It’s time to revisit my grandmother’s family, the Dubey family from Amherstburg, Ontario that settled in Detroit in 1907. Once again, the family consisted of (pedigree chart here):
- Loftus, born in 1887
- Ernest, 1889
- Eva (my grandmother), 1891
- Stanford, 1894
- Melville, 1901
- Marjorie, 1907
I knew Marjorie and her family; as the youngest she lived with my grandparents and mother at times after the death of my great-grandparents from smallpox in 1924. My “Aunt Marj” and her children were adored by my mother and my memories have always been those of great humor and fun.
The only thing I knew about the rest were their names, and I had to research from there. I learned Loftus married Mattie K. Wachter in 1912, but obtained a divorce on the grounds of cruelty in 1920. Loftus worked various blue-collar jobs most of his life. He became as U.S. citizen in 1940, and died of a ruptured ulcer and pneumonia in 1943.
Stan married Emma Groesbeck in 1920. He served in WWII, returning to Detroit in fall 1946. In 1947, they moved to Florida with their two children (another died as a young child), where Stan applied for U.S. citizenship. He died in 1969, but I was able to find his son’s family and reached out to them. I’m now regularly in touch with those in my generation — my biggest genealogical success to date! Stan died in 1969.
I’ve uncovered information about the first 25 years of so of Melville‘s life, to be told in a different post.
Then there is Ernest
Tracking down Ernest proved both challenging and interesting. Shortly after the family moved to Detroit, he is listed with them in the 1910 census (age 20), with his occupation as a tailor at a “dye house.”
1911: Marries Florence (Flora) Sinton, originally from Harrisville, Alcona Co., MI, in Detroit on 16 May by Fr. James Doherty, Catholic priest at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, which was located in Corktown and closed in 1965. The Sinton family lived very close to the Dubey’s in Corktown, on Michigan Avenue.
1912: In late February, Ernest is working as a tailor in Windsor, at the shop of Napoleon Rivard. He steals some cloth and is caught.
I’m curious as to what the $6 in trade could be from a hotelkeeper. A room? Had he recently learned that Florence was pregnant, and panicked? For their son George is born on 2 October 1912, likely named after Florence’s father who died the year before. This is quite interesting, as there is no birth record for him anywhere in the state from 1909-1914 under any variation of his name (see below), nor is there a baptism record in the Detroit diocese. Yet he consistently appears in censuses with Florence, and I have traced him through to his death in 1999.
A similar account appeared in the March 12 issue of the Amherstburg Echo, but the news item is not entirely intact. An item in the Windsor Evening Record is more descriptive, noting that Ernest neglected to tell the judge he had been in trouble with the law at least nine times before (reminder: he’s only 23 years old at this point) and is thus sentenced to 6 months hard labor at the Central Prison in Toronto.
This explains his appearance in Toronto in the coming years.
1916: By June, Ernest is in Toronto residing at the Tremont Hotel, from where he enlists in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in the 69th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. On his attestment papers, he notes he is married to Florence, and has a 6-year-old son, George Manning Dubey. This would make George’s birth year 1910. At the time of the 1910 census in April 1910, Florence was living with her mother, two brothers, and a sister, but no children. But it’s possible she was pregnant, and this could explain the lack of birth record. Throughout his life, George generally gave his birth year as 1912 — except on his application for a Social Security number, where he gave 1910.
Ernest shipped out of Canada and arrived in England 25 July 1916. In August, according to medical records, he was kicked by a horse. He later complained of headaches and an itchy scalp due to this injury (later considered by the doctors as favus, or tinea capitis), and was also treated for scabies.
1917: In January Ernest was treated at the Moore Barracks Hospital at Shorncliffe for a mild case of the German measles (diagnosis later changed to impetigo), and released in two weeks. Two weeks later in early February 1917, he was back in the hospital complaining of shortness of breath and coughing, and diagnosed with asthma. Although he had a clean bill of health when enlisting, according to his service medical records, but at this point he said he had asthma all his life. He remained in the hospital until May.
Ernest never made it out of England or saw active duty. In August 1917, he was on the hospital ship Letitia headed for home. He was discharged on 20 August, at which time he did not return to Detroit, but gave his address as 110 Lisgar St., Toronto.
1919: Papers filed for military service compensation listed his address as 97 Ann St., Toronto. Dated 3 September, these documents report Ernest stated he had a wife but they were separated and had not seen each other in 4 years , and that he did not know her address.
Thus it appears that Ernest left Florence around 1915. If he really didn’t know her address, he didn’t try very hard to find her, as she was living with her sister but listed in the city directory under Florence Dubey and was still in Corktown, having moved a mile or so away.
