A Whole Mess of Franks

Sometimes a mystery stays a mystery.

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Frank Brovet(s), part 1


I should preface by explaining something about me. I grew up in a small family, with a limited amount of relatives. There were maybe a dozen Brovets in the whole country, and I spent my first few decades confident that I knew all of them.

Ah, the assurance of youth.

I think that’s part of why the Frank story frustrates me so. I had this misconception, and I was able to hold onto it well into my 30s. My brain still gets stuck on the point of: I know all of them, so there can’t be more. This Frank situation has been like hearing, “That’s what YOU think,” from the Universe, over and over.

In my previous post on Frank Brovet, I ended by saying that there were at least three men with that name in Illinois between 1900 and 1930. I know there are at least three because of their death dates.

Feb. 2, 1914: The man we discussed, Hotel Frank, dies in a Chicago hotel room.

May 12, 1918: Another Frank Brovet, who we have not talked about yet, dies in Ottawa, IL.

June 14, 1938: A third Frank Brovet, my great-grandfather’s brother, dies in Gary, IN. We haven’t discussed him yet, either. In my head he’s called “Actual Frank.” I did know about Actual Frank when I found the very first hotel/gas article, and thought it might be about him. It’s not.

So who are these other Franks?

Ottawa Frank

You’re going to love this one.

I discovered Ottawa Frank purely by accident, while searching the Illinois Death Certificates database for people with my Brovet surname.

Screenshot of Brovet Deaths from State Database
Screenshot of Brovet Deaths from State Database, 1916-1950

Emanuel is my great-grandfather’s brother, Emil. Vincent, I’m still unsure about. And…another Frank? My response was probably: “Well who the hell is thaaaat?” Because I already had one dead Frank Brovet, and it didn’t happen in 1918.

Except it did. And you’ll never guess how he died.

Find Body of Austrian Laborer in Gas-Filled Room
Ottawa Free Trader-Journal, May 13, 1918.

In some sort of cosmic genealogy prank, four years after Hotel Frank Brovet died of a hotel room gas leak, Ottawa Frank Brovet did, too.

Surely, this is too weird to be true. Same name, same death, four years apart? I’ve even wondered if this could be an identity-theft situation. Documents were easier to forge back then. But, no, they genuinely are different people.

You can read the full newspaper account here, where it says he came to Illinois via Texas. “Federal Plate” was the glass company where he worked. It’s actually a sweet article, and it sounds like he made a good impression on people. Nice job, Ottawa Frank! (Too bad about that whole gas leak.)

 

Actual Frank

OK, this guy I know FOR SURE is related! He’s in our photos!

Brothers and sisters in the 1930s, at the funeral for Fannie's son.
Brothers and sisters in the 1930s, at the funeral for Fannie’s son, Voyslav.

My great-grandfather Zvonimir was born in Croatia (then part of Austria-Hungary), one of five kids. The three boys were taken out of school at about age 12 and apprenticed to learn trades — Zvonimir to a barber, one to a baker, and one to an accountant. At different times, all five immigrated to the U.S., connected on the far south side of Chicago, and eventually spread out across the country.

Emil is the “E. Brovet” on Hotel Frank’s death certificate. Clearly, Hotel Frank can’t be the same as Actual Frank, who is here and alive in the 1930s.

Other information distinguishes Actual Frank. He had a wife (Anna) and a daughter (Evelyn), and I have multiple documents to reinforce that. He worked in various labor and railroad jobs, and oh yes, he died in 1938. Not 1914, not 1918 — 1938. And it was a stroke this time, not a gas leak.

Three deaths, three different Franks, all living within 100 miles of each other.

But Wait There’s More

Surely, that’s all the Frank Brovets, right? Oh ho ho no.

I found so many Frank Brovet references, I had to make a spreadsheet to keep them all straight. It actually helped, because I could sort out birthdates/ages and figure out who was who… sort of.

frank table
Throws up hands, runs away screaming

It’s a lot of Franks. And sometimes a Frank isn’t even a Frank. Sometimes he’s a Francis, or a Franjo. Or a Franz. And as you can see at the bottom of the table, one of those Franjos or Franks could actually be an Alex.

Even while I was putting together the documents for this post, I found a newspaper reference to a “Harry F. Brovet.” F. I wonder what THAT could stand for.

As I said: It is my greatest genealogical headache, and I will probably never resolve it.

MY branch of Brovets didn’t start arriving until about 1900, and they were all from Eastern Europe. But I can’t even tell myself that the New Jersey Frank at the top of the table isn’t “ours.”

The mere presence of an American Frank Brovet means there were/are other, non-Croatian Brovets in the world…

But I know all of them, so there can’t be more, right?  ☗


Sources

Hotel Frank: Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988

Censuses: 1910, 1920, 1930 US Federal Censuses

Ottawa Frank: Ancestry.com. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947

Ottawa Free Trader-Journal, May 13, 1918. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92053240/1918-05-13/ed-1/seq-1/

Table:

  • 1860 US Census.
  • 1905: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists. Year: 1905; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 0642; Line: 27; Page Number: 59
  • 1906: Staatsarchiv Hamburg. Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934
  • Canada: The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-1954; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: M1464; Roll Number: 171
  • 1914: New York, Passenger and Crew Lists. Year: 1914; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2247; Line: 25; Page Number: 46
  • WWI Draft Cards (Alex F Brovet): Registration State: Maryland; Registration County: Baltimore (Independent City); Roll: 1665877; Draft Board: 11. (Frank Brovet): Registration State: Indiana; Registration County: La Porte; Roll: 1653558; Draft Board: 1

Author: Ms. Snoop

ABOUT I was lucky to be born into a family of genealogists, and to be gifted a family tree already bristling with names. Along the way, other names have somehow found me. My job is to listen to their stories.

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