Another New France pioneer: Marin Deneau

Early on, I introduced the family of my maternal grandmother, the Dube’s of Amherstburg, Ontario. I noted that this line goes directly back to Mathurin Dube, and important early settler of New France and his wife, a filles du roi Marie Campion, arriving around 1663 and 1670, respectively. They are my 8th great-grandparents.

Henry Dubey, my great-grandfather, married a woman (Annie Deneau) who was also directly descended from a pioneer family. Her immediate family and their deadly role in the 1924 smallpox epidemic of the border cities (Detroit and Windsor) was the first post on this blog.

My 7th great-grandfather was Marin Deniau dit Destaillis (also, dit Sullys). He arrived in with around 100 men in what is known as the “La Grande Recrue” or the Great Recruitment. This was an effort to stabilize the young town of Ville-Marie, founded in 1642; today known as Montreal. Subject to frequent attacks by the Iroquois, the governor returned to France for reinforcements. The ship St. Nicholas departed in July 1653 from St. Nazaire and arrived in Canada in September — thus Marin founded the Deneau family line in the New World even earlier than Mathurin Dube established his family name here.

Marin is listed on on a plaque memorializing Le Grande Recrue.

Marin, noted as a “land clearer” or lumberjack, was a widow, born around 1621 in or near Luche, Le Mans, France.  He agreed to a contract to stay in New France (or perhaps Ville Marie) for five years with a small annual salary. After that, he settled on land at what is now the western part of Montreal, at Pointe St. Charles. In the fall of 1659, he married Louise Therese LeBreuil, a filles à marier.

They had at least six children:

  • Jacques 1660-1720, married Marie Rivet (7 children) then Francoise Daniau (7 children). This is my line.
  • Charles-Marin 1663-1708, married Madeleine Lapointe (11 children)
  • Joseph 1666, married Jeanne Adhemar (17 children)
  • Gabriel, 1669, died in infancy
  • Marie, 1670, died in infancy
  • Marie-Therese, 1674-1747, married Francois Primeau (10 children)

My line from Jacques Deneau and Francoise Daniau is Frances Xavier (1709-1779) + Marie-Marguerite Supernant –> Joseph (1733-?) + Marie Josephte Roussel –> Jean-Baptiste (1778-?) + Marie-Josephte “Josette” Jubenville –> Antoine (1839-1931) + Virginia LaPain; these were Annie’s parents.

Some details on the voyageur journeys of the Deneau family are at the terrific site “Ripples from La Prairie Voyaguer Canoes.” The author also keeps another great blog that often chronicles his (our) French-Canadian ancestry. Here is a piece about the unsavory aspect of Jacques Deneau’s life — his trial for selling liquor to the Iroquois who then murdered his toddler relative Pierre Gagne. (I’ve not yet explored the Gagne line on my mother’s side; I also have Gagne relatives on my father’s side in the one line that is not from the UK or northern Europe.)

Marin and his wife eventually ended up in La Prairie de la Madeleine, across the St. Lawrence River. Marin died sometime before 1678, when his wife remarried.

My grandmother remained a Canadian citizen, but rarely spoke of her family or upbringing. She was already 71 years old when I was born, and developed dementia when I was still a child. I don’t know if she didn’t remember or never knew the rich history of both sides of her family — true pioneers of Canada.


Another shifty outlaw: Francis William Laye

A recent communication from a newly-found third cousin in Australia from my mother’s side of the family, prompted me to write up another, closer Australian connection from my father’s side. This branch of the family fascinates me because it is divided between well-known British military figures, and a bunch of other troubled and underachieving relatives. Which, I am sorry to say, seem to be disproportionately distributed among my direct ancestors.


I will recap this branch here, beginning with my 4th great-grandfather.

Lt.-General Francis Laye, Royal Artillery. 1752-1828. He had at least three wives, but apparently children with only his last, Mary Airey, whom he married in 1805. There were two sons that lived to adulthood:

Joseph Henry Laye, 1816-1895. Also served in the military, reaching a rank of Major-General, and fought in the Maori wars in New Zealand. A story for another time!

Francis Fenwick Laye, 1807-1881. My 3rd great-grandfather. A Major in the army, King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

He also married three times, but had children only with his first wife, Anne Walsh (~1812-1848) who is my 3rd great-grandmother. They married in 1834 in County Meath, Ireland where her family lived. They had nine children, all of whom I have accounted for:

Mary Ann: 1835-1858.
Susan Louisa Theresa: 1837-1862. She may have married in 1850.
Frances Elizabeth: 1838-1861.
Henrietta Catherine Shepheard: 1840-1856.
Francis William: 1842. The subject of this post.
Henry Airey: 1843-1866. Died as a Lt. in British military in India of consumption.
Maria Josephine Louisa: 1845-1878. Wife of William Lothian Hamilton.
Frederick: 1846-1881. The Texas gunslinger. Read all about him here.
Emily Mary: 1847-1896. She is my 2nd great-grandmother.

