Missing Mom - Elizabeth (Peterson) Cuny, born abt 1898 Connecticut, lived in Detroit, Michigan

+2 votes

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?

WikiTree profile: Elizabeth Feitner
in Genealogy Help by Emily Yaden G2G6 Mach 1 (10.9k points)

research aid

New York, New York, Index to Death Certificates, 1862-1948

Name: Ernest C Cuny
Gender: Male
Race: White
Marital Status: Single
Age: 2
Birth Date: 1924
Birth Place: USA
Residence Street Address: 248 So 4th St
Years in US: Life
Death Date: 8 May 1926
Hospital: Kingston Ave Hospital
Death Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
Burial Date: 11 May 1926
Burial Place: Linden Hill Cemetery
Occupation: Minor
Father's Birth Place: USA
Mother's Birth Place: USA
Father: Ernest A Cuny
Mother: Elizabeth Cuny
Executor: Ernest A Cuny
Executor Relationship: Father
Certificate Number: 11451
Household Members:
Name Age
Ernest C Cuny
Elizabeth Cuny
Ernest A Cuny

Source Citation: New York City Department of Records & Information Services; New York City, New York; New York City Death Certificates; Borough

a possibility

maybe Union City or Hudson County registrars might tell you if this was a female

U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014

Name: E. Cuny
Social Security Number: 063-10-7203
Birth Date: 23 Jan 1897
Issue year: Before 1951
Issue State: New York
Last Residence: Union City, 07087, Hudson, New Jersey, USA
Death Date: Jun 1976
Household Members:
Name Age
E. Cuny 54
Source Citation: Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File
maybe when the libraries open up again, you can call the Union City library and ask it to check the city directories and phone books for the 1970s, maybe it might have voter registration lists

Familysearch.org (FS) has the following information available which I hope may be of use


Note; Comment only – does Not answer your Question


Elizabeth Peterson FS ID L148-TJJ born about 1898 Connecticut, United States – died?


Spouse: Ernest August Cuny LT62-LRK born 30 December 1892 Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, United States – died 4 January 1966 Ruskin, Hillsborough, Florida, United States – burial 1966 Ruskin, Hillsborough, Florida, United States. Ernest & Elizabeth were married 12 August 1916 & were the parents of Arthur Ernest Cuny G7FF-ZVD 1917-2006; Eugene Louis Cuny LYYV-X6L 1918 – 1990; Victor Edwin Cuny G7FX-2L1 1920 – 2003; Ernest August Cuny Jr G7FF-7PQ 1924 - 1926

I suggest you go to Familysearch.org to check ALL the information that is available 


NOTE: I am passing this on for your information – I can only be guided by what is on that site, correct or not. Sources may/may not be available


Cheers Ross Geissmann


So I'm still not sure if the SSDI's E. Cuny is the same person, but it got me looking in New Jersey to see if I could find anything else on the record, and I found a New Jersey marriage record for an Elizabeth Cuny and Alfred H Feitner in 1944. The record is recorded a second time as Elizabeth Peterson and Alfred H Feitner!!! It still needs research, but it's progress! Thank you!

    Name: Alfred Feitner
    Death Date: Apr 1956
    Death Place: Montclair, Essex, New Jersey, USA

    Source Citation

    Year Range: 1956; Surname Range: A-F; Title: New Jersey, Death Indexes, 1904-2000

    Source Information

    I think that Alfred Feitner was married to someone else, but there was another one who was born in Newark and died in Clearwater, Florida that looks like a candidate! Thank you so much!
    I would like to know what happened as well, Elizabeth is my great grandmother and my mother really knows nothing of her other than she took off and abandoned the children and her husband. My grandfather Victor gave us some info as far as he knew but it doesn't seem to line up with what information can be found online.

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