Rebecca Burton was born in rural Yorkshire, England. In 1811, at age 18, she married John D. Burlend. Twenty years later, after struggling to survive as tenant farmers, they emigrated with five of their seven children to the USA, hoping to escape from poverty. After a two-month sea voyage, the family arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana in early 1832. They made their way by steamboat up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and from there traveled some 70 miles north into the western Illinois frontier. They eventually made their home in Detroit, Pike County, Illinois. In 1846, Rebecca Burlend made a return visit to England, where she told her eldest son, Edward, a teacher, about the the experiences she had undergone. He had her account and letters published in 1848 as journal and guide called A True Picture of Emigration, or Fourteen Years in the Interior of North America.