Francis William Laye

Francis was born 27 Feb 1842 at Triton Lodge in County Meath, Ireland, the first son of Francis Fenwick Laye. “Farm Hill” was actually the estate of the Walshes, while Triton Lodge was the estate of “C. Segrave“(Charles Seagrave). This is in the vicinity of present-day Bettystown, up the coast from Dublin.

Father Francis Fenwick had entered the army as a teenager in 1826. By 1834, the year of his marriage, he was a captain. By 1851, he was a a barracks-master, a role of considerable power, at Berwick-upon-Tweed barracks in Northumberland, England along the Scottish border. As his wife Anne had died in 1848, the family was living with his mother Mary in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Curiously, Francis William is not with them, although he would have been 9 years old. Thus, I long assumed he must have died before 1851.

I was astonished to find this item in a London paper in February 1850:

Francis had been sent away! The Royal Asylum of St. Anne’s Society was a residential school for children whose parents had “once moved in a superior station of life” but come upon hard times. Certainly having a stable of 9 children by 1850 was difficult, but Captain Laye must have had the means to care for them. Of the sons, only Francis would have been old enough to be admitted to the Asylum, so perhaps this was why he was sent. Still, it seems very peculiar.

In January 1852, Captain Laye married Anne Robertson; I’m not sure how this would have factored into Francis William being sent to the home. Children had to leave the facility by age 15 (thus, in 1857), yet Francis William is not with the family in the 1861 census.

To Australia

He next appears in 1865, having departed Gravesend, England on the ship “London” in May, arriving in Melbourne, Australia on 8 August. He traveled in steerage — indicating he was poor and, apparently, estranged from his family.

It was not long before Francis started showing up in police records. He used various aliases: Frederick William Laye, William McDougall, John Williams, and Malcolm McDougall. In the fall and winter of 1867, he was charged with theft of harnesses and a horse in Geelong, a town southwest of Melbourne.  For these crimes he was sentenced to a year in prison. His jail records are under the alias William McDougall, noting his proper name is Frederick William Laye, and giving details confirming this is Francis William. He served his time in the notorious Pentridge Prison. In December 1870, he was sentenced to another 4 months hard labor for stealing books, from the library of the Bushman’s Club in Adelaide where he was a boarder. A book on the history of this institution indicates the date of the theft was the day of the annual meeting, which included non-members and general festivities, and notes the theft on page 206.

I next find Francis W. Laye arriving in Adelaide from London on “The Murray” in August 1878. How did he afford to leave Australia, and how long was he gone? His prison records did show him as being a “seaman” but on this trip he was a passenger. Another passenger list in October 1881 shows a British sailor that appears to be “F W Laye” arriving in Sydney from Adelaide on the “Glenelg.”

In March 1881, Francis’s father Captain Laye died. His will mentions nothing about his son Francis.

The murder

Shortly, more definitive bits of Francis William’s life unfold. Wherever he may have been the previous months, it is certainly him, as FW Laye, on board the “Zealandia” arriving from San Francisco in Sydney in January 1882. (The ship was put in quarantine until 4 February due to a smallpox scare.] Also on board was a “Mrs. Cowie” and a Rev. FB Boyce. According to Boyce and newspaper accounts, “Mrs. Cowie”, a French widow, and Laye hit it off on the ship. Laye asked Boyce to witness their marriage; they were married on 6 Feb 1882 at St. James’s Church in Sydney. She is also listed as Mary or Marie Corill or Cories. She had a little boy, age 2 or 3, by a previous husband named Boyer.

This couple was destitute. They spent nearly two weeks at a boarding house, but were kicked out after a quarrel. They sought aid at St Vincent’s relief agency, who provided them with funds, although Francis Laye was stated to be “a drunken, dissolute, and worthless fellow who commenced to drink, and behaved with great cruelty to prisoner and her child, frequently beating them both.”

The organization found them employment in Manly Beach (the employer states at the 3 March inquest that Marie was there for 9 weeks, but that is clearly wrong as it puts her start date well before her arrival). Francis apparently left after fewer than two days, ripping up the marriage certificate.

Sleeping in the rough with only her carpetbag and young child, a tragedy occurred. Marie Laye was charged with murdering her little boy, found with her with a broken skull on what is now Observatory Hill in Sydney. She told a fellow cellmate while awaiting sentencing she woke up in the middle of the night (after having been seen sleeping with her child) and “it” was done; Marie claimed it would not have happened if it were not for her ill-fated marriage.

