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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Mystery Man

Today's Face From the Past is linked to last week's guest post by Lorraine Arnold. Her detective work helped answer the question: Where Was This Picture Taken? The picture in question was a photograph of my great-grandfather, William Bloomfield, standing proudly in-front of a building (see photo on the right). The answer: the picture was taken in-front of the Guenard Speed & Clemens building in Houston. This seemingly straightforward reply, leads to many more questions and a second photograph. In this second photo, from my grandmother's boxes was not labeled. In it, William poses next to an unknown man at the same exact spot next to the Guernard building. This mystery man is today's featured Face From the Past.

William and mystery man on Commerce Street
c. 1919
William Bloomfield infront of the 
Guenard, Speed & Clemens building
817 - 819 Commerce Street, Houston c1919 .
Part of my intrigue with the first photo, was the "unknown" man in the second photo. When I initially asked Lorraine to help identify the building, I was also hoping to uncover clues leading to this mysterious man. The men appear dressed and ready for work. Their matching cut off ties, a uniform of sorts, suggesting the photographs were taken near their place of employment.

Our mystery man, must have had an important role in William's life. He appears not only in the Commerce Street photo, but I also recognize him in another important photograph.

William and Minnie Bloomfield with an unknown man.
Jersey City, c1920.

This is the only photograph of my great-grandparents together taken during their brief courtship before or shortly after the tied the knot (see: Love Story 1920s style). The lovers are posing outside cigar shop in Jersey City. William, dressed in his Sunday best, looks almost relieved, if not happy, as opposed to the serious face he often lends to photographers. Minnie, is wearing a hat! If this photo was not taken the day they got married, it certainly was at a special event they were attending. Mystery man, stands proudly beside the happy couple! Like William, he also travelled on the long journey from Houston (not an easy endeavor in 1920).  In this photograph, he is wearing the same striped shirt from the faded Houston photo and notably, a full length tie. Who is he? Did he make the journey up north with William or perhaps he came up for a special occasion? Why did they both abandon their jobs in Texas? According to Minnie's writing, William was only passing through New York. She never mentioned he came with a friend or for a special occasion. He was visiting relatives and friends. His aunt Ida Weiner, offered him a job in Pittsburgh and he left New York. Was the job in Houston no longer available? Maybe he just missed the North East? History is a testament to the fact that meeting Minnie, sidetracked William from his original plan.

Houston City Directory 1919 listing for Bloomfield William 
Back mystery man. My only clue, the Guernard, Speed and Clemens building, helped me locate William in the 1919 City Directory. As, I mentioned last week, I discovered that he indeed work for a produce company, but not the Guernard, Speed & Clemens Company, but a competitor, the Houston Fruit and Produce Company. As a cashier, he must have carted vegetable crates as well and work the cash register, hence the cutoff tie.

Houston Fruit & Produce Co listing from
the Houston City Directory 1919
In the listing to the left, tucked between, the Houston Foundation and the Houston Furniture & Auction Company, is William's employer, the Houston Fruit & Produce Company. Two important pieces of information standout in this listing. The first, The Houston Fruit & Produce company was also on Commerce Street (#906). A few warehouses down from the Guernard Speed & Clemens Co. (#817-819). The second fact, Morris Pomerantz and Morris Birenbaum owned the Company.

This is huge! I know these two names. They are relatives! William was working for family! Morris Pomerantz, aka Morris Aaron Pomerantz, was William's maternal uncle. Morris Birenbaum, was Morris Pomerantz's half brother-in-law (his wife's half brother). The relationship is even more complicated, Morris Pomerantz's wife Fannie Leah Pomerantz (Birenbaum) was also her husband's niece and William Bloomfield's first cousin, making Morris Birenbaum, Williams cousin's half brother. 

