Finding Frank, Part 1

No, I sincerely doubt if that’s him.

Frank is first mentioned on this blog by Foster in “Why You Probably Shouldn’t Try to Eat a Broom”.

I guess you know I haven’t given up on finding Frank. I won’t go so far as to say it’s become an obsession with me, but I’ve spent hours trying to solve this dilemma. John Alfred Johnson (also known as Alfred) was my great uncle, who was born in 1886 and died in 1957. According to Michigan records, he married his wife, Margaret (also known as Madge), in September of 1919. In the 1920 census, J Alfred and Margaret are seen living at 391 S. Paddock Street in Pontiac, Michigan with a 7 year old son named Frank. I have yet to find birth records for him, but depending on the month, I’m guessing he was born in 1913, or possibly late 1912.

As has been the case for several relatives I’ve researched, the house listed for them in the census isn’t there anymore.

391 S. Paddock Street as of 2019

Fortunately, I noticed that on this particular location in Google maps, there were two previous images available. The image for 2013 shows an auction sign on the property. The view for 2009 shows the house was there, at least up to that time, so it had to have been torn down between then and 2013.

You’ll notice that someone else lived at the same address. When I first found this record, I didn’t think anything of it, assuming it was a boarding house of some sort. I hadn’t paid any attention to the Justus family. But today I searched “Charles E Justus” and learned a little bit about him. I hadn’t noticed before, but for Charles, you can see there is a “1” by where it says “Head”, and for J Alfred there is a number “2”, indicating that there were two separate families there. You’ll notice by the letters “O” and “R” that Charles was the home owner, and J Alfred was the renter.

For a moment I thought, was Frank actually Charles and Laura’s child and the census taker got confused? But since the Justus family already had a 23 year old son, it’s doubtful they had a seven year old also. And the 1930 census shows Charles and Laura, a retired couple with no children. It’s unlikely that 17 year old Frank would already be living on his own, no matter whose son he was. (Even if that were the case, he should have showed up on the census at some other address, possibly as a boarder.)

1930 found Alfred and Margaret living in Big Rapids, Michigan in the Nisbett Block (misspelled by the census taker as “Nesbitt”) along with Madge’s 84 year old mother and several other roomers. But sadly, no Frank.

The Nisbett block is now an housing complex called the Nisbett Fairman Residences. You can see more photos by clicking the link.

So what happened to Frank?

I won’t lie and say I don’t have lots of ideas. So far I haven’t been able to confirm any of them. I have searched through death certificates on Ancestry.com for both Ludington and Pontiac, between 1920 and 1929, in case Frank passed away as a child, but no results. Most of the children who would have been his age at the time seem to have died from diphtheria, typhoid, or pneumonia, or an occasional accident, such as drowning or being hit by a car. But none of them were Frank. Most of the people actually named Frank were elderly, or at least adults. Nothing in “Ludington Daily News” or in FindAGrave.com either. But I am not ready to give up.

The other day I found a website I’d never seen before, called Michiganology.org. Not to be mean, but I found the site rather “clunky”, and not super easy to navigate and search.

Don’t know what I did wrong here, but maybe I’ll have figured it out for “Part 2”.

9 thoughts on “Finding Frank, Part 1

  1. This is fascinating, Debra! I wonder why whoever bought it pulled down the house, then never built on the site? Some ghastly, ghostly secret? (Sorry, my imagination gets carried away). Keep up the search, I’m really interested to know where your investigation takes you next. 🙂

  2. I found my father’s death certificate on a website called Family Search (dot) org. Have you tried there? I was able to search for free, and I was surprised that I found anything at all, because the death was a long time ago, and the place not the best government-wise.

    Comments with links sometimes go to spam, that’s why I did the (dot) 🙂 But yeah, good luck if you try there!

    1. Thanks for the heads up, about the dot thing. I wouldn’t have known that. I have been on Family Search before, but I always forget about them. Will have to go back and check them👍😀

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