I was born and raised a Lee. Growing up in Cottage Grove, Ore., we knew quite a bit about my mother's side of the family. My mother wrote to her siblings all the time, so we would get updates about our aunts, uncles and cousins. My mother also wrote to my "grandma in New York," but for some reason we never seemed to know much other than we had a grandmother in New York.
Being children I guess we just never thought to ask about my father's side of the family, or if we had, we were easily satisfied with vague answers. It never seemed odd or out of the ordinary to us. All of that changed when my father passed in 1989. Since my mother and father had divorced long ago, it was up to my brothers and I to settle his affairs. He was living in Anchorage, Ala. when he passed, and the four of us made our way there as soon as we could.
While going through his papers, we were all shocked to find a court document authorizing a legal name change from Cecil Dale Bradley to John Earl Lee. Apparently our father was born Cecil Dale Bradley in 1923, yet by the time he had met and married our mother he was known as "John Earl Lee." He had withheld this information from his wife and children.
Over the years I've wondered who the Bradleys are and whether or not they know of us or of the circumstances that led up to my father's change of identity. Sometimes I convince myself they must know, but then I realize that any cousins I have were also young and were probably just as naive as we were.
Recently I tried to use the Ancestry website to see if I could tie my father to his family and locate Bradley relatives. I was able to locate Cecil Dale Bradley in the 1930 and 1940 censuses. In 1930 he was living with his entire family in Jamestown. Along with his mother and father, he had three older siblings and one younger sibling, and they all lived together. In 1940 I could only find record that he and his mother were living with relatives- the Lewis family from either Busti or Bemus Point. Unfortunately privacy laws prevent the release of a newer census, and I've been unable to even find where the rest of the Bradley family was living in 1940.
I'm afraid that most likely all of my Bradley aunts and uncles may have passed by this time. His youngest sibling, F. Guy Bradley, would be 87 this year. However, I'm asking for anyone who may still live in the area and is a relative - or who knows how I could contact a relative - to please contact The Post-Journal at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them forward your information to me.
Keith Lee resides in Oklahoma City, Okla., where he has lived since 1980.