Although many witnesses said Marie was always kind to her child and the evidence was circumstantial, she was sentenced to death, offering little in her own defense.

This is very suspicious to me. Could Marie have been afraid to accuse her abusive (and clearly criminal) husband of this crime? In a letter dated early March 1882, Frances appeared ignorant of the murder.

He was living at Woodford House, now Woodford Academy, in the Blue Mountains area.

The public found sympathy for Marie Laye’s circumstances, and her sentence was commuted to 10 years.

The prison photo of Marie Laye, briefly the wife of Francis William Laye, convicted of murdering her child.


After this episode, the life of Francis becomes murky. In the late 1880s through the 1890s, I have found a few more passenger lists listing FW Laye, as well as some mentioned in both Australia and the UK of a Fred Laye as a stage actor; this is a different person I believe. Meanwhile, “William McDougall” had been busy committing more crimes – the latest accounts are in 1911 with a physical description similar to the previous William McDougall/Frederick Laye.

So far I have found no death record for Fred Laye. He was not acknowledged in any way in his father’s will. Another family mystery.







William and Remi (Raymond) Dubey: barber brothers

William Joseph Dubey was the younger brother of my great-grandfather Henry Dubey. Born 14 August 1877 in Essex County, Ontario, he was also the youngest of all 13 children. Remi Peter Dubey was one of the middle children, born 13 June 1870.

William immigrated to Detroit ahead of Henry’s family, with his widowed mother and a few of the younger siblings around 1892 (not 1888, as indicated in the 1900 census, as his father was still alive and some of the family living on the farm in Amherstburg, appearing in the 1891 Ontario census).

In the 1893 Detroit city directory, both William and Remi are listed as “harnessmakers,” no doubt a fairly common occupation as the city was largely unpaved and lacking most transport other than horses.

In 1894, Remi married Josie M. Sanderson (although her name is erroneously recorded as “Saunders”) in Windsor, Ontario. Remi lists his occupation as barber.

The next year, Remi and Josie have a daughter, Mabel, and Remi begins using the given name Raymond; he never returns to using Remi the rest of his life. At this time, William is also listed in city directories as a barber.

In April 1897, a son is born to Raymond, barber, and “Mabel” (which I presume is Josie’s middle name).  Civil records indicate the boy’s name is William, but in 1900 the family of four appears in the Cleveland, Ohio census with the son’s name as Raymond, Jr. with the corresponding birth date. Josie indicates she has had two children, both living. Also this year an ad appears in the Cleveland paper announcing a barber shop under new management: R. Dubey. Meanwhile, William is also working as a barber in Detroit.

On 2 December 1902, son Raymond dies of cerebrospinal meningitis in Cleveland, Ward 4 (104 Bond St.) after an illness of one week. After that, it is like he never existed. In the 1910 Cleveland census, his mother indicates she has borne one child, still living (Mabel). In each of the obituaries of Raymond, Josie, and Mabel there is no mention of a son or brother. The three of them are buried together, without a fourth grave for the missing son.

The mystery of shuffling cities

In July 1906, this ad appears in the Detroit paper:

barberI have found no evidence that William did leave the city, but his brother Raymond did return to Detroit. In 1907, this advertisement appears:

Dry Cleaning ad 28 Aug 1907The Scotten address (at Porter Street, located along the border of Clark Park) only a month later was the site of a meeting of the Detroit Barbers’ Protection Association at “Mr. Duby’s shop” to promote charging 5 cents extra for neck shaving. The following year, the address was listed as “Dubey Dry Cleaning” and William was listed as a barber there. Curiously, in the Detroit directory, Ray and Josie (who’s occupation is “dyer”) are listed under the last name Duba.

La France was sold to other owners in 1908, and while William stayed in Detroit, “Ray Duba” the barber is back in Cleveland.

Why did William so urgently need to sell his shop? Why did his brother return to Detroit for a single year, to briefly take over a business? Why did he use a different name for two years?

Meanwhile,  William’s new barber shop was located closer to his residence, at 1164 W. Fort St. (later, 4114 W. Fort when the street numbering changed across the city; north side of W. Fort between Scotten and Hubbard).  On 26 April 1910, William married Adelaide Abbott, the sister of his brother-in-law Joseph Abbott who married his sister Lomey.  Sometime between 1900 and 1918, he became a US citizen.

William and Adelaide had two children: Mary Catherine (1917) and Dorothy (1920).  A number of records indicate both children were born in Illinois (Chicago), although the 1920 census has them living in Detroit, still at 1164 W. Fort. Perhaps one of Adelaide’s siblings lived in Chicago and she travelled there to give birth both times?

