'Common Law' Marriage

A practical rather than specifically a software related point. How do people describe permanent marital relationships where there has been no formal marriage? There may be children of the relationship, and a former spouse may well still be living, in an era when divorce would not have been an option for most people. I would like to define a specific Family/Shared fact to mark the apparent start of such a relationship, which can often be inferred from census and other documents. The expression ‘common law marriage’ has no legal significance, is there a more elegant or appropriate alternative?

I have defined a couple fact (AKA family fact) called Partner. I’m not real happy with that name for the fact, but I was more unhappy with all the other alternative names I could think of for the fact. In my database of 60,000 people, there are only 5 couples for whom I have used the Partner fact. The name of the fact actually doesn’t matter very much. What really matters is the sentence. My sentence is as follows, but remember that I use point form sentences.

<b>Partners: </b><[Date:Plain]><<, [PlaceDetails]><, [Place:Plain]>> [Person:full]<, age [Person:Age:plain],> and [Spouse:full]< age [Spouse:Age:plain]>.

Thanks. ‘Partner’ does not seem to be an expression that chimes with the terminology people would use to describe their relationship in the late 19th/early 20th century, but I can’t think of a more suitable alternative. Most just used ‘married’ ‘wife’ etc on census and other documents.
My fact template sentence is:
[couple:first:surname] <#Couple#>began an unmarried relationship< [Date]>< [PlaceDetails]>< [Place]>. <[Desc].>

An English phrase is “living over the broom” which originated in the 19th Century when unmarried couples would jump over a broom to signify they intend to live together as man and wife without the recourse to a Church or other legal marriage

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Scotland law allowed “irregular marriages” where all that was needed was mutual consent (preferably a declaration in front of witnesses) and cohabitation.

@Gunslinger1948 --Significant Other/ Special Friend/Special Companion ( or any version of those listed) are all ways that have been used in obits since at least 1956 to acknowledge a long time relationship or even short term relationship-- my only problem with using these or others is that some one else ( a distant cousin or even your great grandchild 30 years from now) that you share the info with is left wondering what kind of relationship they had unless spelled out by you either in the facts or in your notes–for example my grandfather’s obit said Special Friend Sally Jones–so I am left scratching my head–were they special friends before grandma died ( 5 years before him)-- all Mom said was well he MIGHT have married Sally ( and not told his kids) — while Common Law, Cohabitation, Domestic Partnership or Informal Marriage is NOT as elegant as some of the others–it gets the point across that they were in a permanent relationship…

Something like thejerrybryan above, I defined a ‘Relationship’ fact copying the ‘Marriage’ one. While it’s available for irregular marriages and modern partnerships, I mostly use it to attach partners to mothers of illegitimate births. Sometimes I know the father’s name, sometimes not. If not I name him same as others whose names I don’t know: _____ (5 x underscore) for forename and/or surname. The Relationship is dated nine months before the birth. Here’s a sample for a woman who had two flings and a marriage:
Screenshot 2021-11-13 001102

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Actually common law spouse does have a legal definition in many places with specific time together and rights and obligations spelled out in family law.

I’ve run into multiple partner issues where children are gotten from mistresses and concubines while married to someone else. And no record of a marriage but they seem to have been married and acted like they were married.


Inspired by the various replies I have settled for creating a Relationship fact with sentence:

[couple] <#Couple#was|were> in an unmarried relationship< [Date]>< [PlaceDetails]>< [Place]>.

With date usually being the year before a child was born/baptised.

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‘Relationship’ sounds as good way to describe the fact as any, ‘common law marriage’ is both too long and meaningless in most jurisdictions.

As well as the birth of a child, I would also put the ‘start’ of such a relationship at the point where a marital relationship is first asserted on a census, BMD certificate or other formal document. Some eg the UK 1911 census have an entry for ‘years married’.

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