Next, I set out to map and create a timeline for the Pomerantz Houstonian clan. Here is a summary of what I learned from the City Directories and additional sources (limited to sources available online, until I make a research trip to Houston):
The Houston Fruit & Produce Company first appears as a company in the 1913 Houston City Directory. In it's early years, it was located even closer to the Guenard building, at #811 Commerce Street. In it's inception the company was owned by three, not two, partners: Morris Birnebaum, Morris Pomerantz and Jake Pomerantz (Morris Pomerantz's younger brother).

The three business partners not only worked together but also live together at, 1218 Chartres. Jake and Morris Birenbaum were single, while Morris Pomerantz was married but living in America without his family. His family joins him in 1914. By 1915, Jake Pomerantz is no longer listed as a partner in the company and does appear in the Houston City Directory. The produce company relocates a bit further down Commerce Street to #906 where it remains at least until 1920. The two remaining partners, Morris Pomerantz and Morris Birenbaum continue to live together (listed at 1801 Maple Avenue). In December of that year Morris Birenbaum marries Miss Annie Dorensfield. Their son Abe is born in 1916 and by 1917 they have moved out of the Pomerantz home and into, 2007 Summer Street.  In 1918, the Birenbaums are living at 1804 Sherman Street and the Pomerantz family is at 1911 Franklin Ave. 
William Bloomfield, WWI Draft Registration Card Sep 12, 1918
Following William Bloomfield's tracks in Houston is difficult. Though I know he was in Texas from about 1915-1920 (from Minnie's Memoir), I  found little documentation to support this.  His WWI Draft Registration papers, report him as residing at 1804 Sherman Street (with Morris Birenbaum), and employed at the Houston Fruit Company. He is listed with the Birenbaums in the 1919 City directory, but then moves in with the Pomerantzs to Franklin Street (according to the US Census taken on Jan 5-6th, 1920). 

Mapping the family, helps understand the close-knit relationship between these men and leads me back to mystery man. It seems very likely that the man in question is one of the Houston relatives whom William roomed with and was employed by. 

Morris Aaron Pomerantz early 1900.
To prove my theory, I turn to pictures of the three brothers and partners. I doubt our mystery man is Morris Pomerantz whose photo from the early 1900s does not show much resemblance. When I asked Morris Pomerantz's grandson about the picture and the family business, he recalled that his grandfather began his career in the produce sector with a banana stand. He agreed that the man in question, does not look like his grandfather. 

Jake Palmer (Pomerantz)
and family 1937.
Jake Pomerantz is least likely to be the man we are looking for, since he left the company and Houston early on. His photo from 1937 confirms this claim and shows little resemblance to mystery man.

Front (Left to Right) Max Blumenfeld,
William Bloomfield. Back: Morris Birenbaum
Claremont, NH c1905
This leaves Morris Birenbaum as the most likely candidate. Turns out, Mr. Birenbaum  arrived in the US around the same time as William Bloomfield, c1904. The photo I have of Morris Birenbaum was taken with William, in 1905 shortly after they arrived in Claremont, NH. This one hundred and seven year old picture attests to Morris Birenbaum presence in Claremont along with the Bloomfield brothers. I also have reason to suspect that Morris Birenbaum worked at the Maynard Shoe Company and rented a room from William Parents. In the 1910 US Census, three boarders are listed at the Bloomfield's Claremont Residence: Nathan Polen (a cousin), Oscar Friedman (another cousin) and Morris Baum. I'm guessing he must have been related as well. My hunch is, that Baum is short for Birenbaum. Nathan Polen and Morris Baum are both listed as shoemakers.

Here is the question of the day, and one, I may never be able to answer. Is mystery man, Morris Birenbaum?  Does he look like an older Morris Birenbaum, compared to the 1905 picture? To me he does! Same facial features, similar frizzy curls and an identical hairline. My money is on him! What do you think? Take another look at the close ups of Morris Birenbaum and mystery man side by side.

Morris Birenbaum c1905
Closeup mystery man

I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Have a great weekend!