When the children were very young, in 1923, there was a fire at the barber shop (which I take it was beneath the residence). William and Adelaide were not home (one wonders who was tending the children), but the children were saved.

Dubey, Wm fire Freep 12feb23I am especially interested in Mary Catherine, as I believe she was the namesake of a favorite cousin, a daughter of my great-aunt. This very cute photo of her was included in an article about a fun day in Clark Park by the students of nearby Maybury Elementary School.

mcdWilliam died of a heart attack on 23 February 1929 at age 51, and Adelaide lived to 1976.

Mary Catherine married Elliott Gray in 1937. They had at least one daughter, Sandra, but divorced in 1947. Mary Catherine remarried a man named Weaver soon after. She died in 1996.

Dorothy married Martin Janiga and died in 2010. They had six children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Raymond continued as a barber in Cleveland until his retirement in 1945. He was well enough known that this article appeared in the paper. Note that he wanted to retire to spend more time at his hobby of square dancing!

Duby, Raymond Cleveland barber retiresIn 1953, Josie died, followed by Raymond in 1955. Their daughter Mabel never married, and she died in 1976.

The Dwyers and Ascension Island

One way genealogy has enriched my life is that it has helped me increase my knowledge of events and places, especially in the context of history. My professional scientific research centers around “novel ecosystems,” particularly how birds and insects utilize and interact with non-native plants in human-modified landscapes.  I was recently reading a book on the topic, The New Wild, which devoted an entire early chapter on Ascension Island, a tiny volcanic South Atlantic island more or less between equatorial Africa and Brazil.

The British settled Ascension in 1815, the year Napoleon was imprisoned on “nearby” St. Helena Island. The military garrison on Ascension was believed prudent in case Napoleon attempted another escape. However, the rocky island needed greenery to sustain the troops. Not only were gardens planted for food, but a rather massive importation of plants from all over the world commenced in mid-century, creating a completely man-made ecosystem that fascinates ecologists, myself included, to this day.

Family connection

Thomas Peard Dwyer (~1796-1863) is my 3rd great-grandfather, the father of William S.B.B. Dwyer (and Lambert Francis Dwyer). He served in the Royal Marines, entering service around 1812 and retiring in 1859 at the rank of Major-General.

Purported to be Thomas Peard Dwyer

This photo is purported to be Thomas Peard Dwyer. However, most of the CDVs of the family were taken in the late 1860s-mid-1870s, and TPD died in 1863 at the age of 67. The man in the photo appears too young for the era this photo must have been taken.

Among the many places TPD was stationed was Ascension Island. As a 1st Lieutenant, he served there from December 1831 to April or June 1833. He was back again a decade later, serving as Commandant of the island from 1842-1844. During this period his wife Mary Ann Toulmin Dwyer, laid the cornerstone of St. Mary’s Anglican Church on 6 Sep 1843. This same year, their son Robert Hoare Dwyer was born on Ascension.

I came across a web site regarding a now-missing brass tablet from the grave of Thomas Peard Dwyer once found at St. Agatha’s Church in Portsmouth that read: “Pray for the souls of Major General Thomas Peard Dwyer, Royal Marine Light Infantry, Mary Ann Dwyer, Captain Robert Hoare Dwyer, Royal Marine Light Infantry, Dennis [sic] Robert Cunningham Dwyer, Md., RN, Louisa M. F. Dwyer.” Probably the most interesting thing about that was the confirmation and acknowledgement of William and Emily’s first daughter, Louisa.

Potentially Robert Hoare Dwyer

In my series of several photos of what appear to be the Dwyer brothers, this one is likely Robert Hoare Dwyer, taken sometime in the late 1860s or early 1870s. I believe he was the only one in the family to be stationed in Gravesend, where two of his sons were born, in 1872 and 1876.

I mentioned Robert Hoare Dwyer in the post about his brother, Lambert Francis Dwyer, who spent so much time with Robert’s widow. Recall that Robert married Caroline Georginna Thurlow Cunynghame in 1871.  Caroline was an interesting person in her own right. Born in Canada, her father, Sir Francis Thurlow Cunynghame, was the 8th Baronet of Milncraig.

Robert was apparently a rather sickly man, and died of heart disease when he was 38 years old, in 1881. Even at this young age, he was given an elaborate funeral that demonstrates the status and wealth of the Dwyer family in Portsmouth at the time.

