Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Bloomfield Brothers

The Bloomfield family has been very engaged in genealogy research. As much as I would like to take credit in generating excitement about family history, I feel only partially responsible. I must give credit where credit is due. I think the family itself, as well as, (our virtual meeting place), deserve most of the praise! If you have been following my blog, you will recall there have been several major Bloomfield discoveries lately. One was Barney Bloomfield's naturalization petition (Hot Off the Press!), which introduced the name Kaplan into the mix. A second wave of excitement came when I discovered the University of New Hampshire Yearbook photos (Fun Yearbook Finds and The Hidden Gems of Yearbooks).

These posts created quite a buzz, stirred old memories and led to sharing of stories and photos amongst the cousins. A few weeks ago, I posted a wonderful picture of Joseph with his University of New Hampshire football team, from the 1925 yearbook, in honor of the Super Bowl. Access to the family albums yielded an even better photograph which Joseph's daughter, found amongst her uncle Barney's things—a close up of Joseph in full football gear! 

Analyzing the yearbook, led Joseph's son, to an interesting observation. For the first time, he realized, that his father who was four years older than Ben, graduated a year after his younger brother from UNH. The discussion is ongoing and we are trying to get to the bottom of the story. My sense was that since they both arrived from Russia at a young age (8 and 4-5 respectively), they probably started school together. Neither spoke English and it's doubtful the eight-year-old Joseph had much schooling back in Russia. They entered the Claremont public school system (as indicated in the 1910 US census) and very likely advanced at a parallel rate, as they were acquiring language skills. The question remains whether they graduated high school together or did the older Joseph graduate early and take time off to work and perhaps save money for college. To answer this question definitively, I will need to get more records, perhaps from the Laconia High School which they both attended. In the meantime, I did a bit of photo detective work.

Ben and Joseph Bloomfield 
Here is another great photo also submitted last week by Joseph's children. How old do you think they look in this portrait? Could it be a High School graduation photo? A formal portrait like this signals a special occasion. Graduating from High School certainly would have been a very special occasion for the Bloomfields. Ben and Joseph were the first Bloomfields to attend High School, let alone graduate. Based on having three teenage sons, I venture to guess they were about fourteen and seventeen years old in this photo, dating the photo to about 1917. I recalled another photo, where I've seen the two of them—standing side by side—looking very young, a family photo taken with the matriarch of the family, their mother Frieda Toby Bloomfield. 

Left to Right- top row: Ben, Joseph, Barney and Harry Bloomfield, Archie Gozonsky
Bottom row: Fanny Leah Pomerantz, Miriam Harris, Freida Toby Bloomfield, Ida and Abe Gozonsky.
Baby: Mary Gozonsky. c1919.
Dating the group photo was a family effort, and was based on Abe Gozonsky's date of birth (December 21, 1917) amongst other clues. In 1919 Joseph would have been about 18 years old and Ben would have been 14. A close inspection of this picture, shows that Ben was not quite as tall as Joseph yet, so this picture most likely predates the formal portrait of the two of them by a couple of months (taking into account the fast growth rate of a fourteen-year-old boy). Ben, must have been growing quickly. He eventually surpassed his brother Joseph by a few inches as seen in a later photo (see below). Based on these three photos, I adjusted my initial assessment and propose to date the formal portrait c1919-1920. Joe would have been 18 or 19 years old in 1920 and Ben would have been about 14 or 15. Ben, a member of the class of 1925 at University of New Hampshire, was only twenty-one years old when he graduated. He must entered college around 1921 when he was barely seventeen-years-old. I know he began his college career at Rice University. His Texas stint didn't last long. He transferred to UNH by his Junior year. This means that that the formal portrait with Joseph was most likely taken no later than 1921 when Ben would have left for Houston. 

One of the Bloomfield cousins pointed out another interesting observation. She recalls her grandfather Harry as a very stern man compared to his next younger brother, Joseph. Here is what she shared with me.
"Uncle Joe was an amazing, happy, wonderful man. I was always amazed that he and Harry were brothers. My grandfather Harry was serious, stern and quiet. Joe loved music, always celebrated holidays with parties at his house."
Joseph and Ben Bloomfield, 1943
I didn't know any of the Bloomfield brothers, but my sense from my research is that the younger Bloomfields had a very different life than the older group. Aaron, Max, William, the three eldest, arrived in their teens and went straight to work. They were very intelligent, but mostly self taught. They worked odd jobs, sending money home, so that their parents could eventually join them with the younger siblings. When my great-grandfather William immigrated around 1904, Joseph was only a toddler and Ben hadn't been born yet. Age-wise, Harry was right in the middle. He arrived with his parents in 1909, but unlike his younger brothers, he didn't have the luxury of attending school. Instead, at seventeen, he joined his older brothers at the Shoe factory. The older Bloomfields had a much tougher life with far less opportunities. Joseph and Ben, on the other hand reaped the benefits of their brother's hard work. I'm not saying this explains their different nature, but it is an excellent example of how studying family history, helps sheds light on the formation of our ancestors as people.

For the sake of completion, I would like to add a note about Barney Bloomfield. I don't know much about him and the only photo I've ever seen of him is the family photo above, where he is standing between Joseph and Harry. The story is that Barney was "different". He was "slow" they say, which explains why he didn't follow his brothers' footsteps to college. There is rumors of an accident around birth, something about excessive bleeding, which makes me think of hemophilia, but so far I can't document any of this. Hopefully, I'll get back to him in another post.


  1. I like your observation that the younger Bloomfields had a different life than the older group. You are so right that being born in the same family does not give a group of siblings identical experiences. Parents can change, and culture can change, much more quickly and decisively than we suppose!

    Your parents are not necessarily your sibling's parents, and their teachers not your teachers -- even if they are the same people!

    1. You are so right Mariann. It's certainly true today and I think even more so back then when families were very large and the older siblings were almost from another generation. In the case of the Bloomfields, Aaron, the eldest was born in 1875 and Ben, the youngest sibling was born in 1905. It's a span of 30 years. Aaron could have easily been Ben's father and he even had children who were older than his brothers!


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