To read more about the Bloomfields visit these earlier posts:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past: Harrison

Technically, it's still my wedding anniversary week. On Tuesday, to celebrate, I posted The wedding photo challenge has received much attention from my genealogy friends, and was selected as one of +Jana Last Follow Friday-Fab Finds today!  Genealogists and relatives alike, are having fun looking back at their ancestors' wedding photos and have been submitting them to the contest. For those who were wondering Jaime and I did celebrate with a lovely romantic dinner at a new french restaurant in town. We had a great evening! It seems appropriate therefore, to share this orphan photo as this Friday's Faces from the Past post.

Featured this week, is the Harrison family. According to the label on the back of this studio portrait, the Harrisons were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in New York. The year, 1935? was scribbled in a different color and to the side.

Harrisons 25th Wedding Anniversary
New York,  c1935?

Who are the Harrisons? I've never heard of them. Why did Minnie have this large 8"x10"print in her album? Were they Harrisons dressed for a large anniversary party or did the dress for the formal portrait? Did Minnie and William Bloomfield go to the party, or did the Harrisons send them the photo?  Did Mr. Harrison give the mother of his sons the huge bouquet or was it a prop in the photographer's studio? I doubt they were are relatives of mine. The name  Harrison is not one of the scores of last names on our tree. So who were they?

Another reason to share this photo today, is that I have exhausted all my tricks to try and track down a Harrison family in the New York area around 1935. Unfortunately, Harrison is a very common name, and I'm stumped. Can you help me identify this brood? Are you researching the Harrison surname? I know many of you are astute photo detectives. I would love to hear your ideas or comments regarding this week's mystery faces from the past.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Where Was This Picture Taken?

Today, I am honored to present a post by guest blogger and genealogist Lorraine Arnold who specializes in the history of buildings and business. I met Lorraine via twitter (@LegacyRoots). Her intrest in buildings reminded me of a building in a particular photograph I was curious about. It's a photo of my great-grandfather William Bloomfield, standing tall, in front of a mysterious building. I came across this photo recently during my sorting and archiving project.

William Bloomfield, is one of my favorite ancestors. I've written more blog posts about William and the Bloomfields than any of my other ancestors (See links bellow to previous Bloomfield posts). I must admit to having a soft sport for him and if I'm completely honest, I'm kind of in love with him. William was the first of my ancestors to arrive in the United States (around 1904). He was the love of my great-grandmother's life. Researching William, lead me to the Bloomfield clan, all of whom were strangers to me three years ago. Since I've become very close many of my Bloomfield cousins and together we collaborate in research our family history. Yet, even though I now know quite a bit about William Bloomfield, many parts of his life remain a mystery. Prior to meeting Minnie in 1920, William was a wanderer who moved around in search of work. The photo in question, could have been taken anywhere. By comparing his approximate age to other dated photos of him, I can narrow down the time period to somewhere between 1914 and 1920. According to the 1914 Claremont City Directory William left Claremont NH in 1914 and moved to NY. From Minnie's writing I know he spent most of next five years in the state of Texas. Then in 1920, he returned to the North East where, spending time both in New YorkCity and Pittsburgh and finally he married Minnie and opened a grocery store Laconia, NH.

The photo could have been taken anywhere. It's unique, in that the building has a name, though almost illegible and partially obstructed by William's head. His clothes, especially the cut-off tie, to me signal a work outfit and my hunch was that the William worked at the building. I decided to solicit Lorraine's expertise. My hope was, that identifying the building would help date the photograph and shed light onto William's employment.

I sent the photo to Lorraine and she did the rest! It was a pleasure collaborating with Lorraine. Here is her guest post, where she tells the story of her amazing detective work!



I love buildings, their history, and the challenges that go along with them. So when Smadar BelkindGerson @StoredTreasures, a new Twitter follower, asked if I would look at a photo to see if I could identify the location of the building in the picture I couldn’t pass on the request. I immediately stated the caveat that I cannot claim to know all buildings, but encouraged her to send the photo to see what help I might be. 

