Mary Caroline Bisley 1836-1917


Mary Caroline Bisley was born near Hamburg on 23 Dec 1836 and called Johanna Maria Karalina [Lina] Karsten .

She emigrated to NZ with her parents from Germany on the "St Pauli" and arrived in Nelson on 14 June 1843.

Mary BisleyMary Bisley, the Nelson Provincial Museum. Click image to enlarge

The Karstens and seven other families settled in the Moutere and became farmers. After a few years they moved to Nelson City and Mary Caroline attended school in Nelson in 1844. Caroline married Joseph Herbert Bisley in 1864. They had no children but adopted a niece of Joseph's.

Joseph died of typhoid fever in 1873 leaving Caroline in financial difficulties.  As a result, she became housekeeper to Charles Harley a brewer, and on his death he left her a cottage in Collingwood Street and an income of £40.00 a year.

In 1899 she wrote her memoirs. Her story illustrates many of the difficulties experienced by women who came to Nelson from the other side of the world in the 19th century. She died 1917 aged 80 years.


Updated: March 31, 2020 

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  • Why do you record the birth date as 1837 and then state she was born dec 1836? Ed. - An error and amended - although birth dates are unreliable for the period..

    Posted by Cherie, ()

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Further sources - Mary Caroline Bisley 1836-1917




  • BISLEY, Johanna Maria Karalina, 1836-1917 (B376), Memoirs, The Nelson Provincial Museum
  • Burial records

    Karsten Dora buried 26 February 1909 aged 70 years.

    Bisley Joseph H. buried 6 March 1873 aged 37 years.

    Bisley Mary Caroline buried 15 May 1917 aged 80 years.
  • Headstone Transcription
    In Memory of Joseph Herbert Bisley died March 4th 1873, aged 37 years. Also Caroline, his wife died May 13th 1917, aged 80 years and of her sister Dora KARSTEN, died 23rd 1908, aged 70 years.

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