Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Barney Bloomfield

BBQs, fourth of July fireworks and beach, are all distractions from blogging. I hope you are all enjoying your summers as much I am, and I do apologize for the irregular postings lately. I'm afraid I will be posting less regularly this summer, but  I promise to try and keep up the blog between vacation and college tours.

I'd like to revisit the surprise package I received a few weeks ago in the mail! As you may recall, I promised to share it's content, once I've had time to study the photographs from cousin Marty . For today's Friday's Faces From the Past, I thought I would share three photos from the package which may or may not be of Barney Bloomfield.

Who was Barney Bloomfield?

Barney, was my great-great-uncle. He was William's Bloomfield's second to youngest brother, born around 1904. Little is known about uncle Barney. There is only one known family photo where Barney is confirmed to be standing amongst his siblings. The story is that Barney was "a bit slow". I've heard it may have had to do with an accident at birth or his circumcision where he didn't stop bleeding, suggestive of hemophilia. Hemophilia rarely rarely results in mental retardation so I'm not sure of what to make of this story. Barney's parents, Moses and Freida Toby Bloomfield, were first cousins. Such a marriage, can unmask genetic abnormalities which could lead to mental retardation and would better explain, Barney's condition, but we have not been able to confirm any such family illness. In the photo Barney does not look syndromic suggesting he did not have a Down's like syndrome. Another passdown tale, is the story that Moses and Freida Toby also had daughters, but none of them survived passed early childhood years. This story, also suggest some kind of genetic abnormality, but is inconclusive and as of yet, not proven via any documentation.

Freida Toby (bottom center) with family. Four youngest son's are standing the the
back row. Left to right: Ben, Joe, Barney and Harry. Laconia, NH c1920.
Fanny Pomerantz (bottom left) was visiting from Texas with her daughter  Miriam. Archie Gozonsky (top right)
and his wife Ida, already had Abe (young boy bottom right) and Mary (the baby). Mary was born about 1920 according to the US census. 

Close up of Barney from the family photo.  About 16 years old.
If they family had stayed in Russia, Barney probably would not have fared well. In America, he was able to go to public school. His family cared for him. In 1928, he inherited Freida Toby's grocery store in Springfield, Vermont. He was married off to a girl with a similar predicament to himself. She was the daughter of a junk dealer. Eventually, Barney inherited the junk yard. With the help of his brother Joe, he managed to run the business and survive. He never had children, suggesting he may have been infertile. Recently, the family came across his naturalization petition which lead to the Kaplan last name discovery/mystery (see post: Hot Off the Press).

Label on the back: Barney Bloomfield?
c.1921 about 17 years old.
Marty's package contained three photos labeled Barney Bloomfield, one with a question mark. I am trying to determine if all three are indeed of uncle Barney. Who better to consult with but my faithful readers?

Are these three photos of Barney Bloomfield?

The three photos are labeled in the back, with the same handwriting and the same red pen. They all say Barney Bloomfield. One, the formal portrait on the left, has a question mark after the name written in black ink. In the package there are two other formal portraits which look like they were taken in the same studio and at the same time. One is of Joe Bloomfield and the other of Joe and Ben Bloomfield together which I posted last March. These three portraits very much suggests, a special occasion—a high school graduation perhaps. Ben the first to graduated college, graduated in 1925, so he would have graduated high school around 1921. Since Ben left for Rice Institute around 1921, the formal portrait must have been around or before 1921. If this formal portrait, is not Barney, I'm not sure who it would be. It certainly does not look like any of the older siblings who would have been much older by then. If this is Barney, he did grow and fill in some since the family portrait taken a year, at the most two years earlier.

Label on the back: Barney Bloomfield
Consulting the Elders

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting up with the Bloomfield family elder, Masse Bloomfield who was visiting the New York City. Masse, born in 1924, is 89 years young. He was my grandmother Ethel's first cousin, and Barney's nephew. I was hoping Masse would give me a conclusive positive identification on these photos. All, I got was: "These could be Barney. Yes, I'd go with Barney." He didn't sound that convince to me.  He hesitated because he said he was born after the earlier photos were taken and the later one, was difficult for him to make out. I hung my hopes on Masse who knew Barney personally, but Masse could not say for sure.

