Marriages

It’s very striking that in my family, the norm was to get married only when there was a baby on the way. This seems to be the usual pattern for both agricultural labouring families and urban labouring families.

This pattern is not apparent in the Cameron family, which were of higher social class than my family, and is unheard of in the aristocratic Gupta family, where the norm was for arranged marriages, with no “courting” stage.

Family tree showing female ancestors definitely pregnant at marriage,and those whose first child was born before marriage. Described in text,

The tree shows that both my grandmothers and three of my four great-grandmothers were pregnant when they married. Less than seven months after marrying, all gave birth to live babies who flourished. Two of my great-great-grandmothers did the same, while one (the resourceful Hannah Napier) gave birth to her first child two months before she married his father — and she registered the baby as if she had already married him!

Shows a birth registration for 9 April 1862, the son of Thomas Davis and Hannah Davis. Also the marriage registration of Thomas Davis and Hannah Dryden, 8 June 1862.
The birth of the first child of Hannah Napier and her marriage
(calling herself Hannah Dryden at this date)

Some of the others may have been pregnant, as many pregnancies ended (and still do) in miscarriage or stillbirth.

The reason for this practice may have been economic. Single adult children of both genders worked and brought money into the household. When they married, they usually established their own household, incurring the expense of rental. It’s hard to see that there was any advantage to marriage either for the young people or for their other family members. But once a baby resulted from a relationship, it was the norm for the couple to marry. There is another story about what happened when the marriage did not take place……

What I don’t understand is where these couples found the privacy to create babies, especially babies conceived in winter. They all lived in tiny houses full of people, and typically worked long hours. But, as my maternal grandmother used to say, “Where there’s a will there’s a way” and “Needs must when the devil drives.” I only wish I had asked her more details when I could have done.