[Sidelight] The Smith-Dowling Family

Ireland, New York City--and Hollywood

Constance’s mother, Mabel, was one of three sisters. Their maternal grandparents, the Kerins, had immigrated from Ireland to New York City, where their daughter Frances married Eugene Dowling.

According to a note sent by Grace A. Tibbetts to the Irish America website, Mabel’s two sisters were dancers in the Ziegfeld company, and her brother served in World War I. Tibbetts, whose grandfather was one of Mabel’s sons, says she knows little about the family history because Mabel “married beneath her” and was disowned.

However, she published several old family photos on Facebook, along with notes that characterize Smith as something of a rapscallion—even a criminal—but I can’t confirm that independently, so you will have to make your own judgment.

But we do know for a fact that Mabel Dowling married Harry Smith, and on July 24, 1920, gave birth to twins: Constance and Robert.

Doris followed, and Richard was the youngest. Robert and Richard retained the last name Smith, while the Constance and Doris adopted their mother’s maiden name when they decided to pursue careers in show business, presumably since Smith is so common.

Although the other three siblings were born in New York City, Doris was born in Detroit, Michigan. According to the 1930 Census data (as cited on a Geneanet family tree maintained by distant relative Tim Dowling), Mabel and her children lived in the Borough of Queens in 1930.

After Constance and Doris had established themselves in California, Mabel moved out to join them. She died in Los Angeles in 1996. Robert lived until 2003, but Richard probably died sometime before 1969. No record (that I could find) of what happened to Harry Smith.