Consider this. The Bloomfield brothers, looked remarkably alike. They shared more DNA than most siblings—remember, their parents were first cousins. After studying photos of the brothers for more than three years, I am pretty confident I can tell apart between Aaron, Max, William, Harry, Joe and Ben. Barney has been more elusive because there was only one known photo of him. I must agree with the person who labeled these three photos, that they are not any of the other Bloomfields. Masse was confident this was not his father, Harry. Marty was confident these are not his father, Joe. We are all confident these are not the youngest of the brothers, Ben. Which leaves Barney.

What do you guys think? Is this Barney at different times in his life?

Label on the back: Barney Bloomfield


  1. I tried to compare physical features like hairline and ears. I think the man in the family photo and the dock photo look very much alike. The other two are similar, but I am less certain.

    My two cents!

    1. Thanks, Sally. I really appreciate your two cents. I agree that the man on the dock is the easiest to match to the family photo. It's part of the discomfort I have the with other two images.

  2. I tend to go with Sally, at least in how I compare photos. What troubles me about the hairline of the first, versus all the other photos, is that the hairline seems to angle downward toward the right on the top photograph, whereas it doesn't in the others.

    Another thing that caught my eye, Smadar, was that there seemed to be a slump in the posture of the young man in the first picture. I don't know whether that was due to scoliosis or a teen copping a 'tude--but the pose in the photo on the dock could also have masked a slumping tendency.

    Smadar, do you have any idea who inked in the labels in those photos? Would that be from a reliable source (in other words, a family contemporary), or from someone just passing down hearsay?

    1. Those are very good observations. I do think the hairline is the most different in the formal portrait. Saying that, it seems they really cleaned up for the formal photo. It's a completely different style with the sides shaved. If you look at the formal photo of Ben and Joe, Joe has a similar style cut and his hair line is so done up that it looks very different than in other photos. So even tough I agree with both you and Sally that especially the formal photo looks different enough not to be Barney, I can't quite rule it out, because of the effort they put into looking their best on that special day of having a formal portrait taken.
      The posture and the slump is an excellent observation. I'm going to ask those who knew Barney about that. I agree that the dock photo is suggestive of it as well. Again it's possible he made a big effort to stand straiter for the formal portrait.
      As to who labeled the photos. I don't know. I've asked Marty the same question. I'm hoping he will know.

  3. This is a puzzle! Photos 3 and 4 (the last two photos) look like exactly the same person to me, right down to the cowlick at exactly the same place on the hairline, and almost exactly the same smile. Photo 2 could possibly be this person also, but his mood/temperament is very different. Photo 1 (the enlargement of photo 1) looks like a very different person from all the others. Maybe it's because the photo is smudged (what is that on the nose and eye?), but he seems to have darker irises than the others, and his hairline is different . . . or maybe it's just a drooping piece of hair.

    I write comments without reading the other comments, but after writing this I have read the others. I see that others comment on the hairline. I didn't notice the slump, but I think photo 4 can be explained because he's sitting on a piling. Yes, the Bloomfield brothers are remarkably alike! Now that I look again, I think photo # 2 might be Joe. Similar expression and coloring.

    1. Yes this is a puzzle. Like me, I see, that you, Jacqi and Sally don't feel confident it's the same person. I do know for sure that photo number two is not Joe. I have a formal portrait of Joe, which looks like it's from the same time, and it's very clearly Joe. It's also not Ben, the youngest of the brothers, and it can't be the older ones, which only leaves Barney, but I agree that he looks so different than photo one or the other photos, it's difficult to feel comfortable with that ID. I've asked Marty sister who knew Barney as well, to look at these. I'm waiting to hear back from her. She like, Masse and Marty, was born after these pictures were taken. No one knew Barney when he was a teenager. Having teenage boys, I know how much they fill in and change from their teen years to adulthood, so it's a difficult task to identify a picture of a teen when you only knew the person as an older adult. Sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's impossible. Thanks for your input Mariann!


Thanks for sharing your comments!