Dwyer, Robt Hoare funeral

In the first horse-drawn carriage of the funeral procession are “Captain Dwyer” (brother Lambert), “Miss Dwyer” (sister Louisa), “Mr. Toulmins” (uncle Alfred P. Toulmin, as other close male Toulmins were already dead), and the “two sons” (probably the oldest, Bertie and George; Denys was 5 years old at the time). Brother William and his wife Emily conspicuously absent.

Ernest Dubey: potentially polygamous tailor

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.

dubey-ernest-steals-clothI’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.

GeoMDubeyErnest 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.

mil-hsop1917: 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 [1915], and that he did not know her address.

noaddyThus 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).

moose tower hotel

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.

The dashing Lambert Francis Dwyer


I have a number of un- or misidentified CDVs. The fine people at the Victorian Wars forum confirmed this uniform and bell-top shako hat indicate an officer in the 17th Regiment on or after 1865. The date matches the time the photographer was active in Portsmouth. That makes this Lambert Dwyer, at the time a Lieutenant and stationed at home from June 1866-May 1868.


Lambert Francis Wilson Dwyer was one of the the successful brothers of the underachieving William Simpson Blennerhassett Dwyer, my great-great grandather.  Born in 1840, he entered the British military, the family business, on 14 Sep 1858. Unlike his father Thomas Peard Dwyer, probably his grandfather Robert, and brother Robert Hoare Dwyer, who all served in the Royal Marines, Lambert served in the Army. He spent the beginning of his career in the 2nd Battalion of the 17th Regiment (Leicestershire) of Foot. He went to half pay in 1871 at the rank of Captain.

In 1877 he left the Army and was appointed to the Royal Anglesey Engineers, a sort of military reserve division. He fully retired in December 1896, with the honorary rank of Colonel. He was a bachelor his entire life, although his love life seems to be quite the topic of speculation.


An affair with Emily Laye Dwyer?

One persistant story in this family is that one of the children of Emily and William Dwyer, Hugh Simpson Gerald Toulmin Dwyer, was actually the biological son of Lambert.  This was based on one small tidbit: Hugh listed “Lambert” as his father on his marriage certificate in 1896. I have seen nearly as many fictions as facts on older, self-reported documents, and always take them with a grain of salt. The person that really ran with this was my 3rd cousin Pat Paskiewicz (a descendant of Hugh), who did a monumental amount of research on the Dwyer, Laye, and associated families. Pat and I shared information, and he served as quite an inspiration on this project. Pat passed away in 2010, and due to the tremendous amount of new material available online since then, I have been able find data that corrects or ties up some of his loose ends.

I simply have not found any proof that Lambert was in Emily’s vicinity in early 1875 when Hugh was conceived. He was on half-pay (reserve) between 1870-1877.   The only North American visit (other than when he was in Nova Scotia during his service, 1861-1866), was in January 1873, arriving from Liverpool in Boston aboard the Malta. But his signature is on his service record iin the Channel Islands (Jersey)  in July 1875.

At some point in 1875, William, Emily and the children Louisa, Mary, Dora, and [William] Lambert sailed to the UK to visit Louisa’s sister Maria Josephine Hamilton in Scotland. At this point, I believe she was the only living sibling left in the UK. Pat believed Maria died in childbirth at the time Emily was there (Maria’s daughter Anne Theresa Susan Hamilton was born in October 1875), but she in fact died in the parish of DalKeith, Edinburgh several years later, 11 August 1878, after a 44 day illness from typhoid fever.

Hugh was, in fact, born during this trip, however. The record from the parish of Corstorphine, county Midlothian, Edinburgh city shows he was born on 18 December 1875 to Emily Dwyer and William B. Dwyer, Late [retired], Lieutenant, R.A. [Royal Army], who were married on 3 April 1867 at Portsea [England]. Note the usual embellishing of William’s military status and the fudging of their marriage date.

A most curious record is that of the family’s return from Glasgow to Quebec on 10 May 1876 aboard the Phoenician. It lists William B., Emily, and the children Louisa, Mary, [William] Lambert, and Dora…but not Hugh.

Pat also seized upon a “Lambert Dwyer” being listed in the Detroit city directory in 1893 at Emily’s address.  Emily’s son William Lambert was often referred to as just “Lambert” or “Bert” from a young age (as in the ship’s passenger list above), and this is who was referred to in this directory listing, as well as others.

Why would Hugh list “Lambert” as his father? It’s possible there was some rancor over what was a nasty divorce between William and Emily; once Emily reappeared on the scene around 1886, the children lived with her. For what it’s worth, Hugh also listed his occupation on his marriage application as “painter,” when all the years leading up to that date, he was listed as a driver in all the city directories.

