Sunday, May 4, 2014

A California Connection

Waltzing my way through the historic newspaper archives in search of descendants of John and Johanna Flanagan Lee, I moved from the marriage announcement of one of their grandsons—George Robert Blakely, son of Lillie Lee Blakely—to another branch of the family.

This time, I focused on Lillie’s older brother John. Before zooming off to look online for any newspaper mentions of someone with as common a name as John Lee, I decided to first plant my feet on research terra firma by locating documents giving me an idea of what the John Lee family might be up to in the years after Johanna’s death in 1909.

While I couldn’t find any record confirming the date of the younger John’s marriage, I did find birth records for each of John’s two daughters. Once seeing that, I could understand completely why I might not have found that marriage record: John’s wife Lucy came with a maiden name ripe for misspelling. I’ve seen it listed as Dietzsch for their eldest daughter, Bertha Florence, born November 7, 1912. I’ve seen it recorded nearly the same—just with an added “s” for good measure—in the October 13, 1921, record of Dorothy Lillie, their second daughter. I’ve also seen it transcribed as Diltzch—understandable, as that “l” could really be an “e” in disguise—from the Cook County Birth Registers. And in the sad recording of that younger daughter’s passing in 1924, her mother was listed as Lucy Deitzich.

That ought to be enough qualification for uncertainty.

With that experience freshly in mind, I proceeded cautiously toward the census records. I peeked tentatively at the 1920 record, where I expected to first see the fledgling family. Surprise! Somehow, Lucy, as young mother, had eluded the vital statistics police, for a son had joined the family unit—William, apparently making his arrival on October 26, 1914.

The 1930 census also came with a surprise—another two young bundles, named Robert and Edward, had snuck past governmental authorities to take up residence, undocumented, in the Lee household.

Not much past that date, I discovered a road block to research progress: John himself passed away on September 15, 1933. Locating Lucy Lee in the 1940 census was going to be a challenge! Not finding any suitable record, I switched my approach to search for any of the children in that census.

I was doubtful about what I found: an entry showing a Robert Lee and an Edward Lee in a household in California. Granted, both boys’ ages seemed to match, as well as their state of birth. But really: do you know how many Robert Lees there are out there? Having a brother named Edward could just be a coincidence. Granted, their mother’s name was listed as Lucy, but there was a catch: her surname was different.

I set that one aside. This was not the first time I had received bum leads from, the search engine I was using at the time.

Not to be deterred by this mistaken lead, I headed over to the historic newspaper site to frolic in the fields of ripe possibilities there. I was quite pleased to find what looked like a marriage announcement for John and Lucy’s eldest daughter. Published in the Southeast Economist on Thursday, November 30, 1939, in the “Southeast Social Circle” column on page 2, it was noted that
            Now well established in housekeeping at 2207 E. 75th st. are the newlywed Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Iciek. The Icieks moved directly into their new apartment after their wedding recently in the St. John of God church, deferring their honeymoon until next Summer when they will travel to California to visit the bride's mother, Mrs. Lucille Lee, formerly of 6225 Washtenaw ave. The bride is the former Florence Lee.
            At the elaborate wedding ceremony the bride wore a gown of white satin damask with a four-yard train and an eight-yard veil. The veil was suspended from a crown of rhinestones and seed pearls. She carried a bouquet of gardenias and lilies of the valley.
            The maid of honor was Alphild Benson and the matron of honor was Mrs. John Carey, sister of the groom. Both wore royal blue taffeta. The bridesmaids were Lillian Blakely and Julia Mis in light blue taffeta, Annabel Lee and Mrs. Frank Gonciarz in hyacinth blue and Eilene Benson and Adline Kasprzycki in old rose. All carried roses in matching shades. Florence Mary Joyce was the flower girl and her brother, James was the ring bearer.
            The groom was attended by George Lee as best man and the ushers were Dr. C. J. Fisher, James Lee, Ben Novak, Frank Gonciarz, Thomas Blakely and Joseph Lisowski.
            A reception was held in the home of the groom's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Iciek, 6229 Washtenaw ave.

Wait: did that say, “deferring their honeymoon until next Summer when they will travel to California to visit the bride's mother, Mrs. Lucille Lee”—and could that mean our Lucy Lee?

So…she was in California. And likely already re-married, according to Alameda County marriage records dated March 25, 1939.

With that bit of documentation encouragement, I felt prudent about revisiting that 1940 census record I had shied away from earlier. Apparently, Lucy’s marriage to Steven Kitchener pre-dated Florence’s own wedding date, though Florence’s announcement gave no indication of that big change in her family’s structure.

That census trail which led me to California helped piece together what became of at least this branch of the Lee family after the passing of Johanna’s son John. Sometimes, with those ten year gaps in between documents, families can see a lot of unrecorded changes. Sometimes, though, a little serendipity works to see those changes coincide with the written record in a more favorable way.

I always like it better when it works out that way.


  1. When the stars finally align, then just smile and say, " Yes, I AM a good person."

    1. Don't you just love it when things fall together that way?!

  2. Replies
    1. It's always encouraging to make those two steps forward...

  3. Goodly smattering of hard to spell and pronounce Polish names in that article!! Iciek... I've never heard of before.

    1. It was a new one for me, too, Iggy. I'm toying with researching those other surnames, too, just in case they turn out to be Michael's sisters or something. Anything to lead me to more current information on this couple, as I've not had much luck beyond 1940.


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