married or not?

+1 vote

Is it still the policy of WT to allow people who merely live together as "husband and wife" to be profiled as such, "Husband" and "Wife" even though
1) no license was applied for from the Civil Authority (city, county, state)
2) no duly authorized persons signed off on the 2nd piece of paper (or 2nd half) which said these two were pronounced "man" and "wife" by ... and in the presence of ... and this item was filed in the archives of Civil Authority
3) since they were not married by Civil Authority, and the only "evidence" you can bring to the table is the fact they cohabited "as if they were legally married" 

I'd like to know since I have a few "couples" I can classify as spouses if this is still the case -- why NOT go with the flow, since so many others are in favor of "recognizing" non-legal unions as if it were "legal" 

in Genealogy Help by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (581k points)

1 Answer

+4 votes
From past G2G discussions, I agree that there seems to be a number of members in favor of categorizing unmarried couples as spouses, if they lived as spouses.  I'm not aware of any specific policy statement that supports that.  The only thing even related is a Help File statement saying that the parents of children do not need to be shown as married:

I personally have not shown any unmarried couples as spouses, but I think if you choose to do it, you should state in both Bio's that there was no legal marriage, if you know that to be the case.  I'm not sure when the concept of marriage became an official legal status in various parts of the world, but I can understand that we might want to handle this differently in an era before the concept existed.
by Dennis Barton G2G6 Pilot (459k points)
"I'm not sure when the concept of marriage became an official legal status in various parts of the world, but I can understand that we might want to handle this differently in an era before the concept existed."
Concept has not ceased to exist, at least in the United States and most of Europe, license (or banns and license), ceremony  whether Civil or a combo of Civil/Religious where the Religious was meant to bring God's blessing on the union 
By the eighth century, marriage was widely accepted in the Catholic church as a sacrament, or a ceremony to bestow God's grace. At the Council of Trent in 1563, the sacramental nature of marriage was written into canon law.

Eh, Dennis, I'm still getting used to this "drag and drop" action I discovered ... but only thing I found in the Help "especially if there were children" or words to that effect ... but WT is not going to make an "issue" out of any time soon ... which is reasonable 

There's still the matter of proofs, and what are you supposed to use for that? Where it is legal by the laws of the land, you can present the marriage record.  Maybe there's a "Uncertain" thing to click? I have not noticed one. 

But if we go forth on the basis that couple cohabited "as if married", I have to suppose there's a "look" married has?, like you can look at them and immediately say "Oh, they're married" without a word said one way or the other. 

LOL I've been wrong more than twice -- one case was "Oh, they aren't married" and the other case when I remarked they didn't look married to my eyes, "Oh, they're married all right!" and in both cases I climbed into a bunker and hid. I recall a news item about a couple that were married but she lived in her house and he lived in his house. Did not cohabit. So "as if they were married" is a bit loose to my way of thinking. 

Well, I shall confine it to cases I have where a child or more resulted. That would include my -- let's see -- my granny Harriet Medlock Lawson Smith's father's sister and Harriet's mother's grandfather. Uh-huh. Three children over about a decade. Now I know these two were not married because her SECOND legal union was as "Mrs" <married surname>. During that decade she DID use HIS surname. 

Then there's number of "marriages" that same woman's daughter had, said to have had, and a serious lack of marriage records located to date, but something like seven? children by five? men.  DID she cohabit with the men? Nothing said by other family researchers one way or the other. 

There are other cases. Where there ARE known children I make a hunt for a marriage record. That I don't always find one immediately or on a second try does not mean there is none. But I have a much larger pool of those (quantity). 

LEGALLY this marriage record matters. SOCIALLY, not so much although it is more openly practiced than say 100 yrs ago. But that couple cohabit but are not legally married by the laws of the land has been happening since there were laws regulating legal unions first created -- and practiced contrary to social pressures. One of those things "we don't talk about it" I heard when growing up. Which my mother'd heard growing up and likewise her mother on back through time.

NOT being LEGALLY married often meant packing up kit and kaboodle and living in another part of the country, since where you came from too many people KNEW the story. 

Susan, I do get the point that there is ambiguity in the status of some of these relationships.  The original question was about WikiTree policy.  My answer was that I don't think there is one, and I would have expected somebody to pounce on that in a heartbeat and correct me if there is one.  I think you have noted some of the complexities that would make it very difficult to create a policy that covers every situation.  So it just seems to me that you have to wing it and, when there is ambiguity, explain the situation as best you can in the Bio's.

LOL, Dennis, too right, it IS too much to expect WT to formulate one policy fits all cases ... 

laugh Okay, Dennis, while there is no formal policy on the status of legal marriage vs non-legal coupling, I am slowly working out a procedure. Involves at times a teejus amount of cross-checking on each one of them and on any children. 

Given that WT has an occasional "find a marriage date" marathon, this would indicate the importance of having that date/place, est and uncertain being better than nothng.

After I run a search on the couple to see if I can capture a marriage record, and I can't find one ...
1. w/o a marriage record captured, I look at any census (1850-1940) and if they are living together, I will presume they are married, barring any uncaptured information at some later date
2. if children are listed, and I still need a marriage date estimate, I check them as a couple in familysearch to see whatever children are listed for them. Using the DOB (est or otherwise) of the oldest child located, I can est. a DOM. 
3. Where they were married can be problematic, for instance, if they were born in 2 diff states and the oldest ch. located b. in a 3rd state but using the POB of that child I can use that state as the POM but mark it "uncertain" as with the DOM. 
4. Post 1940 is more problematic, since I can't find out if they cohabited; but IF I can find the oldest child listed and use that to est the DOM, and it's POB as the est. locale. Even more problematic is when no children are listed. That makes it very ambiguous. And I can figure marriage est occurred after the female half was age 15/16. 

IF you can think of anything else I can use to est. when I am unable to find a marriage record after 2, 3 attempts, let me know. 

I think you also need to consider Common-Law marriages.  There is a specific legal meaning attached to the term today, depending on which jurisdiction, but the meaning has changed over the centuries.  Wikipedia has this explanation.

crying Nope, Melanie, WT policy is inclusive rather than exclusive, in so far as it can be said to be anything -- so I will not distinguish which are legal by the laws of the land from those which are not, nor whether they are secular or sacred, or "make-shift etc and so forth, whatever it is --  

That I have not discovered a legally (duly authorized) marriage record (even after three attempts) OR a divorce record which indicates a legal union to start with, doesn't mean one does not exist. So all unions without that record in my hands so to speak are going to be considered defacto.  

Proof (IMO) -- in the absence of a legal marriage record -- is confined to the recorded birth of a child or in the evident co-habitation as seen in a census or in more modern times in 3rd Party Aggregated Public Records. or a court record with testimony (under oath) that stated they were not (or were) etc and so forth ... newspaper notices about them (as a couple) ... 

WT policy is evidence to support what is claimed. I'll use what I find, but I will not consider anything except Y/N and here's the evidence I found for Y.

I figure if I cannot find SOMETHING to support the claim then I MAY have to decouple them. 

I'm still upset about the in-law uncle who was a Lothario but DID leave at least one child behind ... did he and the woman cohabit? Not according to anything I could find (census) and given the child (now a granny herself and still living) is said not to have known she was not the bio child of the man she knew all of her life as her father ... but there's evidently DNA to prove this is the case, this woman is a bio child of that in-law uncle, the (unknowing) half sister to the children of my blood kin ... 

I really don't like complications but humans are ingenious and will complicate fecklessly

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