Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Roots Trip Gem of the Day

I learned a lot of things on my road trip! The Gem of the Day is: picking up documents in person will save you money, time and may have more information than what you will receive in the mail! Being an amateur genealogist, my learning curve is steep. I'm constantly learning new things! This monday, on my roots trip, I walked into three city clerks offices: Springfield Vermont, Windsor Vermont and Laconia NH. Previously, I had mistakenly assumed my ancestor, Moses Bloomfield died in NH. That fact, and the fact that his name on his death certificate was Moses Blumenfeld, made this record elusive to me, even though it available on Ancestry since 2010. In a collaborative effort with my cousins, last January, we stumbled upon this record and other Bloomfield family death records in the state of Vermont. Vermont Death Records (1909-2008) are online. 

Moses Bloomfield's Death Certificate from the Vermont State Archives available on Ancestry.Com
(Click to Enlarge)

Having Moses's Death Certificate was huge! In 1917 he was the first person in the Bloomfield clan to die in America. From the death certificate we learned several facts, most importantly that he died in Springfield Vermont, not in Laconia NH where he lived. His son Max was living in Springfield at the time, which would explain why Moses decided to die there. Maybe he was visiting Max? And so, we reasoned that maybe Moses is buried in Springfield. After all, it turns out, a lot of the Bloomfields died in Springfield. Moses, his wife Freida Toby, their sons Max and Benjamin and their respective wives Leah and Claire all died in the rural town of Springfield, Vermont. In fact, so many Bloomfields died in Sprinfield, that Springfield was our first stop on the road trip. We spent a lovely time at the Springfield historical society (more on that later) and then quickly found Benjamin and Claire's grave at the Oakland Cemetery (we knew would be there), but  if you read my earlier post: Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips, you would know that the grand prize was Moses Grave. Unfortunately, we found no other Bloomfield in the Oakland Cemetery or anywhere in Springfield. Our theory (before they opened the Clerk's office on monday morning) was that since there was no Jewish cemeteries in Springfield, some of the older members of the family, must have cared more about being buried in a Jewish cemetery and therefore, went somewhere else. We suspected so even before we arrived in Springfield for various reasons. There is an Aaron and Alice Bloomfield buried at the Holy Hebrew Society in Burlington Vermont. This is quite far from where the Bloomfields live (about two hours on today's roads),  but we suspected that these were our Aaron and Alice Bloomfield and they chose this cemetery as it was one of the few Jewish cemeteries in Vermont, in 1939 (when Aaron died). Aaron's children were all buried in a newer and closer Jewish cemetery in Claremont, NH. Harry Bloomfield, another of the seven Bloomfield sons is buried in a Jewish Cemetery in NY. William Bloomfield, my great-grandfather and another of the boys is buried in a Jewish Cemetery in Houston, Texas where he lived. So this lead us to strongly believe that the missing Bloomfield graves must be in a Jewish Cemetery. Next door to the Oakland Cemetery, there was a headstone grave monument business. We walked into their office and inquired about the Bloomfields. The man was extremely knowledgable and helpful. He just about knew every tumb in the Oakland cemetery and the rest of Springfield, and he assured us, the graves we were looking for, were not there. The death certificates we had, did not include burial place, but he informed us, that to take a body out of Springfield, there has to be a permit and a paper trail, so the Clerk's office should know where a person who died in Springfield would be buried even in 1917. 

We asked ourselves the question: you were Jewish in chose to die in Vermont or New Hampshire, in 1917, where would you be buried? We spoke to some of the elders of the Jewish community of Laconia and asked them the same question. They all gave us the same answer. "Where you came from." What they meant was, if you came from Europe via New York, to New Hampshire, your family would bury you in New York, or Chicago or Hartford. It depended on where you spent time before, where you have family member and maybe where there was a benevolent society from your town in Europe, so you could be buried with your landsmen. Following this line of reasoning, we had a good hunch he was not in Springfield where he died, or Laconia where he lived. While we waited for the municipal office to open it's doors we visited some of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Vermont. Luckily Vermont is fairly rural, with a tiny Jewish community to speak of in 1917, so we could hit many of the cemeteries. We went to the Jewish Cemetery of East Poultney which is the first Jewish Cemetery in Vermont and to Ohavai Zedek and Holy Hebrew Society in Burlington. In Burlington, we were looking for Aaron but had a small hope Moses was near buy. He wasn't. 

First thing Monday morning we reported to the Clerk's office. In no time at all, she pulled out, all the indexed records for all the Bloomfields who ever lived in Springfield. There were quite a few index cards. She only charged us a dollar a page! Ordering the record, would have taken weeks, required an application and cost $10-25 dollars depending on the city. 

