Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So Close and Yet So Far

How long has it been since I've been asking the simple question, where are the Bloomfields from? More specifically: what village where they from? Probably six years? America is a land of immigrants and William Bloomfield, my great-grandfather immigrated from somewhere in the Russian Empire. The hunt after this elusive village, is what makes genealogy fun. I share this journey with another Bloomfield cousin and together, systematically and patiently we have tried to pinpoint the shtetl.

Let's review the evidence so far:
The Bloomfields records have sent us on all over the map. I've examined the records of Moses Bloomfield, his siblings (Harris Blumenfeld and Mary Pincus) and seven sons and generated a list of towns. Check out the google map I created:

View Bloomfield Russian Towns in a larger map
  1. Malec (a town in Pruzhany district, Grodno region in current day Belarus) also known as: Malech [Rus], Malecz [Pol], Maltsh [Yid], Maleč [Bel], Maltch, Malch, Moletch- listed as Moses Bloomfield permanent residence from Harry Bloomfield's birth certificate,  and on Harris Blumenfeld naturalization papers and Mary Pincus' ship manifest as their place of birth.
  2. Pruzhany (a town and district in the providence of Grodno also in Belarus)- from Mary Pincus's naturalization papers and Minnie Bloomfield (Crane) naturalization papers which name Pruzany as her husband William's place of birth.
  3. Grodno (a town, a district and a province in what is now current day Belarus)- from William Bloomfield's WWII draft registration.
  4. Slawatczye (a town in Biała district, Siedlce and province, currently in Poland, 25 miles from the city of Brest) from Harry Bloomfield's birth certificate and WWI draft registration.
  5. Brest (a town and a district in the province of Grodno now also in Belarus)- from Harry Bloomfield's WWII draft registration.
  6. Wladimiretz, Wolyin- Determining which town this is referring to, is a bit difficult. Wladimiretz was mentioned on the ship manifest for Moses, Freida Toby and their four youngest sons. The name Vladimerz was mentioned on Barney Bloomfield's preliminary form for Petition of Naturalization. I believe this is the town of Vladimirets in the district of Lutsk and the province of Volhynia (also known as Wolyn). This town is known by many names which include: Włodzimierzec [Pol], Volodymyrets' [Ukr], Vlodimiretz [Yid], Vlodzhimyerzets, Wladimirez, Vlodzimezhets, Vladimirei and Volodymyrec'. Before WWI, it was called, like it is now, Vladimirets. Confusingly it could also be Volodymyr Volynskyy [Ukr] also known by many names such as Vladimir Volynskiy [Rus], Włodzimierz Wolynski [Pol], Ludmir [Yid], Lodomeria [Lat], Ladmir, Lodmer, Ludomir, Vladimir Volinski, Vladzimyrz, Włodzimierz, Wladimir, Wladimir Wolynsk, Wolodymyr-Wolynskyj, which was in the district of Vladimir and the same province of Volhynia. Before WWI, this town was known as Vladimir and that is why my sense is that it's not the correct town mentioned in the manifest. What do you think?
Making sense of the list of towns:
A close examination suggest that some of the named locations are one and the same.

  • Pruzhany for example was mentioned only on Mary Pincus' naturalization papers, while her ship manifest specifically mentions Malec. This suggest that Malec is the more specific location and Pruzhany is the district not the town. 
  • Grodno is mentioned only on William's draft registration  but it is also the province where Malec is located. Since on Minnie's naturalization papers, Pruzhany is William's place of birth, it seems that Pruzhany in the Grondo province is the more specific location and Grodno the town can be eliminated. William could s
  • Slawatczye was only mentioned in Harry Bloomfiled's birth record from 1892 and his WWI draft registration. The draft registration names Brest as the town and Slawatczye as the state. This seems to be backwards. Since, Brest is not mention with regards to any other family member it seems Brest the town can be eliminated from the list. Slawatczye remains on the list as Harry's place of birth. This birth record does say the family was from Malec, and only temporary residence of Slawatczye, meaning that they may have moved to Slawatczye but did not change their permanent residence. This makes Slawatczye an likely ancestral village. 
  • Finally, Vladimirets seems to be the Bloomfields last residence before coming to America. It's unlikely that the ship manifest correctly described all their places of birth since we have confirmed that Harry was indeed born in Slawatczye and not Vladimirets. It seems much more likely that the younger three siblings were born in Vladimirets. Though Vladimirets could have been where Moses and Freida Toby were born as well (and possibly where they returned to before going to the US), it seems more likely though that Moses was from Malec as he was registered as a permanent resident there and back then it was difficult to change one's permanent residence. Freida Toby's place of birth is a whole other mystery. Barney Bloomfield's naturalization papers state he was born in Vladimirets but qualify that he is not sure the name of the town. This suggests that they lived in the region of Vladimirets, but not necessarily the town of Vladimirets.
Using this train of thought we trim the list to 4 towns: Malech, Pruzhany, Slawatcyze and Vladimirets (or Volodymyr Volynskyy).