Meanwhile, another sister-in-law…

If there was a sister-in-law that commanded Lambert Dwyer’s attention, it was the widow of his brother Capt. Robert Hoare Dwyer. Robert married Caroline Georginna Thurlow Cunynghame in 1871.  Caroline was an interesting person in her own right. Born in Canada, her father, Sir Francis Thurlow Cunynghame, was the 8th Baronet of Milncraig. The marriage was not long-lived, as Robert Hoare Dwyer was dead 10 years into the marriage of heart disease at age 38.

After the death of his brother, Lambert seemed to spend much of his free time with Caroline and her children, in particular apparently mentoring his nephew Bertie, who even from the age of 14 (mid-1880s) was a stellar tobogganner. They frequented St. Moritz in the Swiss Alps.


Caroline Dwyer and her brother-in-law Lambert Dwyer, with two of Caroline’s children Bertie and Denys in St. Moritz, Switzerland circa 1886-1887. Bertie was a record holding toboganner, immortalized in stained glass in The Champion pub in London.


The 1891 census finds Lambert living with Caroline and the children in Portsea as a “boarder.” They often appeared together in the society pages of local papers. They attended a military wedding in Argylshire, Scotland in 1894. January 1895 finds them vacationing together in Penzance, Cornwall. In 1901, they are counted on the census together at the the Grosvenor Hotel in London. This grand Victorian hotel was a common stop for travelers, as it is located at Victoria Station. Summer 1903 finds them with many other distinguished guests at the Beacon Hotel in Crowborough, Sussex. And in 1911, the couple are again together, staying with Lambert’s spinster sister Louisa in Littlehampton, Sussex, England. These two were, apparently, inseparable.

Why didn’t they marry? The will of Robert Hoare Dwyer stipulated she was to remain a beneficiary for life…as long as she remained a widow.

Dwyer, Robert Hoare probate indexCaroline came from a wealthy family, and Lambert himself was wealthy, so I don’t think this was necessarily about money, but presumably more to preserve the family reputation and honor husband/brother Robert.

Lambert died in 1923, leaving the bulk of his £12,000 estate to Caroline. Caroline died in 1924.



Brush Park connections

The news is full of Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis’s renovation of Detroit’s Ransom Gillis house, one of the few remaining historic mansion’s left in Brush Park, once one of the most glorious neighborhoods in the city. Originally one of the old ribbon farms (Brush Farm), first divided into lots in 1835, with many being sold to wealthy families around 1850. One of those purchasers was Alfred Pugh Toulmin.

Toulmin, AP bio

From Short sketches, with photographs, of the wardens, parliamentary representatives, judicial officers and county officials of the County of Lambton from 1852 to 1917, County Council, Sarnia, 1917.


Toulmin was born in Middlesex, England in 1810, and is my 3rd great grand uncle. His sister Mary Ann Toulmin, the mother of William Blennerhassett Simpson Dwyer, my great-great grandfather (pedigree chart here). I suspect that William and Emily Dwyer ended up in Detroit due to Toulmin’s presence here.

Toulmin’s immediate family line was full of solicitors and men associated with civilian aspects of the navy and shipping (ship’s agents, etc.). Alfred was a solicitor, first clerking for a judge in the UK in 1830.  By 1846, he was living in Sombra, Lambton Co., Ontario, serving in various capacities for city and county, including coroner, magistrate, and warden. He married Dorothy Bury, sister of Capt. Thomas Bury, another maritime connection.


This 1880 map of Sombra Township, Lambton Co., Ontario shows the land owned by the Bury family north of Sombra on the St. Clair River, across from Marine City, MI. The Burys were Toulmin’s in-laws, to whom he presumably sold his land when he moved to Detroit in 1868.


Toulmin made frequent visits to Detroit from at least 1853 to 1866, where he most often stayed at the Biddle House, then Detroit’s most fancy hotel. The last visit recorded in the papers was in 1866, where he switched to the Russell House which had usurped Biddle House’s swanky title as the city’s #1 hotel. These hint at Toulmin’s wealth and social status even prior to moving permanently to Detroit in 1868.

He became a U.S. citizen in 1870. Around this time he was still involved in shipping as president of the River and Lake Shore Steamboat Co. Later, in the late 1880s, Toulmin was president of the Richmond and Backus Co., a bookbinder and printer, that supplied stationery to the state of Michigan.

Real estate

Throughout his time in Detroit, Toulmin invested in real estate. In July 1866, a real estate notice indicated he purchased Lot 1, Block 1 of Brush Farm from Charles Bradford for $9000. In October 1867, another noted he purchased Lot 2, Block 1 of Brush Farm from E. A. Brush et al. for $3000. These were princely sums back in the day.

Toulmin plotsThese lots were located at the corner of Brush St. and High St., and for many years he and his wife (they never had children) lived at 119 High St. E. in one of the very large homes characteristic of this neighborhood; his home is shown below.