Picture of William Bloomfield un labeled.
Smadar sent the photo (left) of her great-grandfather standing on a street somewhere in America.  At first glance my thought was, “How in the world could I possibly figure out where this building is?” Smadar gave great clues, but I have to admit that despite the hints I felt that I was searching for a needle in a haystack. I wondered where the directions were to locate the answer. Unfortunately none existed.

As fortune would have it within 15 minutes I had the answer; even I was surprised. The quick version of the discovery process includes searching for clues regarding the names listed along the top of the building starting with the name Speed; trying different vowels and consonants for the two letters which were obscured in the first name; and working through different internet search mediums such as Fold3, Google, and GenealogyBank. I also considered searching for names of law firms in the early 20th century, but dismissed that idea which would be a daunting task without more information. In this search Google became my best friend. After several failed attempts, the search “Guenard, Speed” returned about 74 hits, several of which came from The Houston newspaper, The Thresher, within that site gave the answer.
Knowing that newspapers are a great source, I checked the hits returned from, and discovered ads for Guenard, Speed & Clemens. The mystery of the building was solved with the collaboration of clues that Smadar gave and details in the ad: Houston was one of the cities she had mentioned (Guenard, Speed & Clemens was located in Houston); the building length in the photo appeared to span more than one address (The address of Guenard, Speed & Clemens was listed as 817 - 819 Commerce Street); the suspected era was 1914 to 1920 (The ads ran from 1923 to 1927 in “The Thresher” Houston papers). 
To solidify the conclusion I would suggest contacting a fashion history expert as well as someone who is familiar with early 20th century photos. I suspect the tie William Bloomfield is wearing is a Texan fashion of that era, but of course this is not my area of expertise. Using multiple experts can prove to be helpful and satisfying when seeking to identify the details of a building, its location, and the date of an ancestral photo.


Google.comFold3.comGenealogybank.comTexashistory.unt.eduJournal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Sixty-seventh Congress, First Session, 11 April 1921, Vol. No. 7917, page 338, no.17234.Guenard, Speed & Clemens ad, The Thresher, Houston, Texas, 9 January 1925, page 4. <>Guenard, Speed & Clemens ad, The Thresher, Houston, Texas, 29 November 1923, page 6, column 3. <>

Armed with this information, I turned to the Houston's City Directories from 1914-1920. Without confirming William's presence in Houston during those years, rather than somewhere else in Texas, finding William in the city directories was impossible. Bloomfield is a fairly common name, and so is William. This time, I searched for Guernard Speed & Clemens. Bingo!  I cross refferenced with Bloomfield and in the 1919 Directory, I found a Wm Bloomfield, working as a cashier at the Ho (Houston) Fruit and Produce Co. I looked up the Houston Fruit and Produce company in the business section of the directory and discovered they were located at 906 Commerce Avenue. Looks like Commerce Ave was the Wholesale Fruit and Produce. William did not work at the Guernard Speed & Clemens building. He worked across the street! 

My next step is to take Lorraine's advice and contact a fashion history expert to learn about the tie! 

To learn more about Lorraine Arnold, visit her blog Legacy Roots.

Follow up on this post: Friday's Faces From the Past: Mystery Man

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 III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day, Looking for Moses Bloomfield
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
Hot Off The Press 

Guest blog on How I Met The Bloomfields

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Wedding Photo Challenge!

Do you have wedding photos of your ancestors? How far back can you trace weddings on your family tree? Today, I invite you to join Jaime and I in celebrating our wedding anniversary by taking my Wedding Photo Challenge!