Copy Moses Bloomfield's death certificate from the city of Springfield.
Note the three discrepancies: the spelling of the name, informant and burial.  (Click to enlarge)

Most rewarding was Moses and Freida's death certificates. What surprised us was that these were not the same documents we found online. If you look at the state record, it is typed. This record, contains only part of the information from the original town record. It seems the town puts out the death certificate in the name of the state and is required to hold the original copy. Then the state archive must have a different form which is filled out from the original death certificate and filed on a state level. The discrepancy were remarkable in three ways. First, the spelling of the last name. Blumenfeld vs Blumenfield (Note: everywhere else Moses is known as Bloomfield). 

The second difference between the records is that the town's record contains the name of the informant: Max Blumenfield. This to me, sheds some light on the last name problem. In Europe the Bloomfield clan was known as Belous (I've also seen it spelled Belo-oose, which means white mustache). Harris, Moses's younger brother was the first to arrive in America (c1892) changed his surname to Blumenfeld. For some reason, Aaron, Moses' oldest son who was the first of the brothers to arrive to America around 1899, spelled his last name Bloomfield. Aaron was illiterate, a fact I know from Aaron's marriage certificate which states that the bride and groom and both sets of parents were illiterate at the time of Aaron's marriage in 1895 in Lomazy, Poland. I can picture him reporting to the officer as he boarded the ship heading to New York. By then, he must of known that Uncle Harris uses Blumenfeld in America, so as the clerk asks Aaron, what's your name he says Blumenfeld, which sounds a lot like Bloomfield and the offer asks, how do you spell it. Aaron doesn't know. Or maybe he has it spelled on a letter from Harris. He hands the letter to the clerk. Here is where the clerk, seals the fate of our family name. Bloomfield it is! Max who followed Aaron, adopted his uncle's spelling and was the only one of the seven brothers to use Blumenfeld. Since he was the one who registered his father's death, it's understandable that a misspelling was created. On the handwritten death certificate, it's neither Bloomfield or Blumenfeld, but a combination Blumenfield which is a spelling I've never seen. The family acquired some varying levels of spoken English when they came (although Moses is rumored to refuse to learn the new language at his age). But it's hard to imagine that they were good at reading, writing or spelling, which would explain why Max misreported the spelling of the family names.

Moses Bloomfield around 1912 
The third discrepancy is that the town's record contains the date and place of burial as well as the undertaker. Moses Bloomfield is buried in Brooklyn, New York, together with his wife! Jackpot! Not the coveted prize yetthe grave itselfbut we learned that we were looking for Moses in the wrong states! To all of you expert genealogist out there who have more experience than me. Moses' grave remains a mystery. I have not found him in any where in NY yet, and I could use some help how to look next!

I always knew that going to the town clerk and getting the original document was essential. What I never planned on, was getting a copy of a document a thought I had, and finding out, it was a different version of the same document. This has made me re-evaluate all my previous research and think about which records would be worth going after again! Certainly, this trip has made me realize how important it is to visit each town or city my ancestors lived in which are within driving distance to me, rather than request the documents. With my knowledge of my family history, I knew for sure the death certificate belong to my great-great-grandfather, even though his name was misplaced and the Clerk did not find him under Bloomfield. She may have missed it, if I wasn't there. When we called the Laconia office on the phone, they told us all the records were in the state archive in Concord. We went anyways. Turns out, it's the same story. There are copies of the records in Laconia, it's free if you look yourself and copies are only 25 cents! 

More about the Bloomfields:
Roots Trips Series: Reports from a Vermont and New Hampshire road trip to research the Bloomfield family history:
Part I: Roots Trip Road-trip planning!
Part II: Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips
Part IV: Why in the World New Hampshire?
Part V: Springfield Vermont Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields
Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?
Where Was This Picture Taken?- Legacy Roots
Friday's Faces From the Past: Mystery Man
Hot Off The Press

Guest blog on How I Met The Bloomfields


  1. Your data gathering is awesome. Your blog wastes no words and is wonderful to read. What a great family I have that I never knew existed!

  2. Thanks Marty! Couldn't get this far with out such great family support! Stay posted for much more to come!

  3. Great investigating and patience! I will eagerly continue to read about the Bloomfields--even though they are not blood relatives to me : ) My husband is Jimmy's nephew Donald.

  4. Jill, glad to have you on board! My goal is both to learn about the family but also to share tips and ideals with others about doing family research. I know you'll learn about your husband and children's ancestors from my blog, and I'm thrilled to help you with your research as well. I've seen on Geni that you have done quite a bit of work on your own branches and I congratulate you for it!


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