Now What? Recording Children Born Out of Wedlock

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q: Where and how do you record children born out of wedlock on the family tree? Are they even put on it?
A: This is largely a matter of personal preference, but in general, it’s best to err on the side of completeness rather than after-the-fact morality. Treat children born out of wedlock the same as you would children by a second (or other subsequent) spouse.
If you’re using a genealogy software program, this typically involves adding another “spouse” (if you don’t know the name of the parent, you can simply type “unknown”), then adding the children of that union. Most programs will then let you indicate whether a couple was unmarried or whether they had a common-law marriage; try clicking on the fields where you would otherwise enter the marriage date and place. Otherwise, you can indicate in a note that the parents weren’t married.

On a pedigree chart, you’ll record a child born out of wedlock (or any other child, for that matter) only if he or she is your ancestor. Name the child’s biological parents, using “unknown” if necessary, and leave the marriage date and place blank, or write “unmarried” on the line for the marriage date.

For more advice on how to get beat the brick wall in your genealogy research, see Family Tree Magazine‘s book 101 Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Overcome Your Genealogical Challenges, the Family Tree Magazine webinar recording Brick Wall Strategies: Advice and Ideas for Getting Past Research Dead Ends, and the Family Tree Problem Solver, all available on Family Tree Shop.
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From the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine