Real Name: Unknown
Case: Lost Family
Location: Dearborn, Michigan
Details: Over several years, Frances "Pat" Mealbach has begun to suspect that she is actually the daughter of John Frances Dodge, the founder of the Dodge Automobile Industry, and the twin sister of Frances Matilda Dodge. Her suspicions began when she found a photo of herself as an infant with another similarly dressed infant; it was one of the very few photos of her as a baby. After her father Robert Manzer passed away, she learned that she was adopted. She also received a package that had been pre-arranged to be left with her. In it was all the clues and evidence of her paternity. Although she had been born in 1914, she had a birth certificate dated 1942 when it was filed. It also gave her name as Frances while her given name was Lucille.
Pat and her family became more suspicious when they saw photographs of John Dodge and his relatives. Pat believed that she closely resembled John and his daughter Frances. They felt that Pat's children closely resembled some of Dodge's children and grandchildren. Pat also had memories that only exacerbated the mystery. As a young child, she was taken by an unknown woman to an elegant mansion. She recalled one room with colorful walls. She did not know the reason for the visit or the owners of the mansion. Her description of the mansion matched that of the mansion Dodge lived in at the time. She also recalled that her parents had been visited often by a couple named Frank and Viola Upton; Frank turned out to be John Dodge's personal secretary, and quite possibly the man who had engineered the adoption.
Pat also discovered that her parents became quite wealthy after they adopted her. The loan for their house was paid off in cash. Her mother began wearing expensive jewelry and clothes. Her father began driving one of the first of many brand-new Dodge cars.
Working with her in-laws, Pat began searching for her adoption records and birth certificate. One record stated that she was born in Jackson, while another stated that she was born in Detroit. On the adoption records, her biological mother was named as Emma Nelson, who had been a maid in the Dodge Home on Boston Boulevard in Detroit. Now using her maiden name, Frances Mannzer, she sent away for her birth certificate from the State of Michigan Birth Records Division.
When it showed up, it listed her name as Frances Dodge. It also stated that she was born four days before Frances Matilda Dodge and was the first of a set of twins. The certificate was in very bad condition after efforts to alter it. Her father's name and birthdate had been erased and altered. The name Emma Jane Nelson from Jackson, Michigan was named as her mother with the name of the hospital where she had been born, but that hospital had no records of her birth despite otherwise meticulous records.
In a eight-year long court battle filled with deceit against twenty Dodge family attorneys, Pat tried to confirm what she already suspected. Her court battle did little but change the laws on obtaining adoption records in Michigan. Pat agreed to a DNA testing against her attorney's advice. The test was conducted at the Universiy of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These results were never disclosed or used in court against her. Pat has never been able to see the results, hearing instead the file was misplaced, but this only led her to believe they were in her favor and the Dodge lawyers had stifled the results.
Men who knew John Dodge even recalled him saying he had Siamese twins at the same time Pat was born. He also allegedly said that he kept one and gave the other away. A woman whose father-in-law was a friend of John's claimed that she was told that he did indeed have Siamese twins and that they had been separated. Interestingly, Pat had unusual scars on her head and neck that might have been the result of a "Siamese twin separation." A doctor examined the scars, but claimed they were too old to determine what caused them.
Furthermore, Pat learned she had briefly lived in a Tuberculosis hospital in Niles, Michigan which had also been John Dodge's home town. Frank Upton had arranged for her adoption into the Manzers. The evidence and the proof that Pat was John Dodge's long lost daughter was all there; all that was missing is the confirmation but for the annoyed hindrance and strained deceit of the Dodge Family lawyers.
Extra Notes: This segment was featured as part of the January 20, 1987 episode. Pat was also interviewed for the "Third Anniversary Special".
This story was researched in the book, "Tangled Web" by Jean Pitrone.
Results: Unresolved. Sadly, Pat Mealbach passed away in 2008 without ever learning the truth. Her daughter Sharon continued her mother's search. In December of 2017, Sharon received an Ancestry DNA kit for a Christmas present. In 2018, she revealed that the DNA tests indicated that she and her mother were, in fact, related to the Dodge family. The testing showed that they were related to John Dodge's mother and his first wife, Ivy. Since Ivy passed away several years before Pat was born, this would suggest that Pat was the child of one of John and Ivy's children. However, the identity of her birth parents has never been conclusively determined.
- Tangle of heirs to the Dodge fortune develops a new knot
- Dearborn woman loses suit claiming she was Dodge heir
- Judge Rejects a Claim To Part of Dodge Estate
- Court rejects woman's heir bid
- Woman claims to be Dodge heir
- Pat Mealbach Interview
- "I Am a Dodge" a Candid Interview With Frances Mealbach