a marriage that never occurred, or of setting a profile as someone's [married] spouse solely because they had children together.

How do I put this forward as a proposal for consideration?

The historical situations cannot be equated with today, so Wikitree needing to "get with the times" would require some work to enable such to be differentiated.

Historical relationships that were non-matrimonial yet produced issue should not be recorded as marriages.
This keeps coming up and I sure wish it would happen. It's not even getting with the times. I have heaps of instances of non marriage relationships back from when you couldn't get a divorce.

Personally I put Unmarried in the place field, which breaks all sorts of rules and some people hate but it makes things very clear in a profile summary.

It's actually confusing to not show someone they had an "interaction" with on the profile summary. I reject the idea that non-marriage partners should not be shown and it's not my experience that not showing them reflects common practice.
I'm with Katie on this one. Pre-1700 there are loads of profiles with married couples and also concubinal relationships. Mentioning those only in the bio's does disservice to the genealogical lines (not to mention DNA research).
That’s what I’m suggesting, that some work is required. Not all relationships involve a marriage and I feel that this should be reflected in WikiTree.

9 Answers

+7 votes
I agree there should be an option for "Never Married".  I have someone in one of my family trees that left his wife and ran off with a neighbor and had three children with her.  He was never free to legally marry the second woman even though they lived together until his death.  

I also live with my partner and share our lives together as if we were married.
by Carol Wilder G2G6 Mach 3 (34k points)
+5 votes
I also agree that there should be another option. I was adding information to a Notable's profile today. She never married her son's father and the person who started the profile added the son but not his father probably because of this very issue.
by Laurie Cruthers G2G6 Pilot (117k points)
+3 votes
I have a child with a person that I was never married to. If you look at his profile Pollard-1191, we are both listed. If you click on my name in his profile you will not see her (his mother) listed. I had offered to marry her but she refused. Now he lives with me since he was little and she is supposedly dead (have not found any documentation for this).
by Chris McCombs G2G6 Mach 4 (42.9k points)
+2 votes
When you add the 2nd parent for a child, you have to make sure to scroll to the bottom and uncheck the box that states the parents are married.  That will allow the child to show both parents, but the parents won't have the spouse.  

At this time, that is all that can be done, as well as have the biography of both parents and the child have the documentation that the parents are / were not married.

I understand the 'partner' won't show on the 'other partner' profile, but that is what we have to work with now.  You can always mark them as 'married' so they would show on each of the partner's profiles, but the biography should still state that they were never actually married.
by Linda Peterson G2G6 Pilot (144k points)
I understand there are ways to work around it, but I think that WikiTree should be looking at a better solution which better reflects modern society (as well as all those people in the past who didn’t do things the official way for whatever reason).
+5 votes
In the State of Texas, the marriage laws were such that anyone who co-habitated in any manner were considered married, including short relationships where one of them registered in a hotel as "husband and wife."

I knew a lawyer in a college town who was responsible for filing many "divorces" of couples who had lived together for a year or two in college, but eventually split up.

And in the midwest, during the days of the travelling preachers who only came to town once or twice a year, they would marry the parents on Saturday, and baptize all the children on Sunday. (or so they said)
by Roy Lamberton G2G6 Mach 2 (29.7k points)
+4 votes
I have such a case in my ancestry. My greatgreatgrandmother is born out of wedlock, in her baptism entry there is the word "illegitimate". Only about a year ago I found out that she had eight siblings in close order as if her parents were married, but all of them had the marker "illegitimate" in their baptism entry. So obviously my 3xgreatgrandparents lived together but never married.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (283k points)
+5 votes

It looks like there is a lot of support for this kind of change on WikiTree.  Why not propose the change per the guidelines?

https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Developing_New_Rules

by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (544k points)
Thanks. I did contact the team back in August and had a reply from Abby, but I know they’re busy.
Until you formally propose the change, it will not get on the list of improvements.
I did ask her what I needed to do next, but she said nothing was needed from me at that point.
I know that, in one of the previous iterations of this topic, I suggested a way of accommodating this need that would be technically super-simple to implement.  All it would take is addition of a status-type field, like we already have for all the name, date, place, father, and mother fields.  The possible values would be legally married, common-law, or unmarried partners (unless there is another possibility that I missed).  The default value could be legally married.
+6 votes
I agree with you, too, Katie. Genealogy is first and foremost about biological connections, not legal connections.

In my opinion, we should reverse our views on marital display; we should emphasize a couple's procreative partnership, with a checkbox to indicate if a legal partnership also existed.

Of course, we would continue to show childless marital status.
by Lindy Jones G2G6 Pilot (181k points)
And we should also be able to link the connections between people who lived together for extended periods as unmarried partners, even if they didn't have children. Like my 4G grandfather who abandoned his wife and children, but did not divorce his wife, then lived openly with a younger woman for the rest of his life (nearly 30 years) in the same community where his wife was living.

Naturally I include childless, non-legally-verified/documented-marriage partnerships in my stated opinion. We should link as partners first, noting with or without children (linking them, of course); then we expand to note married (legal definition), not married (again, with or without children).

edit: added italicized text

+3 votes
WikiTree is clearly about biological relationships.  When a child is produced outside of marriage, as with a mistress for example, then that biological relationship is totally lost, at least officially.  It is left to the PM or someone to document within the text with links, etc.

This is clearly counterproductive to the mission of WT.  Either we are about socially sanctioned relationships OR we are about the truth of who begat whom.

It would not be that difficult to add a "Liaison" field in addition to "Spouse."  That might cover all aspects of extra-marital relationships without more drama.  

Why is this considered to be hard?   (And, how do I get this into formal consideration, assuming that others have also made similar requests?)
by Robin Anderson G2G6 Mach 3 (38.4k points)

When a child is produced outside of marriage, as with a mistress for example, then that biological relationship is totally lost, at least officially. 

?? Then the child of the mistress has a biological relationship to the father and her biological mother, the mistress. The problem with Wikitree is that you (still) cannot show the relationship of the father to the mistress. And this is what we want to change. 

I'm just pointing out that a "liaison" field in addition to the spouse field is straightforward and covers all types of extra-marital events.  And adding support for your argument.

I'm tired of the endless discussion about "should we use mistress" or "what about rape."  Can't we just do something?
Do a proposal as I suggested above....it is clear you will have a lot of support.

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