Re: polite, correct word for genealogy purposes? #general

Stephen Weinstein

Since the word partner has appeared in some of the other answers, something to be aware of is that civil unions were called "registered domestic partnerships" in California law, and the two individuals were called "registered domestic partners".  This applied both to same sex relationships and to elderly heterosexuals (opposite sex relationships) who wanted to be treated as married under California law but as single under federal law (typically so that if one of them ever needed to go into a nursing home, they would not need to spend down the assets of the other in order to qualify for medicaid).  So if you use the word "partner", make clear whether you are using it as a generic term or that you are using it to say that the relationship was a union that was legally registered in California.  Keep in mind that it's not enough for YOU to know what you mean; you also have to make it clear in your notes and tree to anyone who might use your notes or tree for their own research after you're dead; we've all experienced reading something that was clear to whomever wrote it in the 1800s, but isn't clear to us now.

"Fiances" if they are engaged but not married.

"Husband" for any married male and "wife" for any married female.

If they are not married and are not engaged, and you are brave, then boyfriends for (A) and boyfriend and girlfriend for (C).  However, the meaning of girlfriends would not be clear if used for (B) because "girlfriends" in the plural form or a same-sex context normally implies a platonic friendship.  (Unlike "boyfriend", which normally implies a romantic relationship regardless of whether used in a same-sex or opposite-sex context, as does "girlfriend" in a clearly opposite-sex context.  An exception is that I have heard Suze Orman's address callers to her financial advice show as "boyfriend" or "girlfriend".)  Also, it invites an argument about whether boyfriends and girlfriends should be included at all, so if you want to avoid that discussion, it may be better to avoid words that clearly indicate unmarried.

A, B, or C)
"Partners" works for any relationship.  It's simple.  Unlike husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend, it doesn't indicate gender or marital status, so you don't get into a fight with anyone about the validity of a marriage.  It can be safely used around children without concern as to whether they are ready to learn about sex or relationships, because if they don't already know, then they'll just assume you are talking about business partners.  The only problem, as I mentioned at the start, is the possible confusion with the more specific California term.

Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, California, USA

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