This capped off some difficult years for Florence. In 1911, her father died of erysipelas. She lost 4 siblings to tuberculosis: one in 1912, another in 1915, and two more in 1917. In 1917 her mother died of heart disease.
1920: Florence is still living with her sister (Isabella — a.k.a. Bella or Belle) Chiritree, as well as Belle’s son Howard and her own son George Dubey, noted as 8 years old, born in Michigan, with a his father born in Canada. Florence lists her status as “married.” There are also 2 boarders, including a single man named Frank Phelan (Francis Michael Phelan, originally from Midland, Midland Co., MI).
Wife #2, Jessie McLean, was a Scottish immigrant who gave her address as the Moose Tower [Town] Hotel in Niagara Falls. Age 35 in 1922, this was her first marriage.
There is no Michigan divorce record for Ernest and Florence.
1922: Ernest apparently moved back to the U.S. from Toronto. He appears, now going as Edward Dubey, but still working as a tailor, in Buffalo, New York in 1922. He marries Jessie McLean at Niagara Falls on 25 September. The marriage license is intriguing. He correctly lists his parents names as Henry Dubey and Annie Deneau, but says they were from Paris and that he was born in New Orleans. He notes this is his second marriage, but that his first wife is dead!
Meanwhile, back in Detroit, on 25 June 1922, Florence and Frank Phelan have a stillborn baby girl. I have never found a marriage record for them, but they stayed together for the rest of their lives, and ended up with three children of their own. George ended up taking Frank’s last name, although I don’t know if he was officially adopted.
Interestingly, in the 1930 Detroit census, Frank lists marriage age of 20, which would be 1911. Frank was still with his family in Midland in 1910, and is listed as a boarder in Detroit in by 1914, up to boarding with at the Cherry Street address from 1919. Did he give this to match Florence’s marriage age/date? To begin the new family history of him as George’s father?
1924: When Ernest’s mother Annie dies in early 1924, Ernest is listed as a surviving son in her obituary, living in Cleveland. Indeed, he shows up, still working as a tailor, in the 1925-1927 Cleveland city directories, going by the name Edward H. Dubey. I have no idea whatever happened to Jessie McLean Dubey; I did not find a divorce record for them.
1929: Ernest is still in the Cleveland area, still going by Edward Duby. This time he appears on 9 January marrying a woman named Helen Weeks Gerber. Once again he gives his parent names correctly, but states he has not had any previous marriages! Perhaps they met back in Buffalo, where Helen was married to her previous husband Frank and had their son Ellsworth Gerber. On the other hand, the address Helen gives on the marriage license is the same one Ernest/Edward is listed under in 1926 and 1927 in the Cleveland city directory.
1930: In the Cleveland census, Edward and Helen Duby are listed, with Ernest/Edward claiming he was born in Michigan. Living with them is Helen’s teenaged son Ellsworth.
1932: Edward H. Duby, tailor, and his wife Helen M. are back in New York, in the Syracuse city directory.
1934: Edward Dubey, tailor, is in the Buffalo, NY city directory. And there, I lose track of him.
1937: A legal notice appears in Lake County, Ohio, newspapers from his wife Helen petitioning for divorce on grounds of gross negligence of duty and abandonment of more than 3 years. His whereabouts at the time were unknown.
1938: In April, the divorce suit it dismissed for “want of prosecution.” Thus it was likely he was never served or responded…but as of this action, they would have remained legally married.
However, this same year, Helen is listed in the Cleveland directory with her new husband, Frank Gladwin. He divorced his first wife in 1934. I was able to find her 1955 obituary and she was still married to Frank.
Although Ernest would have only been 45 years old in 1934, I cannot yet find him in any directory of the cities he had lived in, or the 1940 census. While he may have changed his name (more radically) or gone off to a new city, I suspect he may have died around this time.
In case you weren’t keeping score: Three wives, one child, no apparent divorces, and one name change. No application for U.S. citizenship, and no draft registrations.
Florence Phelan died in Michigan on 7 November 1977.
Son George (who ended up going by George A. Phelan for most of his life) lived with Frank and Florence through at least 1930. He married Margaret Elizabeth Nichols 17 February 1932 in Detroit, and they divorced in October 1942. I don’t believe they had any children. George served in the U.S. Army in WWII. After the war and prior to 1953, George married Elsie Mae [private]. They never had children. George died on 17 October 1999 in Troy, Oakland Co., MI.
I was able to get in touch with a person related by marriage to a relative of Elsie’s. Apparently, the family had no idea that George was not Frank Phelan’s biological son. It seems George must have known, as he was approximately 8 years old when Frank first began boarding with Florence. Like his father — or because of him — it seems he kept his history to himself, and had a fair number of secrets.