Meeting and Acquiring a Spouse



Today there are online dating sites but for our ancestors of the 19th and 20th century, they used the Personals in their local newspapers to facilitate long-term love matches. Some individuals were looking for true love and others were willing to pay for a spouse. The newspaper classifieds of yesteryear make it fairly clear which was more often preferred. A personal ad might state one was looking for a marriage partner “with some money.”

A dowry may have been what was required to meet with some potential suitors. At times, advertisers for potential marriage partners stated their assets and asked for specific goods (money, a home, etc.) that the potential bride had to bring in return.

A popular assistance was a love matchmaking service who placed ads to attract clients. The cost might have been only 2 cents (about 58 cents in today’s money), to receive a “long list” of names.

Newspaper advertisements became very popular as more single men traveled west looking for adventure or to try their hand at homesteading, and women found they were widowed or unable to find a mate after the Civil War with over 620,000 men died during the war. People did need to seek possible spouses outside their hometowns. Mail order brides were very popular during this time.

If you have never sought out how your ancestors met, this could be a fascinating journey. Even if an ancestral couple grew up as childhood friends, that can still add an interesting twist to your family history.  

Example, my parents were both serving in the military, one in the US Army and one in the US Air Force. After voting on election day in 1948, mutual friends arranged for them to meet for breakfast. They were married within 6 months.

Photos: A couple just married; men of Lake McDonald requiring brides in 1901, and an ads from Nashville Union and American (Nashville, TN), November 23, 1855.

Related FamilyTree.com blogs:

Details in Marriage Records

Texas Marriages 1837-1977

Shocking Things to Learn about your Ancestors

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