Toulmin houseHigh St. was later widened and its name changed to Vernor Highway, but has now been subsumed into the interstate freeway. Even if Toulmin’s home had not been razed for the freeway, it likely would not have survived, as very few of these amazing homes still exist today. This photo shows Brush St on the right and Alfred St on the bottom, just 3 blocks north of what was once High St.

Throughout the 1880s, he advertised homes for rent in this and the surrounding areas. I don’t know whether he sold property to William and Emily Dwyer, but the house and lot they lived in at 46 Pitcher St. during their marriage was nearby in the neighborhood created from the Cass Farm, adjacent to Brush Farm. Just prior to William’s second marriage to Cornelia Moran, William sold the property for $3,500.

Alfred Toulmin died in 1897, with an estate valued at $11,000. The High St property was sold on land contract to local eye doctor Eugene Smith for $8000.

Toulmin, AP obit

Jacob A. Pfeifer: my hidden g-g-grandfather

My biological great-grandfather was Jacob Anthony Pfeifer — a fact unknown to my family (even my father) until I discovered the tangled background of my great-grandmother Dora Dwyer.

Jacob was the son of Jacob Pfeifer, a German immigrant, and Catherine Purcell, from England. The elder Pfeifer was a cigarmaker, once a common occupation in the city, but died of tuberculosis as a young man in 1888.

In November 1895, at the age of 19, Jacob A. married my great-grandmother Dora. He was already employed as an advertising clerk, a job in which he was very skilled and he stayed with his whole life. But it appears this young marriage was one of necessity.  Just 7 months later, my grandmother Beatrice was born. The marriage was short-lived, and the couple filed for divorce in May 1897. It was granted in January 1898.

Jacob’s second wife was Julia Olde. They married in 1902, and this photo accompanied their engagement announcement.

japage26-1902Just 7 years later, Jacob formed his own advertising agency, Pfeifer Advertising. This photo was in the news article about it:

jap1909The Pfeifer Advertising Agency was located in the Majestic Building, which was torn down in 1962. This fantastic 1909 photo (the same year Jacob established his firm) of the Majestic at Shorpy Historic Picture Archive unfortunately does not show the 9th floor, where Pfeifer Advertising was located, but does show the gold-leaf lettering on many windows. Creating this lettering in Detroit was the occupation of my maternal great-great grandfather, Edgar Slann. I love the “ships passing in the night” idea of the Slanns lettering the windows of the Pfeifer agency.

Jacob died in 1931 following an apparently unsuccessful colostomy operation performed due to rectal cancer. These photos are the first I have ever seen of my great-grandfather, and the one accompanying his obituary bears some resemblence to his daughter, my grandmother.


Fred Leigh: Texas gunslinger

Frederick Laye was my my second great grand-uncle, the brother of my great-great grandmother Emily Laye (pedigree chart here), born the year before Emily, on the Isle of Man. Frederick was the youngest son in a family of military men: his grandfather Lt.-General Francis Laye (who fought for the British at Bunker Hill), his father Major Francis Fenwick Laye, uncle Lt.-General Joseph Henry Laye (who fought in New Zealand; the honeymoon suite in the Rutland Arms Inn is named for him!), cousin Major-General Joseph Henry Laye, and his brother Henry Airey Laye. (Another brother, Francis William Laye, apparently did not enter the military.)

At age 14 in 1861, he’s in the British census with his family at Gosport, Alverstoke, Hampshire, England. That seems the last record of him in the U.K.  The family bible notes that he died in Texas, with no other detail.

In the course of my research, I came upon an entry regarding his estate in the England and Wales National Probate Calendar that gave me enough to work with to piece together his rather intriguing, vaguely infamous, short life in Texas.


Life in Texas

I am not certain when Fred left England for North America. He does not appear in the 1871 British census. It’s possible that he is the “Fred Leigh”, of the correct age of about 24 years old, that appears on the passenger list of The City of London, arriving in New York from Liverpool on 6 January 1872.

The first positive sign of Fred in the US was a marriage record from Texas that matches the probate listing: he married Emily Ann Phillps in Lampasas, Texas in 23 November 1876. She is referred to as Emily Ann in probate records, but all other records I have of her indicate she went by “Annie.”

Next is a notice of tax foreclosure of land in Lampasas County in July 1877, in which 160 acres belonging to Fred Laye are to be auctioned off.

The 1880 U.S. federal census for Lampasas shows “Frederic Lay” born in England, occupation farming, with his wife Annie (born in 1861 in Arkansas, which indicates she was only about 15 when they married) and their 2-year-old daughter Violet. (Later census data shows that Annie and Fred had another daughter, Lisa Susan, in January 1881.)

