Sunday 20 February 2011

Postcard from the Past

From time to time I buy old postcards of ancestral places on eBay. They are usually very cheap and provide windows into a vanished world.


Coupar Angus 1917


My latest purchase is a postcard of Coupar Angus, Perthshire, dating from 1917. My family has had a long association with the town, from the 17th century to the 1950s. Some of the names I am researching there are Clark, Fife, Gibb, Haliburton, Hay, Hood, Lowe, Malcolm and Smyth.

When my postcard arrived I turned it over, expecting to see the usual few lines, scrawled by a holidaymaker. Imagine my surprise at finding the following information instead:




I'm a genealogist so, naturally, I started to research R Bingham Adams. So far I've been able to piece together the following facts:

Richard Bingham Adams was born in Portsmouth in 1873 and married Violet Plater there in 1897. They had two children - Violet Plater Adams, born in 1898, and Dorothy Plater Adams, born in 1901. Richard appears in the 1891 census as a solicitor's clerk in Portsmouth. In the 1901 and 1911 censuses he was working for an insurance company, first in Horsham, then back in Portsmouth. During the First World War he served in five different units, including the Labour Corps. After the war he continued to serve in the Territorial Army, which awarded him the Territorial Efficiency Medal in 1928. His Medal Card gives the details of his previous service:


Medal card


Richard died in Portsmouth in 1956, aged 82. His elder daughter, Violet, married Alfred Tree in Portsmouth in 1922. They had a son, Kenneth, who was born and died in 1924, and a daughter, Olive Violet, born in 1925. According to a well-sourced family tree on Ancestry, she is still alive.

I also did some research on Richard Bingham Adams' ancestry. His father, James Lewis Adams, was a pilot who worked for the Colonial Service in Port Louis, Mauritius, and all of Richard's siblings were born there. James himself was born in the then new town of Anglesey in the parish of Alverstoke, now part of Gosport, in 1833. His father was the wonderfully named Balthazar Bowman Adams, who was a ship's carpenter in the Royal Navy.

Balthazar's father, also Balthazar, was the son of Henry Adams, the Master Shipbuilder at Bucklers Hard, who built many famous ships of the Royal Navy. These included Nelson's favourite, HMS Agamemnon, and two other ships which saw action at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Balthazar Adams senior and his brother, Edward, inherited the thriving business when their father died that same year, but they over-extended themselves and by 1811 they were bankrupt.

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