Recording a Civil Partnership


In some respects, recording a Civil partnership is similar to recording a marriage and you should consult that article first; however this article discusses some of the issues involved in recording Civil Partnerships which are a relatively new phenomenon, and need some ingenuity to handle.

Recording Civil Partnerships

Civil ceremonies such as Civil Partnerships or Civil Unions, often for same sex couples, can be recorded using a number of methods each with pros and cons. Bear in mind that key events such as Marriage have a significant impact in Diagrams, Reports, Queries, and Plugins. They can govern Icons in Diagrams, the structure of Reports, the results in BMD Queries, and the behaviour of BMD Plugins.

A global customisation is to adjust the heading of Marriage in Individual Summary Reports. This can be set in the Report > Options > Format tab under Heading by using Marriage > Edit > Heading Text: Civil Union / {default}. This has the advantage of retaining the suffix such as (2) when there are multiple Family partnerships.

Standard Marriage Event

The big advantage of the Marriage Event is its existing support in Diagrams, Reports, Queries, and Plugins not just in ƒh but all other products. The drawback is it does not differentiate Marriage from Civil Union, but the customisations below will help.

Fact Label

A simple change is to set Tools > Fact Types > Marriage > Edit > Label to Marriage / Civil Union which then appears instead of Marriage in the Property Box Facts tab and non-narrative Reports. You may wish to reduce the Report > Options > Format > Section Label > Edit > Font to Arial Narrow so that long Label fits on one line.

Fact Note or Cause

A basic customisation of the Marriage Event is to add a local Note such as Ceremony: Civil Partnership, which will appear in Diagrams and Reports often by default. It can also be used to customise the Narrative Report Sentence and Property Box Facts tab Templates.

A similar customisation uses the Cause field, with GetLabelledText( %FACT.NOTE2%, "Ceremony: " ) replaced by %FACT.CAUS% in both Templates above. The Cause field is in the All tab under Spouse family > Marriage, and can be customised into the Main tab Shared Details with a Data Reference of FAM.MARR.CAUS.

Fact Type Descriptor

A rarely used feature is the standard fact Descriptor field, which can be applied the same as the Cause field above by replacing CAUS with TYPE in the data references. It is in the All tab under Spouse family > Marriage.

  • It can be customised into the Main tab Shared Details with a Data Reference of FAM.MARR.TYPE.

The GEDCOM Standard says: “The MARR tag could be subordinated with a TYPE tag and EVENT_DESCRIPTOR value of Common Law. Other possible descriptor values might include Childbirth–unmarried or Tribal Custom for example. The event descriptor should use the same word or phrase and in the same language, when possible, as was used by the recorder of the event. Systems that display data from the GEDCOM form should be able to display the descriptor value in their screen or printed output.”

ƒh does not honour that last requirement to display the Descriptor value of facts in Reports, and it has no {descriptor} sentence Template Code. Those and associated ideas are the subject of Wish List request Ref 559 Fact Descriptor for Civil Union, two Place Travel, Preferred Occupation, etc.

An advantage of the local Note or Cause or Descriptor field is they can take any value to qualify the ‘Marriage‘ such as Civil Union, Civil Partnership, Common Law Marriage, Bigamous Marriage, etc. They are all standard Gedcom fields that should be supported by all products.

Custom Civil Union Event

It is easy to create a custom Family Event named Civil Union, based on the Marriage Event, and used in its place.

This overcomes the need for most customisations above, but Diagrams, Reports, Queries, and Plugins that are customised for the Marriage Event will need similar customisations to accommodate the Civil Union Event. Unless everyone employs the same custom Event Name, those customisations will differ for each user, so shareable versions will be a challenge.

Wish List Ref 558 Civil Partnership family status and associated Civil Partnership event requests a Civil Union Event to be added to the existing Extended Set fact set, to encourage everyone to use the same Event Name. However, that one Event Name must be applicable to all such civil ceremonies.

Family Record Status

The Family Record has a Status field that currently has values such as Divorced and Never Married that primarily govern features in Diagrams and Reports. The ƒh Help says: “The Status field should normally be left blank. It is used to record non-default status information. … it represents the final or last-known status of the marriage or relationship.”

It is a non-standard Gedcom field, so not recognised by other products, although this is partly mitigated by the Export Gedcom File plugin that converts it to a Family Record local labelled Note.

This field could have the extra value of say Civil Union, which will appear in Diagrams and Reports often by default, even without a Marriage Event, but may also be employed in customisations as discussed above with %FACT.TYPE% replaced by Field(GetRecord(%FACT%),'FAM._STAT').

If there is a series of partnership states, such as Civil Union, Separation, and Divorce, only one can be recorded.

Source Citations cannot be applied directly to the Status field, so must be applied to the Family Record instead.

Wish List Ref 558 Civil Partnership family status and associated Civil Partnership event requests a Civil Union value to be added to the Status field. However, that one value must be applicable to all such civil ceremonies.

Last update: 22 Feb 2024