In 1822, Abraham Decker, age 24, married Rebecka Aron from Mettenheim, age 27 in Gauersheim, in the the Pfalz region of Germany. Their ages were given in the marriage announcements posted in the respective towns. Here is a rough translation of one of the announcements:

Publication of the wedding promises between Abraham decker and Rebecca Aron. ... the wedding promises between Abraham Decker, 24 years and about 7 months old, born and living in Gauersheim, merchant, ... and ... the young lady Rebecka Aron, 27 year and two months and two days old, born and living in Mettenheim in the grand Duchy of Hesse ...

I am wondering about the significance (if any) of the rather advanced (for the time) age of the bride. I remember hearing somewhere that Jews had to possess a certain amount of wealth to marry (officially) and am wondering if that might have been a contributing factor. The bride's father died in 1810 (when she would have been 17 or so), and it's conceivable that it took a while to save up for the marriage.

In short: Where can I find some evidence regarding the impact of net worth (or other measures of financial well-being) on Jews' rights to marry in the Pfalz region of Bavaria in the 1820s?

3 Answers 3


The situation that you describe was not limited to any particular ethnic group or any one state.

Peasant Maids, City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America
Christiane Harzig, Marianne Knothe, Margareta Matovic, Deidre Mageean, Monika Blaschke
Edited by Christiane Harzig (Cornell University Press)

from p 40

With the exception of Prussia and Saxony, all German states enforced marriage restrictions after the 1830s as a way of limiting the increase of the poor population.

from p 41

Not until 1919, did a national law establish a legal right to marriage for all Germany (sic) residents.

In the chapter cited above, Blaschke refers to concern in Germany that the restrictions were driving the young poor to migrate. There are nineteenth century reports of mass marriages of german immigrants on the dockside as their first act in Australia. Their passage had been arranged by a very entrepreneurial Presbyterian minister.

See also Law, Marriage, and Illegitimacy in Nineteenth-Century Germany, Population Studies 20(4):279-294, March 1967.


As I understand it, all German males had to prove some sort of financial stability. The government did not want the children to wind up needing state support. So the husband had to prove he had a place to live, an income, or a trade (or a dowry from the father-in-law). Often you see men waiting to marry until their late 30's early 40's, after they have established themselves in a community. An older bride could mean several things, like no dowry or a young widow, or could mean nothing at all.

  • Thanks Rusty. Do you have a source for the financial stability requirement? This is kind of what I understand as well, but I would like to have a more definitive characterization of it. Dec 22, 2012 at 4:52
  • I doubt you will find a defined requirement, as there was no unified Germany in 1822. Several Germanic states and free cities. Most of what I know comes from marriage contracts in the Osnabrück region. Dec 22, 2012 at 5:49
  • Yeah, I am concerned about the Pfalz region of what was then Bavaria. Dec 22, 2012 at 6:01

The Matrikel was a series of laws that governed Jewish settlement in some German southern provinces; marriage was restricted and required proof of financial stability. Most historians also think these laws were meant to ensure that the number of Jews in the population of villages did not increase. It was also a quota of sorts. Certainly, the dowry or a pre-existing familial or business tie may also help better explain the age discrepancy. See Hasia Diner. Also see German-Jewish History in Modern Times: Emancipation and acculturation, 1780-1871, edited by Michael A. Meyer, Michael Brenner, Mordechai Breuer

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