As I mentioned in: Bingo! A letter from the Genealogy Program at USCIS! Part I and Part II, Minnie Crane' (William's Bloomfield's wife) naturalization papers listed Williams place of birth as Pruzhany. This seemed a bit disappointing because it did not specify if he was born in Pruzhany the town or the district. Since then, I've been waiting for William's naturalization papers to arrive from USCIS. I'm still waiting. But, thanks to one of my readers, renowned blogger—Legal Genealogist—Judy Russel, I need not wait any longer. Judy, kindly took the a little time to research William Bloomfield. She brought to my attention, that his naturalization papers are now online at as part of the Houston naturalization papers collection. I'm not sure how long the collection has been online but it's not on the new and updated list of collections which goes back to July 2nd. I guess I need to be studying this list more often, since somehow I missed this even though I'm on ancestry pretty much everyday. Unfortunately no little leaf pointed me to these new records, but fortunately, I am part of a wonderful genealogy community and Judy Russel alerted me much faster than Ancestry. Thanks Judy!

So, finally, after all this time, I bring to you William Bloomfield's Declaration of Intent to become a United States citizen:
William Bloomfield Declaration of Intent (Click to enlarge)

So Close and Yet so Far!

Unfortunately, this records did not bring us any closer to answering the big question. William lists his place of birth as Pruzany. Thanks gramps! Did you mean you were born in the town of Pruzany? Or where you born in Malec where you father and his siblings seem to be from and which is in the district of Pruzhany? Will I ever know the answer?

One new and very important clue provided by these documents is William's arrival information including the date and the name of the ship:

William arrived from Rotterdam on the Rotterdam on the 22 Dec 1903.

I was hopeful that maybe the ship manifest—another document I've been after for years—would shed some light on the subject. The manifest was not indexed which explains why it was so difficult to track-down without the specific ship information. Yet gain, luck was not on my side. While so many ship manifest forms have a column for place of birth, William's did not.
Wolf Blumenfeld Ship Manifest (click to enlarge)
See the close up for Williams entry on line 9:

(click to enlarge) Close up of Line 9, Wolf Blumenfeld Ship Manifest: William Blumenfeld, 18 M, Merchant, able to read and write, Nationality: Russia, Race or People: Hebrew, Last residence: Kuselin, Final Destination: Fall River, Trip paid for by: brother, In possession of $5, Going to Join: brother M. Blumenfeld, 965 Pleasant Street, NY.
What it did provide was a last residence: Kuselin, a place I never heard. There is a town in today's Ukraine called Kiselin [Rus, Yid], also known as Kisielin [Pol], Kysylyn [Ukr]. In 1903 Kiselin was in the district of Vladimir, the providence of Volhynia, which was part of the Russian Empire. It is located  between Vladimirets and Volodymyr Volynskyy, but closer to Volodymyr Volynskyy (only 21 miles). I believe Kuselin may indeed be the town because it would be consistent with the fact that the family reported Wladimiretz as their last residence, since Kiselin was very near to Volodymyr Volynskyy. Wladimiretz may even be the referring to the name of the district Vladimir and the actual town may have been Kuselin. William who was only was only 16 in 1903 (according the his 1887 year of birth which he used consistently thought his life) was likely living with his family. (The fact that he reported to be 18 on the manifest is not troubling since many underage travelers lied about their age in order to be allowed to travel alone). 

