Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Hot Off The Press!

Hot off the press! I'm breaking my own rule. Instead of digesting a new discovery, checking all other sources, crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is—I am going public! I'm about to share a document that has come to my attention three days ago. It's BIG and I'm not quite sure what to make of it! By sharing, I'm hoping to recruit both genealogist and family members to help make sense of this turn of events!

Before spilling the beans an introduction is in order. If you're following my blog, you've certainly heard about the Bloomfields. Thanks in part to contributions from other Bloomfield descendants, the Bloomfield research has been progressing rapidly. I spend a considerable amount of time on this branch of my family and it's paying off. The astute readers amongst you may have noticed that the Bloomfield reports begins from when they immigrated to America (see a list of earlier Bloomfield posts at the end bottom). Their story is pretty much blank before 1899, the year Aaron Bloomfield arrived to America. Their earlier history remains a mystery.

Where did the Bloomfields come from? Why don't I know the answer to this seemingly simple question? There have been two main roadblocks. The first, every record places the Bloomfields in a different region or town. I know they came from the Russian Empire, but trying to pinpoint exactly from where gets very dicey.

Here is a list of the places family members have been affiliated with:

  • Pruzhany -Belarus: Harry Bloomfield, Aaron Bloomfield's son was born in Pruzhany.
  • Wladimirez, Wolyn-Ukraine: Last place of Residence, and place of birth, Moses and Freida Toby Bloomfield and their four youngest children-Ship Manifest.
  • Malch- Pruzhany district- Belarus: Moses listed as transitory worker from Malch on Harry's birth certificate.
  • Slawatizce -Poland: Harry Bloomfield birth certificate states he was born in Slawatizce but his parents were not from there. 
  • Brest-Slavatich- Belarus: Harry Bloomfield WWI draft registration names Brest as the name of the town and Slavatich as the region.
  • Warsaw-Poland: Max Bloomfield's WWII draft states he was born in Warsaw 

The second obstacle is the surname. Bloomfield is a common name, making the family members difficult to track as they wandered through large US cities. To make matters worse, some members of the family used Blumenfeld. Even more baffling was the original name before it was americanized. Reportedly, the family went by the name Belo-oose (meaning white mustache), also spelled Belous. I've never found a document with the Belo-oose spelling other than the original family tree I inherited from my grandmother. Aaron Bloomfield's wedding certificate from Lomazy, Poland (where his wife was from) spelled his name Belous. Despite extensive searches, until this weekend, I have not found (spoiler alert!) naturalization papers for any of the Bloomfield brothers or their parents. Harry birth certificate, where he is listed as Gershko Belous, is the only other document from Europe. Missing still are  ship manifests for Aaron, Max and William Bloomfield, as well as naturalization papers and birth certificates for all of the Bloomfields. These three factors: lack of consistency on records, difficulty obtaining important documents and ambiguity of the last name, prevents me from answering the very basic question of native village.

Here is the big breakthrough I promised. One of my Bloomfield cousins is moving into a new home. In the process, she is cleaning out storage spaces and sorting old papers. On Friday, she came across a document which she immediately recognized as important and forwarded it to those of us in the family who have been collaborating on the genealogy research.

Barney Bloomfield's Preliminary Petition of Naturalization
(Click on image for a larger view)

Some what disappointing, Barney Bloomfield's Petition did not answer my big question, WHERE ARE THEY FROM? But even before I read that Barney didn't remember which village he was from, something else jumped out at me. Barney used another name! His name was Barney Kaplan! His explanation: "It was the name my parents used in Russia. They changed it after they came."

KAPLAN? Where did that come from? Kaplan? What? Can this be true or is this a mistake?

Everything else on the document checks out. Since this is an original document and part of the family collection, it is therefore quite conclusively belonging to our Barney Bloomfield. The document corroborates much of what we know about Barney. His date of birth, the fact that he lived at 9 Part Street, Springfield Vermont (an address I visited and photographed on my roots trip). He landed in New York on September, 1909 aboard the Estonia. It required quite a lot of detective work two years ago to discover the ship manifest from the Estonia, but it's a fact I knew and was confident about. He was met by his uncle Harris Blumenfeld (information that was also on the ship manifest). All of it checks out, except Kaplan, yet Kaplan did ring a bell. I was sure, I had seen it before.

I went back to take a closer look at the Ellis Island papers. Lo and behold, the name Kaplan is on the ship manifest. It's crossed out and Blumenfeld is written instead. I stared at the name in amazement. It's been there all along and I missed it.

Relevant lines from Ellis Island Ship Manifest for the SS Estonia Sep 31, 1909.
(Click on image for a larger view)

There they are. Six Bloomfields, with their yiddish first names, entering the country as Kaplan rather than Belous. It's coming back to me. All of us Bloomfields who were dabbling in genealogy back then, looked at this document and didn't know what to make of the name Kaplan. We were so excited with the find. At the time, I had much less experienced examining these types of document. My thought was that Kaplan was a mistake which was clearly corrected as they entered the country at Ellis Island. Kaplan was crossed out and Blumenfeld jotted down.  Moses's Yiddish name was also crossed out and replaced with Moses (it's difficult to make out what he was  called, maybe Gergy?). Barney is listed as Berke on the second to last line.

With more experience under my belt, I reexamined the two documents and reached a new conclusion. The mistake belong to me, not the person who filled out the form in Libau, where my ancestors boarded the Estonia. The Bloomfields had entered the country as Kaplan! The crossing out and annotating was done at a much later date, probably when Benjamin Bloomfield, like his brother Barney, applied for citizenship. On the last line, next to Benjamin's name, there are more scribbles. These small numbers correspond to Benjamin's naturalization petition record number. As part of the citizenship process, immigration cross referenced information supplied by the applicant, including when they first entered the country. They often jotted down notations directly on the ship manifest. Why they wrote Blumenfeld rather than Bloomfield, I'm not sure, but this fact is less troublesome as some of the family did change their name to Blumenfeld.

Many unanswered questions remain. If their name was Kaplan, why the big jump to Bloomfield? Was Harris also a Kaplan? What about Belous? Do the european documents with the name Belous truly belong to the Bloomfields? Is it possible that they changed to Kaplan form Belous sometime after Harry was Born (1892) and Aaron got married(1895)? If so, were the older brothers, Aaron, Max and William ever named Kaplan or did they remain Belous? Did they the three of them enter the United States as Kaplan, Belous or Bloomfield? Was Kaplan a maternal family name Moses carried and did they use both the paternal Belous and the maternal Kaplan? I'm hoping to find the answers to these and more questions in the future. I also hope that this discovery will help break down the brick wall and solve the mystery their origin.

There is already much excitement already amongst the Bloomfield cousins whom have heard the news. Many are just reading about it for the first time in this news flash. I'd love thoughts and feedback from all of you! Just think, before we were Bloomfields we may have been Kaplans!

Stay tuned for more as I take the plunge and order naturalization papers for the Bloomfield brothers from the National Archives. In the meantime, try to get used to the new last name!

Visit these earlier posts to learn more about the Bloomfields.


  1. If this is true, there are Kaplan's on both sides of our family Bogdanow & Bloomfield!

    1. It's true, though many questions still remain. The name Kaplan means chaplain or priest. In Ashkenazi tradition it indicates descendants of a Cohen (high priest), and it's very common.

  2. Smadar, I bet that was a discovery that took your breath away! What a wonderful find. I'm so happy for you.

    1. Thanks Jacqi! It is a "game changer." Time will tell what new discoveries it will lead to!


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