Jaime and I
Jan 15, 1994
Mexico City, Mexico
Today my husband and I are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary! Nineteen is an impressive but boring kind of number. Last year was our "Chai", our 18th anniversary. In Jewish tradition, Chai, which means life, hold a special meaning. We made a big deal of our Chai-versary! Next year will be our 20th or Platinum anniversary, which promises to be an even bigger shindig (Jaime, are you reading? I'm expecting something big!). Nineteen carries the risk of being overlooked. I thought I'd celebrate by surrounding myself with wedding photos from the past. I love wedding photos! The couples look beautiful, happy and hopelessly smitten! Travelling back in time through wedding photos is a lot of fun. Styles of clothing have certainly changed, but the couples are at the height of their youth and are so excited to embark on the rest of their lives.

Are you ready to take the Wedding Photo Challenge? 

It's easy! I'll start and share my own wedding photo (Can you believe that veil. It did look beautiful at the time, I promise!) and follow with photos of Jaime and my ancestors on their wedding day, going as far back as I can.

All you have to do is submit your own ancestors photographic wedding timeline. Share your photos on your blog or on Stored Treasures' facebook page or +Stored Treasures +Google page' +Google page, or any of your other favorite photo sharing networks (there are so many Pinterest, tumblr, Instagram...!). Just post me a link as a comment on the comment section bellow, send me a tweet, post on facebook, share on +google etc. You can also e-mail me the photos if you would rather and I will post them for you! Be sure to include names, dates and location if you have them. And  most importantly, have fun!

As an incentive (if you need one), there will be a prize! The person with the most photos in their wedding photo timeline will get a free copy of Stored Treasures!

Jaime's parents dancing at the wedding.
Raquel and Roberto Belkind
Mexico City, Mexico

My Parents
Barbara and Arieh Lavi
May 30, 1967
Kibbutz Tel Yitzchak, Israel

Jaime's paternal grandparents
Bertha and Jose Belkind
Dec 19, 1937
My Maternal Grandparents
Morris and Ethel Bogdanow
October 4, 1942

I hope you guys can do better and find more than four ancestors wedding photos. Even though I've been collecting family photos for quite some time, I only have these four from the actual wedding day.

I could use some help collecting more wedding photos. Cousins and family members, if you are thinking of a gift for my 20th anniversary I'll tell you what I would love! Can you guess? Yes, I would love to add photos to this time line! So dig into your old photo boxes and see if you can find a hidden treasure and send it my way! Wedding photo of anyone on our family tree will make my day, so keep them coming!

Thanks for celebrating with me!

The call photos from cousins worked! Late last night, I received an e-mail with a photo that belongs in my timeline. I'm adding it here at the bottom of this post, making it the 5th wedding photo in mine and Jaime's wedding photo timeline.

Anita and Salomon Gerson
May 23, 1943
Mexico City
Several of you have e-mailed me to ask about a deadline for submitting your photos. To participate in the challenge and be eligible to win a copy of Stored Treasures, please submit your photos by January 31, 2013. Feel free to submit photos after that. It's a fun exercise and well worth doing!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The True Stored Treasure Surfaces!

The original copy of Minnie Crane's writings and
some of the photo copies I worked from. 
My reputation of family treasure hunter precedes me. The word treasure is not only in the title of my book, Stored Treasures, but it is also my twitter name: @StoredTreasures. The treasure the name refers to is my great-grandmother's, Minnie Crane's, manuscript. I unearthed this hidden gem two and a half years ago. Of the hundreds of family treasures I've discovered, this manuscript holds a special place in my treasure chest, as it is the only one turned into a published Memoir. 

 The manuscript was lost in my mother and her brother's attics for over thirty years. What I pulled out of the moldy boxes, was not the original manuscript, but yellowing and smelly photocopies. Everyone had a slightly different sets of copies. Deciphering the handwriting was doubly difficult because of the quality of the copies, parts of which were dark, blurry or cut off. How I longed for the original.

Despite extensive searching and attic cleaning, the original never appeared. I settled for the copies and completed the book. In foreword of Stored Treasures, I recap how at every step, new material resurfaced. Yet the elusive journal remained hidden. 

