The secret history

Marston 4 Warren Gould Child

If you have been binge watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black, you may have learned an interesting bit of trivia, courtesy of the Martha Stewart/Paula Deen-inspired new character of Judy King, who mentions that Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) had “two wives” simultaneously.

As explored in Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Marston married Elizabeth Holloway in 1915 and had two surviving children with her; Marston also lived in an extended relationship with Olive Byrne, by whom he had two more children, who were then adopted by William and Elizabeth Marston.

This made me think of an issue with genealogical numbering. Marston had his four surviving children with two partners in “alternating” order. Most genealogical customs and software would have his family presented in the following order:

Marston 1

The problem of course is that Marton’s fifth child is listed earlier and has a lower number than Marston’s third and fourth children. A way to arrange the children in birth order would be the following:

Marston rev

Another option would be to do the original format, but instead have the Arabic and Roman numbers be in order:

Marston 3

This last example would not work if you were using Microsoft Word’s “auto-numbering” system; only the first two examples would.

A more extreme example

To give a more extreme example, I’ll show this in terms of nineteenth-century polygamy within members of the LDS church. My fourth cousin four times removed – Warren Gould Child (1835–1906) – had reported on the genealogy of the Utah Childs for the 1881 Child genealogy. W.G. Child had twenty-five children with three of his four wives, of which eighteen had children themselves. Below are how the families would be presented in Options A, B, and C.

Marston 10

Marston 6

Option A (traditional genealogy/software format)

Marston 7

Marston 11

Option B (correct birth order)

Marston 12a

Option C (arranged by parent, with numbers corresponding to birth order)

I’m curious what readers think of the three differing presentations.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child