The woes of seeking a surname like Lee on the west coast: there are so many false leads. But it looks like there is still so much more to find on this one descending branch of Johanna Flanagan Lee’s family.
Not only did Johanna’s son John, upon his death in 1933, leave a family with children as young as five years of age, but John's eldest son—by then nearing nineteen—must have felt a call to serve in the military.
We’ve already seen that John’s wife, Lucy, had moved to California sometime in the 1930s, but her choice to do so reveals no apparent reason. From Illinois to California, especially as a widow with young children, could have been a pricey decision—unusual, considering the hard times the nation was experiencing during that decade. What made her make a move like that?
The answer may lie in the choices made by her oldest son, William. Of course, between the date of his father’s death and the next census, we have no documentation of what the family did. By the 1940 census, William was out of the family home—which, by now, was in Alameda County, California.
Thanks to information provided at William’s grave site, linked to Johanna Lee’s Find A Grave memorial by a volunteer there, we could already see that he served in the Army during World War II. Finding further record of his service, the date of his enlistment was given as October 7, 1941—although I wonder if this San Francisco entry in the 1940 census might have been William’s, showing his occupation as “soldier” at Letterman Hospital, a military post, even then.
Sometime in that dash between his 1914 birth in Chicago and his December 22, 1961, passing, William met and married someone by the name of Geraldine West. Whether they ever had a family of their own, I won’t know until I locate an obituary for either of them—something, despite my proximity to the Bay Area, I’ve not been able to do so far.
Just as William had done in his early adult life, his younger brother Edward followed suit, enlisting in the military on April 26, 1946. Though I’ve been able to verify his date of death—thanks, again, to a lead from that nameless Find A Grave volunteer—I’ve not been able to find much more on this other Chicago-born son of John Lee who found himself coming of age in California. Once again, the pursuit of an obituary will be key to finding any further descendants—and even to determine what became of their other brother, Robert, for whom I can find absolutely nothing other than his mention in the 1940 census.
There is something hauntingly compelling about knowing that the descendants of these far-removed ancestors moved as close to my family as Alameda County. To think that, every time my husband drives to the Bay Area for a business meeting, he may be crossing the path of a distant cousin urges me to pursue this further.