In my last post, I introduced ‘Doc’ and ‘Momsy’ Morgan who ‘adopted’ my wife Ellen into their family and very clearly treated her as their own daughter. This type of special family relationship steps outside the blood lines that we will follow with our genealogy yet they are, I suspect, very common place.
In my family, a special relationship existed with ‘Aunt’ Alice and ‘Uncle’ Alban Leblanc. Alice was, and for that matter always will be, Aunt Alice. There is no blood relationship nor relationship through marriage between Alice and I. It turned out that Alice was the best friend of my maternal grandmother, Gertrude O’Neill (nee Foley). As a child it mattered not to me what the relationship involved. I only needed to know that in my 6 or 7 block walk home at lunch time or after school that I first had to pass Aunt Alice’s house (pictured below in a photo captured from Google Earth) and then my grandmother’s house before I was home. That provided a lot of spoiling opportunity for me!
Alice and Alban had a tragic family tale. They were from New Brunswick and as Acadians, their ‘mother’ tongue was French. They married in New Brunswick, settled down and in time, they had three children. My mother told me that a fire swept through their house and the three children were killed. Perhaps because it was too painful to remain, they relocated to Toronto where Alice became my grandmother’s best friend and eventually my ‘aunt.’ They did have another child, a son they named Allan. Allan was about eight years older than me and in some ways felt like a big brother. Allan had a troubled marriage and so one day he disappeared and literally was not heard from again. Alban believed that Allan was hurt or had died because he couldn’t believe that Allan would ‘do that to his mother.’
Unfortunately, genealogy database software doesn’t seem to have an easy way to record these types of relationships. Most will allow additional parents to be recorded so, for example, I could include the Morgan’s relationship to Ellen. But there is no place for my Aunt Alice, other than perhaps a note and frankly that does not do the relationship justice. Similarly, genealogy software doesn’t really allow for non-traditional relationships. Not all families have a Mom and a Dad – sometimes it’s a single Mom or perhaps two Moms or two Dads. In Ontario, Canada where I live and increasingly in more and more jurisdictions, you can marry whomever you love but in my genealogy software someone has to be recorded as ‘husband’ and someone as ‘wife’.
Facebook, a popular social networking tool especially so for genealogists, now allows relationship status to be set as a ‘domestic partnership’ or a ‘civil union.’ Hopefully my genealogy software will catch up and provide me with the same options for the special family relationships that exist in my family.