I'm trying to help my friend find out what happened his great-grandmother, Elizabeth Peterson Cuny. She abandoned the family in 1925, and no one who's alive now knows what happened to her.
Here is what we know: she married Ernest A. Cuny on 12 Aug 1916 in New Haven, CT and she lived with him in Detroit in 1920 with two sons and her younger sister Helen Peterson. Both of her parents were born in Sweden. In 1925, she and her neighbor, Marie Wyss, "took French leave," (i.e., left abruptly), as the gossip column in the Detroit Free Press put it. The next record is when Ernest divorced Elizabeth in 1940.
Here is what we speculate about Elizabeth's past based on the information above and other research: We think Elizabeth in 1900 lived with her parents Charles and Olive Peterson (both born in Sweden), and older siblings in New Haven, Connecticut. Based on her mother's birth year and the estimated marriage year of 1895, the oldest three siblings probably have a different mother who (presumably) died around 1890-95. We think Elizabeth's mother, father, or both died or were otherwise unable to support the children sometime after Helen's birth in circa 1905 because in 1910, the family seems to have split up. Elizabeth is a servant in a household in New Haven. Older sister Mary boards in another household in New Haven and works as a clerk. Younger sister Helen, and possible sister Alina, live at the New Haven Orphan Asylum. I haven't been able to trace any other the other siblings beyond this (although I think Mary is likely the same one who married Jacob Kick in 1917 - I've been able to trace her, but it didn't yield any additional information about Elizabeth).
After Elizabeth left her family, I have found one clue that she might have gone to New York. The Detroit Free Press article linked above mentions the youngest Cuny son, Ernest Jr., who is a year old in 1925. I found a death record for Ernest Cuny, age 2, who died on 8 May 1926 in Brooklyn and was the son of Ernest Cuny and Elizabeth Peterson. Unfortunately, the scanned document can only be viewed from a family history center, which are all closed near me for at least several more weeks. The Ernest Jr. from the article does not appear on the 1930 census with his father or siblings, and when I asked my friend about it, he said he had actually forgotten that there was a fourth sibling in the article because he only remembered the oldest three. It doesn't seem like Ernest Jr. lived past childhood.
That's as far as I've been able to find for Elizabeth. The neighbor she left with, Marie Wyss, divorced her husband in 1928, married another man a few weeks later, divorced him in 1935, and then reunited with her first husband before 1940, so that wasn't much help (although interesting to follow).
There were two mentions of an Elizabeth Cuny in a newspaper in Ludington, Michigan naming her as a guest staying with Agnes and Alice Peterson, all of Chicago, in Ludington, but I couldn't find anything more substantial than that. Supposedly, the children at some point in their lives received postcards from their mother that came from Florida. A couple trees on Ancestry have her as Elizabeth B Peterson, b. 6 Jun 1890, d. 16 Mar 1975 in Pinellas, FL, but the birth year is so far off and I can't find anything compelling to link the two.
Does anyone have any tips or ideas (or critiques on our speculation) of where to go from here?