A few weeks ago, my uncle Michael mentioned that he had more stuff for me. For years, when ever anyone finds family memorabilia they simply label them "Smadar's Stuff"and forward it me. I am happy to take the "old stuff" off their hands. 

The last thing I expected to receive from Michael, was the one and only..... STORED TREASURE. Minnie's original journal! But that's what I got.

A leather bound burgundy book in mint condition! Someone wrapped it in a protective plastic cover years ago. My uncle had been to New York and visited his sister in-law who was in the processing of moving. In preparation for the move, she found the journal and set it aside for me. Michael, the messenger,  knew this was at least part of his grandmother's writings, but he assumed I had seen it before so was in no hurry to give it to me. When he presented it to me this weekend, he was thrilled to discover, this was the book I had been after for years! 
Inside dedication with color drawing. 

I particularly enjoyed, seeing the color version of the dedication my late Uncle Larry drew his grandmother when he gave her this book. As I leafed through the first time, I immediately saw that the handwriting is much easier to read in the original. I have my work cutout for me and it will take a long time to carefully review the original and located words which I may have misread in the xerox copies. 

The other sticking insight I got from the original book is that much of what Minnie wrote is upside down. She began the book from left to right but only wrote on the right side of the page. When she filled the journal this way, she realized she wanted to continue writing. She turned the book upside down and began again, this time writing from right to left, filling in the blank pages. She numbered this new set and consistently wrote upside-down (see photo bellow). I had never seen a book written this way. Working from the photocopies, I assumed there were at least two notebooks. Now, I know that the two volumes were written in the same notebook, only one was written upside-down and backwards. I loved discovering Minnie's creative solution to her space problem. 

Note the upside-down writing on the left hand side.
Stored Treasures is a treasure that keeps giving. Just when I think I discovered the whole treasure, more appears. It's only January, but I am nominating this notebook as the discovery of the year in my family history journey. I can't wait for the next unexpected surprise! I hope 2013 will be as productive in your family treasure hunting!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Goldie and Bobby Rosenbaum

It's Friday and time for another orphan photo in the new series Faces From the Past.

A New Year's resolution has infused energy into my sorting and archiving photos project! This week, I've revisited many great and forgotten photos. This particular stand out snap shot is this week's pick.

Labeled on the back: Goldie and Bobby Rosenbaum and niece 1917
I love this photo! It's part of my great-grandmother Minnie's oldest album. The sheer size of the image caught my attention. It's an 8x10. Most of the photos Minnie had from that time period, especially the enlargements, are formal portraits. This one, is a snapshot of a woman on the beach. I love the white dress she is wearing and how it's blowing in the wind. All three are a bit dressed up for the beach, as if they were at a wedding or some special event near the beach. The must have grabbed their coats and went outside, braving the wind for this priceless kodak moment.

The first question is who is Goldie Rosenbaum? Which actually needs to be broken down into two questions: 
  1. Which one is Goldie, the woman or the little girl? 
  2. Who was Goldie Rosenbaum and is she related to my family or was she a friend of Minnie.
The inscription in the back is quite misleading. At first glace, it appears that Bobbie and Goldie are the kids and the niece must be the woman. Yet, it makes no sense. It's much more likely the woman is the aunt. If she is the aunt, she must be Goldie Rosenbaum. Either way, the little boy is Bobby while the little girl probably the niece. If the woman is Goldie, an aunt, than Bobbie is her nephew or her son and who ever wrote the inscription did not know the name of his cousin or sister, Goldie's cute niece.

The date is also very important. Minnie had not met her husband William Bloomfield in 1917 and therefore it's most likely that Goldie is either a relative of Minnie's or a friend. There is a chance that this photo came from William's collection (which Minnie added to hers and kept safe for so many years), therefore I can no discard that the possibility that she is a Bloomfield/Pomerantz cousin either. 

