Francis George – aka “Uncle Frank”
The youngest of Custode’s children was born after her husband deserted her – probably in the last few months of 1912. We know this because in her testimony in July 1912 she says that she and Adriano had eight children. She doesn’t name them but we know that these eight children were: Fred (1899), Gene (1901), Joe (1903), Philomena (1905), Lena (1906), Hubert (1908), Lucy (1909) and Victor (1911). Even though everyone remembers Uncle Nick as the oldest, he was born in Italy to Adriano and his first wife Marianne Frattura, and came to Pennsylvania in 1904.
Francis first appears in the Census for 1920 and he is 7 years old. The instructions for the census ask for the age of everyone as of January 1, 1920, which means that Francis turned 7 in 1919. His age is 17 in the 1930 census so it seems reasonable to assume he was born in 1912, even though I haven’t found any record of his birth or death.
We may not know for sure who Francis’ father was, but we know that Custode was his mother. She identifies him as her son in her will and he is listed in her obituary as a surviving son.
Newspaper articles can provide a lot of information in very few words. Mostly they offer a timeline. This is from the Connellsville Daily Courier on May 29, 1930.
In these few lines we learn not only about Francis but also his older brother Fred. Some people remember Francis as being very smart. That certainly fits if he was able to “manage” George’s Pharmacy when he was only 17. I suspect the reference to Middleton should have been Midland.
By 1935, Francis was living in East Liverpool, Ohio with his wife, whose name was Lois or Louise (writing is unclear.) By the 1940 Census, “Frank M.” and wife were living in Pittsburgh with a two year old son named Gerald G. The 1940 Census indicates where each person lived in 1935, which is how we know that they lived in East Liverpool, Ohio.
Once I knew to look in Ohio, I was able to search the Ohio Birth Records. Although birth records only show up in indexed form I found what I think is the record of Gerald’s birth. Gerald might still be alive and it would be great to hear from him or anyone who knows about him.
We learn a little more about Frank’s whereabouts from articles in the Connellsville Daily Courier. The papers back then loved to keep everyone up to date with their neighbors’ comings and goings, including when someone visited and where they were from. This is how we know that Frank, his wife and their son Gerald were visiting Custode in June 1940.
It is amazing what four little lines of newspaper text can reveal. This was published in the Connellsville Daily Courier on June 6, 1940. Before I found it, I had not been able to find Frank or Francis George in census reports. I knew he wasn’t in Dunbar but I had no idea where he was, or that he was married. Once I found this article, I narrowed the search of the 1940 Census to Pittsburgh, PA and that was how I found him.
From this article alone, we know that as of June 6, 1940:
- Frank had a wife.
- They had a son named Gerald.
- They lived in Pittsburgh.
- They were still visiting his mother.
From this we can also “assume” that if they had another child, he or she was born after June 1940. Pennsylvania birth records aren’t as easy to search as the indexed Ohio version so I haven’t found any subsequent children but most people remember that Uncle Frank had a daughter and a son. Where did they go?
The only additional place that we can link Frank to at a particular time is Hollywood, California, which is where he was living when his mother died in December 1967.
From various accounts that family members have shared, it seems that Frank may have had mental health issues or a personality disorder. He has been described as very smart, but somewhat unstable. Some family members recall hearing that he was working in the movie business in California and may have had a nervous breakdown and been institutionalized in California for some period of time.
Sometime in the year after Custode died, her surviving children (Joe, Philomena and Lena) filed an affidavit stating that they did not know the whereabouts of Francis George. In this same action, they agreed to have William Galand serve as the executor of her estate, since Gene George, whom she had named as her executor, had died the year before she did.
What became of Frank (or his wife and children) is a mystery. It seems unlikely he is still alive but does anyone remember hearing about his death or going to his funeral? And what about his wife and children? Gerald would have turned 78 this year. If he had a sister she would be even younger. If anyone has information to share, it would be great to know more about Uncle Frank.