How should I code a relationship where the child is the result of unwedded bliss?

My mother was born out of wedlock. When she was less than two years old, her mother married a different man from her birth father. What is the consensus on labelling the relationship when no wedding date took place? She shares DNA with her birth father, but not her mother’s husband.

Add both sets of parents and on the Parent row select the relationship to father that matches. With the parents that didn’t marry don’t add a marriage fact.


As I’m sure you know, the only way to enter such relationships in RM is to highlight the Parents line in the top half of the Edit Person screen. The only values available are Birth, Adopted, Step, Foster, Related, Guardian, Sealed, and Unknown. So if the relationship you need is not in the list, you are kind of stuck.

In your particular use case, do you know if the mother’s husband actually adopted the child. If not, I suspect that Step is the best choice of the choices that are available but there may be good and valid reasons to choose some other item from the list.

That being said, my experience with this feature of RM is that it’s not worth the bother to use it. So I don’t.

  • The relationship does not appear on RM’s narrative reports
  • You can’t search or color code or make groups or run summary reports or anything like that based on the relationships. For example, you can’t find all individuals in your database with a Foster parent.
  • Because the relationships are tied to the Parents line in the top half of the Edit Person screen, that means that any notes, sources, and media on the Parents line are effectively a part of the Spouse data for the parents. That in turn means that the notes, sources, and media effectively apply only to the parents as a couple and that they don’t really apply to this particular child or to any of the children of the parents.

Therefore, I deal with issues of stepparents and foster parents and the like with notes and with my my own Parents fact which is a real fact which I make appear in the Edit Person screen in the bottom half of the screen next right after the Birth fact. To this end, I will give a child multiple sets of parents as needed and I will include my own Parents fact as an actual fact for each of those sets of parents.

Here’s a real example. My father’s mother died when he was two weeks old. So his deceased mother and her husband were my father’s biological parents. For three years thereafter, my father was raised by an aunt and an uncle, who were my father’s foster parents. At that point, his father remarried so his father and his father’s second wife became is his third set of parents, with his father still being his biological father and is father’s second wife being his stepmother. As I said, I could label his biological parents as Birth, I could label his aunt and uncle who raised him for three years as Foster, and I could label his father and stepmother as Birth and Step, respectively. But it seems to me that doing so doesn’t actually accomplish very much. That’s why I created my own Parents fact with its own note, sources, and media.

Do note that the labels are tied to a set of parents as a couple but the relationship label is specific to each parent within the couple. So in my father’s case, his first set of parents were his biological parents. If you were using RM’s built-in labels you would use the label Birth for his father and the label Birth for his mother. Then for his third set of parents, if you are using RM’s built-in labels, you would use the label Birth for his father and the label Step for his stepmother. So his father would get the Birth label twice - once as a part of being a couple with his mother and once as part of being a couple with his stepmother.


You can make a family of the parents and with a fact Not Married. Then a family of the marriage couple. You could make a family of the mother and the child and write in the Description field tell who the father is.

I got into a rather long winded narrative about “labelling the relationship”. But in retrospect, I don’t know for sure if that was what you were asking about.

More generally, two people in RM are connected into being a couple by combining them together as “spouses”, for example by using the Add Spouse tool. There are other ways that they can become “spouses”. For example, in the Pedigree View, you can click on Add Father and Add Mother and the two added people becomes “spouses”.

But I put “spouses” in quotes because this use of “spouses” in the RM user interface does not necessarily imply a marriage. So putting all my long discussion about labels aside, all that’s needed for your use case is to connect your mother’s biological parents together as “spouses” and to connect your mother’s mother and your mother’s mother’s husband together as “spouses”. So your mother’s mother will have two “spouses”. For one of the “spouses”, there will be a Marriage fact. For the other of of the “spouses”, there will not be a Marriage fact.

You can stop at that point and be correct. The absence of a Marriage fact is your cue that the couple were not married. Or you can create something like a Not Married fact and add it to the two two “spouses” who were not married and still be equally correct.

There are regular wishes for RM to call “spouses” by some other name than “spouses” in the user interface. But it’s hard to think of a single English word that encompasses all the various possibilities. For example, a couple may live together for many decades as “husband and wife” without ever getting married. Sometimes Partners is used for such a relationship, but they show up as Spouses in RM. Sometimes a man and woman who are not married may have a brief relationship that results in the birth of a child, but somehow or other Partners doesn’t seem like quite the right description in this case. As I said, I don’t think there is a single English word that encompasses all the various possibilities.

unfortunately at time – “spouse” in many case mean they only may have created offspring. Some people will get into the different aspects of labels of which is more or less correct based on there objective. Since the different types of parents matter on how they do or do not appear – it might be better from the users perspective to have check-boxes of what report they show in (group sheets or pedigree for example). Getting this right to satisfy most users needs/wants and minimize the programming complexity might be a little challenging .

All great responses to my question. In my case, my mother’s non birth father adopted her, and is also listed as her father on the birth certificate. I actually did not know he wasn’t blood related to me until after his death in 1981. When my Grandmother passed in 2001, the name, address, and occupation of the birth father was found on a note in her jewelry box. Unfortunately, he had also passed away in 1981.

I have also had to deal with relatives in my family tree who were married to someone else, but fathered many illigitimate children with other women (particularly English Nobility). Plenty of notes are provided, but it does create some complications, and when coding this to my ancestors, I want to make sure the information is done correctly to eliminate any confusion for people who take my inputs and research as the gospel.

Thanks again for your comments and help.