It's possible that Rosenbaum is Goldie's married name which makes it harder to identify on my tree. Luckily, Goldie is not a common name, and is only one Goldie on the tree. She lives in New York and is too young and not a Rosenbaum. On my tree there are Rosens, Rosenblooms, Rosenzweig and Rosenbergs but no Rosenbaums. So despite some clues and an inscription in the back, this photo remains orphaned. 

Photo defectives, genealogy members and Rosenbaums out there, can you help deliver this image to it's rightful owner, the descendants of Goldie and Bobby Rosenbaum and niece?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bullish on Genetic Genealogy!

Have you jumped into Genetic Genealogy? I took the mitochondrialDNA and FamilyFinder (FF) tests almost a year ago. Back then, I shared my excitement, as well as skepticism when I wrote Is My Mitochondria Doing Anything for Me? followed by, So, Is My Mitochondria Doing Anything for Me? (Part II). I concluded with the statement: " I remain bullish on genealogy DNA testing", with the understanding that the more family members get tested, the more likely I'll actually learn something about my family history from this venture.

Progress has been slow on the testing front. In the months that passed, I received several inquiries from curious cousins. If your family is anything like mine, getting them to get tested is not easy. Until now, I felt I was still gathering information about this new technology and I was not ready to endorse it 100% or to ask my family to shell out the money for this relatively expensive venture. This year's experience has given me more insight into the world of genetic genealogy and I can now recommend testing to my numerous cousins.

I would like to officially draft as many family members to join my genetic genealogy project! My goal is to create as detail a genetic family tree/map as possible.

Full disclosure: Genealogy DNA testing is basically for the benefit of researching our family's story. It resembles volunteering for a medical research protocol. You can think about it as an altruistic endeavor. The results will be much more abstract and academic than you've imagined. No major breakthroughs are guaranteed. Since family history research is fascinating to me, if I could afford it, I would pay to have all my cousins tested, but I can't. I understand that it's not as interesting to most of the family. Doing the test is really a gift to me (to my research). When I successfully synthesize the information and decipher another part of our common story, I promise to share it with the family. The results of this research quest will be my gift in return to the family and to our future descendants.

1.Who in the family should get test?
Ideally, I would like everyone to get tested. As many cousins, from as many branches and all the generation. Siblings, children and parents of those who have been tested, should also get tested!
If you are interested in the technical reasons why as many family members as possible should get tested, there is a great article by+Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist called: The DNA Gamble. Judy goes through the statistics and probabilities involved in creating a family DNA map.
2. Which DNA test to do?
Since money is often the issue, the most important test is the Family Finder test. If you can afford to do more, men should do the Y-DNA test and women the mt-DNA test, but only in addition to the FF test.
3. What should one expect to learn from the test and how quickly?
The kit takes weeks to process and then months to years to make connections. The simple answer is, mostly like one individual test will teach you almost nothing about your family history in the short term or even for months to come. You need to be part of a family project and you need someone (like me) in your family to sift through the data, look for connections and create a family genetic map or genetic tree. The more detailed the map, the more likely the family as a whole will learn something.
4. Where should one get tested?
A family needs to consolidate it's data in one site. We have has been using They posses the largest database and are now affiliated with +MyHeritage, so members may be able to get a discount. was acquired by MyHeritage recently, so I expect members to get a discount soon.  The FF test cost $289 and goes on sale several times a year. You can get tested on other sites which may be cheaper. Some sights like 23andMe offer the option to transfer the results to FamilyTreeDNA. I find that it's too complicated offers savings for all the hassle. Let's keep things simple! For my family I recommend to stick to

Almost One Year My Family's Genetic Genealogy Progress report: 

7 family members including myself have been tested.

