Mail-Order Brides of Jamestown Colony



Not the only time mail-order brides came to a rural, remote area to marry a strange and help populate the settlement. But the English Jamestown Colony in the Virginia Colony was the first in the early English settlement in North America.

The colony was established on May 14, 1607, all males came to seek their fortune and a new life in the new world. Of course, it was not an easy life.

Jamestown was the first permanent settlement in the English Virginia Colony located on the eastern bank of the James River. It was originally established with 100 male colonists. With the early colonists’ struggle just to survive and that news reaching people back in England, few if any women wanted any part of that life. Even 10 years after the start of Jamestown, still few women and men were now leaving the colony.

To try and save the colony its leaders suggested putting out in 1616 an advertisement in England targeting wives. The women who responded to this marital request and agreed to marry unknown men in an unfamiliar land were in a sense America’s first mail-order brides.

To sweeten the pot and attract women, each lady would get from the Virginia Company a dowry of clothing, linens, and other furnishings, free transportation to the colony, and even a plot of land. They were also promised their pick of wealthy husbands and provided with food and shelter while they made their decision. After a wedding, the new husband repaid the expenses of travel, etc with a share of his tobacco crop. The phrase ‘tobacco wife’ was used to note such an occurrence. The plan attracted 90 women who came over in 1620, and another 56 who came over in late 1621 and early 1622

To help also 50 acres of Virginia land was offered to those individuals who came on their own or came as indentured servants. Some came willing some against their will, kidnapped instead.

Another advantage the Virginia colonial government offered female colonists freedoms and opportunities unavailable to most 17th-century Englishwomen.

If you have any Jamestown ancestors, especially those who may have arrived from 1620 to 1650, could have been part of those mail-order brides. It proved to be marital immigration both empowering and liberating

Photos: Jamestown mail-order brides and View of Fort Jamestown along the James River.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Early Colonial Church Records

Colonial Indentured Servants

Ye Olde Virginia

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