The answer to the big question: what was the Bloomfield's ancestral village? Remains confusing and illusive. Maybe my question is the problem. Maybe the question is too big and not focused enough. Which ancestor does ancestral village refers to? William, my great-grandfather, or a generation above? Am I asking where they were born or where they lived? Do I mean, where would they consider themselves to be from? Where they grew up? or perhaps where their ancestors lived? 

Perhaps I assumed when I formulated this big question, that they lived in one place until they moved to America. The Bloomfields seem to have embodied the term the wandering Jew. This close review of the records answer a lot of questions smaller questions and helps outline a timeline the family's whereabouts.

The Answer for Now: 

The town of Malec, in the district of Pruzhany seems to be where Moses's generation was born. If Moses was not born there in 1854, he considered it his permanent residence, and his younger siblings were born there (1871-1873). It is possible that some of Moses's older children were also born in Malec since William (the third oldest) was born in Pruzhany in 1887. The next son, Harry was born in Slawatczye in 1892 which means that between 1887 and 1892 the family moved, since Slawatczye is not in the district of Pruzhany. By 1903 the family living the Vladimir district where Barney was born (second to youngest son). They were very likely to be living in the town of Kuselin in 1904, the date William departed for America. 

Malec continues to appear to be the closest approximation to an ancestral town. There is much more research to do, but from now, there will be only small questions such as: Where were each of the Bloomfield children born? How would you go about obtaining the answers? My plan is to obtain missing naturalization papers for Aaron, Max, Harry, Joseph, Barney and Benjamin. A trip to the National Archives in Waltham is probably where I'll start since they all lived in New England. These records promise to provide ship manifest for the older two brothers, Aaron and Max. Where would you look next? 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday's Faces From the Past: Descendants Discovered

On Friday Dec 6th, 2013 I featured Charles Coff as my Friday's face from the past. Charles Coff was not a relative of mine, but his beautiful portrait alongside a family group photo were prominently displayed in my great-grandmother's photo album. My only clues were an inscription on the back, dated 1917 which described his "deep friendship" with Minnie Crane, my great-grandmother. "Deep friendship" seemed to be a code word for their courtship, as Minnie, in her memoir describes multiple suitors during her glory days of being a young single woman in Hartford and New York City. The group photo of the Coffs, dedicated to Minnie by Charles, suggests that she knew and was probably friends with his family as well.

Through last winter's post, I was hoping to return these vintage photos to Coff descendants. It seemed very likely that the Coff family no longer owns copies of these photos or maybe they have the photo but can not identify the people in them. Since they are scanned and included in my records, I felt happy to send the originals to a family member who might want them. As part of the earlier post, I did a bit of research about the Coffs, but lost track of them and their whereabouts after 1919 and found no descendants.

Charles Coff with arms around his sister
Sophia Coff (identified by her granddaughter). The
other three man in the photo are likely
also Coff siblings. One is probably Samuel.  
Last week, to my amazement, I received a comment on the post from a Coff descendant (who goes by the online name, Doctorbak). She is the granddaughter of Sophia Coff, the woman in the photo with her brothers. Recently, Doctorbak came across a photo of her grandmother Rose (who died before she was born) with a young man, probably her husband, back in Russia. Doctorbak and her siblings realized that they never knew Rose's husband name. On a whim, she googled Rose Coff and what she found was a link to my blog and a history of her family's early years in Hartford. Doctorbak never met Charles Coff nor any of Sophia's siblings.

This is the first time that thanks to the power of google, my blog has successfully found a home to an orphaned photo. Though this not the first time people researching their family history have connected to me through google and my blog, it is the first time that I am able to solve a photo mystery in this manner and return the photograph, along with some genealogy research to a family. One of the advantages using blogger is that google gives high priority to these posts in their search engine. Labeling (or tagging) individuals mentioned in a post, is a tool I use to increase the online visibility of these ancestors. If you are a blogger and do not label your ancestors, I highly recommend you start doing so. It works!

The Coff descendants were looking for the name of their great-grandfather, husband of Rose Coff. I believe it may be Moses, since Rose is listed as widow of Moses in the 1914 Hartford City Directory. More research would need to be done to prove that indeed Moses was the man in their photo, but thanks to the Friday's Photo From the Past series, they are now one step closer to identifying their mystery man and to find answers to many more family history questions they didn't know they had.

Happy Friday everyone!