First, I’m starting to think there never was a Frank.
Second, I’m getting irritated at the census taker who either: A) Wrote the name “Frank” on the 1920 census when he never existed, or B) Wrote the name of a kid named Frank who did exist but wasn’t John Alfred and Madge’s son.
In the Pontiac, Michigan directory for 1920, you can see the Johnsons were boarders at 391 S. Paddock.
The Justus family, who owned the house, is listed in the same directory. Their son, Garner, who was 23 that year, appears at the top of the next page. He lived at the same address and was listed as a metalworker. All three were at 391 S. Paddock in the 1923 directory, although the Johnsons were not even in Pontiac anymore.
You’ve seen these photos of 391 S. Paddock if you’ve read “Finding Frank, Part 1”. I’ve already explored the possibility of seven-year-old Frank being part of the Justus family. I even looked at other families on the pages before and after them to see if someone’s son could have made it to the Johnson family by mistake. There were only a few seven-year-olds in the vicinity, and none were named Frank.
There is always the possibility that Frank passed away as a child. Michigan is really good when it comes to online access to death records. I pored through what felt like every death certificate in Michigan, starting with 1920 and ending with 1930. (It was really only Pontiac and Ludington.) I looked carefully for anyone born around 1913. I found this one, for a Frank Baker, who died in 1920. You’ll notice that his cause of death was listed in part as “La Grippe”. But he was only five, and Frank Johnson was supposed to have been seven.
Frank Baker’s house would be a six-minute drive from 391 S. Paddock today. I didn’t check how long it would take to walk. However, he did live on Johnson Street, and his house number was 391, so I suppose that’s something.
When I found this one, I thought, that had SO better not be him! But you never know. This is how people disappear in history, I guess.
I haven’t given up periodically checking Ancestry and FindAGrave.com, just in case someone adds something to their family tree or posts a photo of a random gravestone that turns out to belong to the elusive Frank Johnson. I found this one and was amazed to see that this Frank died on the exact day and year I was born. But I doubt “our” Frank would have ended up in Elko, Nevada. And if he had lived to be 44, there would doubtless be other clues about his life floating around in the Johnson family memorabilia.
In a time when it seemed that everything anyone did was reported in the “Society” section of the papers, there was a significant amount written about the Johnsons. There was an article about John Alfred when he returned from France in 1919 due to foot injuries, and one about his marriage to Madge several months later at her sister’s home in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
As an added bonus, I was able to find out where Madge’s sister lived in 1920. Here are two different views of the house, where I’m assuming the 1919 wedding took place.
You’ll notice here that Alfred and Madge lived in Grand Rapids in 1930. You’ll also notice it doesn’t say they were accompanied by their son Frank to the John Judge farm. I know this is the right Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Johnson because John Judge was Madge’s brother. But then, Frank would have been 17 by that time and could conceivably have had other things to do.
And so, the search continues. Since I wasn’t able to shed much light on the fate of Frank Johnson, I’ll leave you with this brainstorming scenario from my notebook. Maybe Frank was just a visitor that day, and the census taker assumed he was Madge and Alfred’s son. If so, to the people trying to find him for their own family tree, “I feel your pain!”