Deleting a father

I recently needed to delete a father from an individual on my tree. Familiar story, found the individual with parents on census returns and entered the details accordingly. Later on I discovered that he was born with his mother’s maiden name to his mother (who was in service to an aristocratic family) a year prior to the marriage without a father being shown on his birth certificate. The ‘father’ subsequently disowned him in his will. Accordingly I needed to remove his relationship to his father.

After a deal of searching I had to remove both parents in RM8 and then re-attach him to his mother as for the life of me I couldn’t find an option to disconnect him from just one parent. If it is there please point me to it. If not it would make a useful addition (the ‘edit relationships’ box in Ancestry is so much better/easier). Likewise I could only find a dialogue to remove all children from parents - not just one child.

What you want is called “Unlink”. Right click on the son and select Unlink>Unlink from Parents. This will break the link to both the father and mother. You then go to the mother and add the son as an existing person. Be aware this will create an “Unknown Spouse” for the mother since the son doesn’t have a father linked.

Hi Bob, thanks for your reply. That’s what I did in the end but had hoped, as in Ancestry, that you could just unlink from one parent or, the other way round, just unlink one child from a family (not all of them!).

What I showed is how to unlink only one child, not an entire family which is another option. Starting from the child only operates on the child when you unlink from parents. If you start from one of the parents you can unlink everyone in the family from each other.

I’ve tried to UNLINK spouse (unknown spouse) who created child with the known family member. I’ve highlighted UNKNOWN SPOUSE opened the popup which gives the option to UNLINK SPOUSE–when I click on UNLINK SPOUSE the help box pops up–must highlight person…which I did, over and over. Is this a glitch? Or is it me?

Hi Connie
As I recall RM shows ‘unknown spouse’ when you have details of just one parent in your database. If you have an illegitimate child or just the details of one parent, from a census or BMD index for example, the other parent will show as ‘unknown spouse’ on the profile of the one you do know. ‘Unknown spouse’ is just a label that shows you that you do not have any details for that person (as yet). When (and if!) you find the other spouse/parent and add their details it will disappear. It is not recorded as a person in your database so you can’t delete it. It is your database so if you prefer something else you can create a person as the spouse. If you have no details you can enter part details; I’ve seen question marks used for both Christian names and surnames and even, on one occasion, “Known unto God”!!
I hope that helps.

@Connie --I tried it out in my test database-- and RM 8 ( with the last update) does NOT enter a UNKNOWN spouse on the family or pedigree page–it also does NOT refer to an UNKNOWN SPOUSE in any narrative report-- It does however add an UNKNOWN SPOUSE in the Descendant view-- I added the child 1st and then picked his mother from an existing person in the file-- so then I added an unknown spouse for the mother-- BUT I was able to just delete the unknown spouse since I had added the child 1st…

If Unlink or delete does NOT work, then try giving the unknown spouse a name such as DELETE-- then see if you can just delete him ( BUT check to be sure there are no notes etc under him).

All of the above discussion appears to refer to RM8. I don’t know if it still applies to RM9 but the whole thing seems pretty unsatisfactory.
I have a person in my tree who had an illegitimate child at age 30 and didn’t marry until 45. Her husband is very unlikely to be the father but appears as the father by default. Using UNLINK unlinks the child from the mother so that is no use. I tried adding a second spouse called “Unknown” but that is also unsatisfactory because he wasn’t a spouse. For all I know, he may be no more than a one-night romp in the hay. Different sources suggest that 2%, 5% or 7% of children were illegitimate so surely Roots Magic should have a proper way of recording their parentage without resorting to work-arounds?

Whether you are in RM 8 or Rm9, you can add a child to a mother and NOT have an UNKNOWN SPOUSE listed as the FATHER

In order to do this, you MUST add the child 1st, then add the mother using SELECT EXISTING PERSON if already in the database— doing it this way, the only place that UNKNOWN SPOUSE shows up is in the Descendant View- and the left hand side of the Mother’s page

  • reports and everything else I looked at show no unknown spouse…

This will work even if you already have a marriage for the mother–how it shows up in a report depends on if the marriage is listed 1st or 2nd in the left hand pane

Ancestry will show it like this
If you already entered the name UNKNOWN as the father-- just change his name to something like DELETE / GET RID OF and DELETE HIM( which is what you had to do in RM 7).

It’s not a work around-- it’s just the way it’s been done for a long time --at least in the programs I have used-- RM is a lot easier than adding a child with an unknown father to Ancestry especially when you have 4 kids by different fathers-- Ancestry wants to lump all the kids together as siblings UNLESS you supply a name for the UNKOWN SPOUSE-- and the Timeline for each of the kids may or may NOT show their half siblings by the unknown father BUT does NOT show their half siblings of the marriage…
edit—if you name the Unknown Spouse as DELETE etc, you can go in and change the relationship between the unknown spouse and the wife from the husband label to PARTNER then delete him BUT this is the only place it shows ( not Ancestry or in any reports etc)


Thanks for that Nancy. I’ve followed your suggestion and it’s better than I had, and it makes sense when you look at it on the screen now. I still think there could be a better way though if Roots Magic built in something for unmarried fathers and unknown fathers. Not everyone fits the “nuclear family” model.

We all agree with you Paul that RM should support other family relationships-- unmarried, step-parents, adoptions, etc as I have step-parents and have seen unmarried parents going back past 1750 BUT unfortunately they don’t–maybe after they get the bugs worked out of RM 9

Are you aware that you can choose alternate relationships for parents?

Yes I am aware that you can do it BUT as we have discussed in many other threads on here-- it doesn’t get you anything as RM does NOT support the other relationships and the use of step-father/ step-mother
messes up your Kinship reports and Narrative reports-- when you
add the child to the 2nd marriage and mark the 2nd hubby as step father–the Kinship report than lists the step-father as thee child’s father instead of spouse of mother and narrative reports show the child as if a biological son of the step father… So in my case my hubby would have 4 fathers and a whole slew of extra grandparents and aunt and uncles ( he would be a grandson of each of the step-father’s parents etc)…

The only one that I would use is Adopted–still messes up the reports BUT sometimes all you have for a child is the adopted info

I have read those many discussions and I agree, for a narrative report, it takes forethought in setting up the family group that one wishes to be included. Personally, I would like to see all the family, biological, adopted, step included in one report as in the kinship reports with the proper designations. Given that you can designate those relationships in RM, here’s hoping the reporting of all family relationships will follow.

First, keep in mind what reports RM offers. Generally when one refers to a narrative report, it is either the NGSQ or the NEHGS reports if one is referring to descendants. Those reports follow the standards as outlined by their respective societies. RM pretty much adheres to those standards. Until the societies alter their standards, RM isn’t likely to do so. Keep in mind that these societies are genealogical in nature and as such blood is the driving factor in determining the inclusion of information. That means that they are not going to work for all of the alternate family definitions that people wish to use. Even things such as the Henry and D’Aboville reports follow a specific standard which once again, RM mostly adheres to. There are some tweaks in formatting that can be played with, such as @thejerrybryan and the use of his point sentence format. There are also some fact sentence customizations, but even then, the report doesn’t stray far from the society standards.

This means that RM would need to create a whole new report that would account for all of the alternate possibilities. What would that report look like? What would you all propose? A long list of options that one could tick or untick as needed? I really don’t have an answer for it, not for a report that would possibly include every nuance that everyone would possibly want.