Monday, 27 February 2012

Black Sheep Sunday - "Wife deserter"

I record events but I don't make judgements on any of my ancestors lives/decisions/situations as I have not walked in their shoes. 

Until I started my genealogy journey I knew nothing about my great grandfather, John Adams.  He wasn't spoken about.  I really only call him a "black sheep" because of the news articles I found.

One of Dad's cousins related to his sister in law that many years ago when he was a child this man was pointed out to him walking on the other side of the road.  "See that man over there, that's your grandfather".

It has always been thought that my great grandparents were separated as in all the electoral roles for Victoria they were only together in earlier ones.

Recently in Trove  new newspaper archives have been added.  Imagine my surprise when I did a search and all these results popped up. 

Many of the actual images of the news archives are very hard to read so I am just posting the transcriptions.

Beginning in 1913 an article in the Adelaide Advertiser:

Thursday 16 October 1913
John Adams was charged with having, on April 1, deserted his wife at Ascot Vale, Victoria. Detective O'sullivan produced a provisional warrant for the apprehension of the accused. On Tuesday afternoon the witness and Constable Mcinerney saw the accused in Gouger-street. He asked him for his name, and he replied that it was John  Gray. The witness said, 'I believe your name is John Adams, and you are wanted for wife desertion at Ascot Vale." The accused answered, "Yes. my name is John Adams." Inspector Burchell asked for a remand until Saturday, in order that an escort might arrive from Victoria. The request was granted. The accused, in asking for bail, said he was a bricklayer by trade, and had been in Adelaide twelve months. Bail was allowed in himself of £30 and one surety of £30.

The Adelaide Register on the same day had him giving a different name:
Thursday 16 October 1913 page 5
John Adams was accused of having deserted his wife at Ascot Vale, Victoria, on April 1. Detective O'Sullivan gave evidence of arrest. When asked what his name was, defendant replied,  'John Berry.' The detective informed him that he believed his name was John Adams, and that he was wanted for wife desertion in Victoria, whereupon accused admitted that he was the man. Inspector Burchell asked for a remand until Saturday, October I8, to permit of the arrival of an officer from Victoria. This was agreed to, and bail was allowed, defendant in, £30. and one surety of £30

Then later in the same week the Advertiser again reported:

Monday 20 October 1913
John Adams was charged, on remand with having failed to maintain his wife at Ascot Vale, Victoria. He was remanded when previously before the court pending the arrival of an officer from Victoria. On Saturday morning he was remanded to Victoria in charge of an officer from that State.

I couldn't find any reports after that until the Essendon Gazette article in 1915 and the ongoing saga in later years which seems to have been played out in the Flemington Court house. One of the children involved was my grandmother.

Flemington Court house and police station at 28 Wellington Street.
Former Flemington Court House Heritage Listed Location
From The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918)

Thursday 15 April 1915
Father's Responsibilities.
Mary Adams proceeded against her husband, John Adams, on a charge of disobeying an order of the court, directing that defendant should contribute £1 per week as maintenance for his two children. The arrears under the order were set down as £14 5s. Adams pleaded that he was out of employment, and the Bench adjourned the case for 14 days, and advised him, in the meantime to adjust something in the nature of a proposition for payment.

Thursday 29 April 1915
Flemington Police Court.
There was an uninteresting bill-of- fare before the above court on Tuesday, when Messrs. C. J. Cook (chairman), W. Shaw, and J. McSwiney J.'sP., presided. Mary Adams proceeded against her husband, John Adams, for maintenance arrears amounting. to £14 5s. The case had been adjourned to allow defendant, who stated that he was unemployed, to make a proposition regarding payment. On Tuesday Adams said that he was still out of employment, but anticipated securing work almost immediately. Mr. Cook said if defendant failed to put forward a reasonable proposition, the Bench would be compelled to send him to gaol. As, however, this would benefit neither party, the Bench had agreed to further adjourn the case till May 18.

Thursday 11 November 1915
Tuesday, Nov. 9. Before Messrs. W. Shaw (chairman), A. L. Crichton and W. L. Eddy, J.'sP. Maintenance:   Mary Adams proceeded against her husband on a charge of failing to comply with a maintenance order. Complainant said that the order was for £1 per week, and defendant was now 14 weeks in arrears.   
The case was dismissed on defendant promising to regularly contribute £1 per week and wipe off the arrears by instalments.

Thursday 30 November 1916
Adams v. Adams.
Mary Adams proceeded against John Adams, her husband, on a claim for £20 10s 6d. being arrears on a maintenance order of £1 per week for the support of defendant's two children. Mr. C. J. McFarlane for complainant, Dr. Jones for defendant. Evidence having been given by complainant as to the manner in which the order had been disobeyed, defendant admitted his default and said his inability to pay was the result of scarcity of work. As an illustration, defendant, who is a brick layer, swore that during a recent stretch of seven weeks his earnings only amounted to 10s.
Cross-examined by Mr. McFarlane, defendant denied that he was living with another woman. Mr. McFarlane suggested that there were other avenues for employment open to defendant, and that he need not confine himself to bricklaying. Dr. Jones: If he accepted work at an other trade, he would probably be branded by his union as a "scab" and "blackleg." 'The Bench decided to postpone the case for six months.

