Thursday, July 14, 2005


-- Myrt's introduction
-- Possible incorrect assumptions
-- 21st century "Not Married" status still holds stigma
-- Getting software programmers to change
-- Myrt's parting comments

Dear, DearREADERS,
Apparently this topic really hit a raw nerve. In three days, that's been about 350-400 email responses on this topic alone. The following emails represent the major viewpoints expressed in response to the "NOT MARRIED" column. <> My initial reactions:
-- PLEASE, do not worry.
-- Jumping to conclusions (positive or negative) won't help.

-- Remember: "JUST THE FACTS MAM!"

From: betty threatt
This subject of NEVER MARRIED has been the point of many disagreements with fellow researchers on my family tree. We find my 2nd great-grandmother when she is nine years old living with a family of the same last name. Her name never changes according to census records, but according to all legal papers I have found, she does not claim this family as her parents. I think her real father died and her mother remarried and the census put her down along with all the other children as belonging to the other man. (Why else would she claim another name and another man as her father?)

My Daddy had memories of his grandfather. It was not the man that raised his mother, for he died before Daddy was born. My grandfather was born 1911, this man that all researchers say is my 2nd great-grandmother's father died before 1910. How can my daddy have memories of a man that died before he was born?

I will stay with the facts of a family member saying what he remembers, my daddy died in 1995 and he helped me with a lot of facts about our family. Just because I can't find a marriage license over a 100 years ago does not mean my 2nd great-grandmother never married. I know her name changed because I have death certificates and marriage license of her children and they have her maiden name on it. To heck with fellow researchers, they have NO proof she never married.

From: T. Grumbles
Thank-you, thank-you very much for your wonderful insight. You brought up another problem I've had at family reunions. A first cousin and her dad each came up to me and said, "They're not married," talking of a sister/daughter [and her significant other.] Another niece, now deceased seemed to always tell me that she was not married. How do we let the programmers at PAFland know that we want the word "union" in there?

From: Thomas Herson
Terry brings up a good point. I just realized that couples in an unmarried status DO show up in the Family Tree Maker marriage report even though the dates shown on the report represent "meeting" (or other) dates and not marriage dates.

What would you suggest as a means of making a request to Family Tree Maker that, if accepted and reprogrammed in futures versions, would eliminate relationships other than marriages from the marriage report? I'm also wondering why the various types of relationship endings, such as annulment, divorce, death of one spouse, don't show up in the genealogy reports in Family Tree Maker. Absent relationship ending information in the little narrative that the program creates, it makes my sister, and others, look like bigamists ;-)

I suppose writing to Family Tree Maker is useless. Right?

Now if we take a step back and look at things, we will realize several things:
-- Everyone's family tree has interesting scenarios, skeletons, black sheep, weirdoes, etc.
-- We're all human.
-- Would we want our lives as harshly judged?

Ol' Myrt's family tree has the widow of a US Civil War soldier who openly cohabitated with several other men while her husband was in the Ft. Leavenworth Soldiers' Home. This is corroborated in court affidavits of:
-- her sister-in-law (who may have had an ax to grind?)
-- her brother
-- one of the men she lived with
-- the landlord who knew of 2 different men

This irrefutable evidence from more than 5 witnesses prompted my daughter Tammy to say "I am sure glad we descended from the eldest child" of the family.

But then, there is the old saying among genealogists: Momma's Baby, Poppa's "Maybe."

I am certain that many a woman has gone to her grave without confessing the truth of a child's paternity. In fact, in ages past, before DNA paternity tests, she may not have known who the "real" father was. For centuries, inheritance laws of civilized countries have provided legal protection to children by naming their father the individual the woman was married to at the time of birth, unless otherwise stated.

The legal term "marriage" implies a civil or church ceremony recognized with certain rights of inheritance, etc. That may not be a truism in our ancestors' real lives, and our genealogy software programs attempt to document the lives of our ancestors in a cohesive manner. Using the term "marriage" loosely, to label a set of fields for date and locality in a genealogy program was a simple solution to documenting the complex variety of "unions." I agree that additional fields are required to show the "beginning" and "ending" situation of the relationship. Except for divorce, we're pretty much stuck with needing to place comments in our genealogy program's notes, which will print out when creating file to print out as a book. The placement of those comments might not make sense, but one can then edit the word-processing document before printing and distributing the book. I maintain that we should put NO DATE in the marriage date field, or NEVER MARRIED if we know that to be true from other convincing documentation.

If you wish to see changes in the way you are able to use your particular genealogy database program, I recommend participating in the mailing list associated with the genealogy software program you are using. BROWSE the archives of previous messages to see if the topic has already been discussed. Otherwise, begin the discussion of "union" rather than "marriage." Some programmers (most notably RootsMagic and TMG) are more responsive to the requests of their users than others. See: and to locate the appropriate mailing list.

From a programmer's point of view, changing the parameters on a "marriage report" wouldn't be difficult. It is merely a matter of
IF there is a date in the "union" field
AND there is NO check mark in the "Never married" field
THEN add the couple to the list
Etc., etc..
This may be accomplished using a custom report, or focus report. I haven't run the marriage report except to look for duplicate entry errors, so I cannot speak with authority about customizing it in each genealogy database program.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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