The Duck Incident

Lampasas was “on the road” for cattle passing to points further north and west, and eventually (perhaps after losing his land) Fred assisted in some of these cattle drives. In August 1881, according to various accounts, he was in charge of bringing a heard of cattle to the LS Ranch* near the panhandle town of Tascosa. Tascosa, now a ghost town, was known for general lawlessness owing to the many transient cowboys that passed through.

According to Tascosa: Its Life and Gaudy Times, “One such was a thirty-four-year-old Englishman named Fred Leigh, who came up the trail in the early summer of 1881 with the first herd brought to the Panhandle for the LS.”

The LS Brand: The Story of a Texas Panhandle Ranchdescribes Fred as in charge of bringing GMS cattle to LS Ranch, and as “a young man of soft speech and mild laye-fred-gravetemper, until he started drinking.” After the cattle had been delivered, Leigh and his crew had a bit of a run-in with Sheriff Cape Willingham at a saloon. Leigh drank and brooded all night at camp, and returned to Tascosa the next morning in a foul mood. Riding into town, he pulled out his gun and shot into a flock of ducks being fed in the yard of a townswoman (who promptly fainted). This was witnessed by the sheriff, who ran to the scene. On his approach, Leigh went for his gun again, and the sheriff shot him right off his horse.  Fred Leigh became the second man buried in Oldham County’s Boot Hill Cemetery.

Various records give Fred’s date of death as either 4 or 6 August 1881.

The lives of his wife and daughters

The 1890 census was destroyed, but Fred and Annie’s daughters do appear in the 1900 Lampasas census. Violet is married to George W. Fowlkes and appears with him and their two young sons. The family listed next to them is her sister Lisa Laye and her “aunt” Mary Mitchell. Another Mitchell family is also on the page, this one of Alonson Mitchell, his wife Annie E, born in 1861.

It was immediately tempting to conclude that Annie Phillips Laye married Alonson Mitchell, although she listed her birthplace as California and not Arkansas. I spent plenty of time trying to fit this square peg in a round hole, but suffice to say this Annie was not “our” Annie.  The Mitchell’s crop up again as relatives in the 1920 census. By this time, Lisa had married Melvin Valentine; from 1917-1920 he served in the Navy. In 1920, Lisa and her children were living in New Mexico with a Bob Mitchell. Bob died in 1925 in Eden, TX, the same town Lisa lived in after moving back to Texas.

Alonson and Bob Mitchell are two of eight brothers, and this family has it’s own notoriety. Bob and brother William “Frank” Mitchell were involved in the famous Horrell-Higgins feud. Frank’s daughter Viola married John James Standard, brother of Jesse Lafayette Standard, who by some accounts was also involved in the Horrell-Higgens feud.

This connection is important, because while Annie Phillips Laye did not marry a Mitchell, she did marry Jesse Lafayette Standard around 1885. This made the Mitchells relatives of Violet and Lisa Laye by marriage.

Final fates

Jesse Lafayette Standard and Annie Phillips Laye had four children of their own and ended up in Tuscola, Taylor Co., Texas.  She passed away in 1919, but is buried with Jesse even though he remarried after her death.

Violet Laye and her husband George Fowlkes had two sons and lived in Brownwood, Brown Co., Texas until George’s death in 1948. Violet and one of her sons moved to Nebraska. There, she married a man named Price. She died in 1958 in Mitchell, Nebraska; she was buried in Brownwood.

Lisa Laye (who usually went by “Lizzie”) and her husband Melvin Valentine had two daughters and a son. Lisa died in 1962. Tragically, just three days after her death, Melvin committed suicide in the front yard of their home.

Probate postscript

In 1933, notices appeared in UK papers requesting information on whether or not Emily and Fred’s sister Maria J.L. Hamilton (who died in 1878 in Scotland) had children, and whether Fred had survivors or children, in relation to the (by then 50+ year old) will of their father Francis Fenwick Laye. The notice was pursuant to a case brought by Marmaduke Francis Ramsay and William John Knox. They were the nephew and nephew-in-law of Elizabeth Patricia Ramsay-Laye, the last wife of Francis Fenwick Laye. She died in 1932.

Fred Laye’s daughters did end up receiving a small inheritance, though Fred died intestate. This notice appeared in the British probate records in 1933:

When I received a copy of the probate papers, it provided me with the date of death of Fred’s widow “Emily Ann Laye” — which helped me confirm her identity and the details of her life after Fred’s death.

*Some accounts indicate that the Leigh involved in the duck incident was moving cattle for the LX Ranch.