Thursday 31 May 1917 page 3
Maintenance Claim. Mary Adams proceeded against her hus band, John Adams, on a charge of neglecting to comply with an order of the court. granting complainant and her two children maintenance.  Mr. C. J. McFarlane, on behalf of complainant, said that since defendant was last in court, in November last,
Adams had contributed £13 5s on the order, but the arrears to date amount to upwards of £50. Some time ago defendant was brought from Adelaide on warrant.
In Adelaide he was living in adultery with another woman, and was at present continuing those relations and living with the woman at Kensington, while his lawful wife was left to support two children, aged respectively 10 and 12 years.
Unless defendant entered the witness box and gave sound reasons for his failure to comply with the order, he (Mr. McFarlane) would ask that Adams be committed to gaol. Defendant, on oath, said he was a brick layer, and for some time past had only been in temporary work. He had contributed as much as he possibly could, and had run into debt as a result of borrowing to meet the order. To Mr. McFarlane I admit that I cleared   ? on a recent tender. I am living in the same house with a Mrs. H---- and her two daughters. I also stopped at her place in Adelaide. We are not living together as man and wife and I have never made admissions to that effect. I defy anyone to prove such as assertion. I do not want my children put on the State. I cannot support my wife because I find it impossible to get constant work. Mr. McFarlane: Do you remember the woman referred to suing her husband for maintenance? Defendant: Yes. Was the claim disallowed because the daughter of this woman swore that she had taken tea and toast to you and her mother who were in bed together?
Yes. she swore that because she was promised a new dress. Mr. Shaw, J.P. said the Bench experienced much difficulty in endeavouring to deal with this case. Defendant had since he was last in court paid his wife £13. and it was clear that he would not have been in a position to do that had he been sent to gaol. While sympathising with the   complainant the Bench felt that it was advisable to adjourn the case for a further term of three months to give defendant an opportunity of ascertaining what he could do in the way of meeting the order Mr. McFarlane suggested that the case might be adjourned, to be dealt with by a police magistrate. Complainant took the view that if her husband was committed to gaol he would come to his senses and make an effort to pay for the maintenance of his wife and children rather than go there. The Bench did not favour the suggestion, and the case was adjourned till August 21.  

In another search of the electoral roles to find a "Mrs H" I found that from 1919 to 1936 John Adams was listed in Rankin's Road, Newmarket, Melbourne with a Mary Hildebrand, nee Moss.  
John Adams died in 1937 aged 79.  
Whoever was the informant on his death certificate got his details wrong and gave his half sisters name as his mother.
I may never know if they did have a relationship.  
In 1936, at 61 years of age, Mary Hildebrand married a James Henderson.  
She died in 1941 aged 66 years.

Thursday 22 November 1917
Arrears of Maintenance John Adams, who owed £14 on an order for the maintenance of his two children, was told by the Bench that if he did not make some sort of reasonable settlement within a month he would have to go to gaol.

Thursday 20 December 1917
Arrears of Maintenance. Mary Adams V. John Adams -.arrears of maintenance.   
The complainant said the case had been before the Court and adjourned, The arrears were then £13 but were now £18. The chairman (to defendant): What have you to say? You are letting those arrears mount up. Defendant: I have not been working for some time except for a few days at the chemical works, but I shall be in work after the holidays. The case was further adjourned for a month.

Thursday 17 January 1918
Maintenance Claim.   Adams v. Adams was again called. Defendant, John Adams, secured an adjournment for a fortnight. The indebtedness on the original order was £18; and defendant promised to reduce this sum in the meantime.

Thursday 25 April 1918
Adams v. Adams. Mary Adams proceeded against her husband John Adams, claiming outstanding payments on a maintenance order amounting to £23. Defendant, who did not appear, forwarded £2 10s in reduction of the claim. The Bench made an order for £20 in default imprisonment till the full amount is paid.

Thursday 23 May 1918
Arrears of Maintenance. John Adams, who was ordered to pay £21/10/-, arrears of maintenance due to his wife on a maintenance order, applied to the bench for further time to meet his obligations. The bench had ordered that Adams, in case of failure to meet the order, should be imprisoned.   
On Adams paying in £6/10/- on account, he was given four weeks to pay the balance of arrears.

Thursday 11 July 1918
Maintenance in Arrears. John Adams was again called on to show cause why he should not be imprisoned for failure to comply with an order of the court to support, his family. The arrears amounted to £10. Defendant pleaded lack of employment. but Mrs. Adams contended that defendant was underestimating his income and misleading the Bench. The case had repeatedly been before the Bench, and after hearing the evidence of Mrs. Adams the justices. in a spirit of weariness retired to their room to consider the advisability of arriving at finality in the matter. On returning to the Bench, the chairman said that a majority of the justices had decided that the defendant must pay £10 by Friday next or go to gaol until claim is paid.

Thursday 12 September 1918
Maintenance Arrears, Mary Adams proceeded against her husband, John Adams, for £10 arrears of maintenance. An order was made against defendant on 11th November, 1913. for £1 a week for the support of his two children. and the case has been before the court many times since. Defendant was ordered to pay the arrears in a month at the rate of £5 a fortnight.


  1. Interesting post and I agree with you, it's better not to judge our ancestors.

    Newspapers can be such a great resource. You were able to locate five years worth of court records via the paper. They can be difficult to transcribe, especially the older issues. I always keep a magnifying glass on hand and it helps sometimes when the paper is blurry.

    My maiden name is Adams - did your Adams line originate in England?

    1. Thanks again for reading.
      Many Australian newspaper archives are available online with more being added continually. It is an image of the actual newsprint.
      Yes my Adams originate from Saffron Walden in Essex England. Where are yours from?