Has anyone ever run across a 19th Century Mail-Order Bride?

+14 votes
My 4x G-Grandmother, seems to be one. In 1851 she was a "widow" in the east end of London working as a Dressmaker with two young children. In April 1856 she is arriving in New York. Within 9 months she is in Michigan marrying a farmer widowed for 6 years with 3 teenage children living at home and he adopts her youngest child.

It seems to me a Dressmaker in 1850's East End would have a very hard time surviving let alone saving for passage for herself and two children. Then travel expenses to central Michigan from New York. There doesn't seem to be any family ties between her and central Michigan area before arriving.

Has anyone else dealt with a mystery like this?
WikiTree profile: Martha Covey
in Genealogy Help by Kristin Bostrom G2G1 (1.0k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
What happened to the child the farmer didn't adopt?  What a great mystery.  I wonder if there is an advertisement for a bride or if possibly she was helped out through the church?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to find a written record?  Thanks for sharing your story!
The child the new husband didn't adopt was my 3x g-grandfather Henry Baker. In 1860 Henry was living in a nearby town with a teacher and attending school at age 18. Which seems strange for the time, most kids left school after 8th grade. In 1862 he joined the Union Army, was wounded and was partially deaf the rest of his life.

3 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer

Wow, Kristin--this is just amazing!  I love how you describe your line of thoughts regarding this mystery, and it certainly seems intriguing that she went from being widowed in east London with two young children in 1851 to five years later arriving in New York... and a short 9 months later, settled down in Michigan.  Indeed, it seems there must have been some kind of match-making happening of some sort. 

I have a New York Times subscription, and was able to view an article from the 1800s entitled, "Marriage Made Easy:  Successful Agencies of Past and Present Times" from Sunday, 27 Jun 1886.  That article begins:

"PARIS, June 15 -- An American reporter some months ago gave a humorous account of his interview with a matrimonial broker in New York.  Some little time before that Mr. Charles Payne, an English journalist, told of his efforts to learn the secrets of like agencies in London, as he affirms, aesthetically, although his book leaves you with the impression that had any one of the more or less lovely beings who answered his call realized his ideal, he might have struck a personal bargain and have withheld his revelations, especially as, on the whole, his conclusions are not unfavorable to the institution itself."

The article continues on in that general vein providing a kind of introduction to the topic, and then gets more specific about what was going on in the mid-1800s:

"But all these were mere skirmishes; none of them did anything regularly or neatly unti lM. de Foy came upon the stage, and to him, unquestionably, belongs all the credit of the invention as it exists at present and which dates from 1842, when all France was astounded by an advertisement in every newspaper, metropolitan and provincial, to the effect that he had opened a matrimonial bureau, of which the motto was 'Celerity and Discretion,' and where all classes, creeds and fortunes could be accommodated."

So here we seem to have verification of a real match-making program that was operating at a noteworthy level in the 1840s on.  Very interesting!

by Cynthia Larson G2G6 Pilot (172k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard
+7 votes
We had a man in our area that my husband told me had a mail order bride.
He was six foot, eight inches tall, which was rare in the early 1900s.  The
local girls apparently spurned him for it so he sent away for a woman.  He got about a five foot, barrel shaped woman.  I knew the couple in my early
girlhood, and always chuckled seeing them together.   Many years later I found out the story behind the arrangement.
by Beulah Cramer G2G6 Pilot (401k points)
What an incredible story! What town were these two in? I wonder if they ever told their children, if they had any.
They were in Jefferson County, New York State,  they did not have any children.  She was pretty sharp tongued but the salt of the earth type person.
+1 vote
In New France the guys were off marrying Native women and the church did not like it so many many women, some orphans, some widows were shipped over in the mid 1600s - Also have come across articles about old newspapers with this sort of thing - guess widows and widowers on the frontier had this to fall back on it would seem
by Navarro Mariott G2G6 Pilot (151k points)

Here is the project for these women brought to Quebec to marry.


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