  • Myself- mtDNA and FF
  • 2- uncles (my mother's brothers). Y-DNA and FF
  • 1 male Bloomfield cousin (with the Bloomfield last name). He is also a Pomerantz descendant- FF
  • 1 Female Bloomfield cousin-FF and MtDNA test pending.
  • 1 male Crane cousin (with Crane last name)- Y-DNA and FF
  • 1 male Pomerantz cousin (with the Pomerantz last name)- Y-DNA test.
As expected, we all share large amounts of DNA and confirm that we are related (we known that already). To me this confirmed the test is reliable.

Interpreting the results: 
Very quickly, most of my family members who are not family historians found that making sense of their test results was complicated. They were getting inquiries from potential distant cousins and they could not make heads or tails from the information. I now manage most of these accounts for my family members. I am grateful to my relatives who are participating in my research. I hope FamilyTreeDNA will in the future make it easier to centralize family profiles. Right now, family members need to give me their log-in info and I need to log in and out of the various accounts. My suggestion to FamilyTreeDNA, create a "master" level account and with people's authorization, the master should be able to navigate the various profiles from the master account (just a thought).

Type of inquiries:
We have had many inquiries about the various connections. Interestingly, a high percentage has been from people who are looking for a biological parent such as children who are adopted, or people who have discovered that their father was not their biological father. I must admit, that at first I was taken aback by this kind of inquiry and how frequently I was coming across these cases. I jointed FamilyTreeDNA because I was interested in genealogy and generations long gone. These people on the other hand, had a completely different motive for getting tested. This stirred many moral dilemas in me, the scope of which is beyond this discussion (but would make a great follow up post). 

Impediments to understanding of matches:
1. Most of the people we match, do not know enough about their family tree. I find that people know their ancestors, but to match genetically, they need a better understanding of what I call, the horizontal branches, their ancestors siblings and their descendants. 
2. Few families have tested many members. We've only tested seven family members. I've come across families whom have tested twenty-five family members or more. Most, have only tested themselves or maybe one or two more family members. Statistically, this generates many false negatives and gives no clues as to which branch to investigate. 

Some families have created a fund to do genetic testing. We don't have one as of yet. If someone is interested in donating towards such a cause, do let me know. If someone is interested in participating, but is in need of funding, you can contact me as well. 

I look forward to hearing from family members who want to get tested as well as fellow genealogist with insight about how to improve process.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Soundtrack to Our Family History

Yesterday, I travelled back 100 years into my family history and accross the ocean to Belarus and Poland. Today, I'm not going back almost 90 years, and heading south into Mexico. This weekend I help my twelve year old son finalize a legacy project he is preparing for school. He made an impressive power point presentation about my husband's family, their journey to Mexico and their contribution to the Jewish community of Mexico City. In no time, he figure out how to add a soundtrack to the slides. As I helped him with the finishing touches, I remembered a treasure I had stored in my itunes library. A rare clip of Salomon Gerson, my son's great-grandfather, singing in Yiddish!

Abraham Gerson, Salomon's father and the patriarch of the Gerson family, left Vinitza, Russia (near Kiev and now part of Ukraine), in 1927. He had spent three weeks in jail, when he was arrested for no apparent reason by Stalin's henchmen. Worried about the future of the family he decided to leave Russia. Quite familiar with the terrible abuses of Jewish soldiers in the Russian army, he feared for his five sons, especially Samuel the oldest. The option of going to the United States was not available to them as the US had passed immigration reforms, imposing sticked quotas on Eastern European immigrants. Letters had arrived to Vinitza from fellow townspeople informing the community of the merits of Mexico. The weather was great, the Jewish community was small but growing and the country was welcoming. Samuel was sent to scout Mexico City and the rest of the family followed him shortly after.

They arrived in Mexico with little else but their personal belongings. The began peddling handkerchiefs door-to-door. Salomon used to joke that the handkerchiefs were so stiff, they made your nose bleed. Hard work and a strong belief in education lead the family out of poverty. Each of the five Gerson sons graduated from University with a degree in Engineering. Their shmate (rags in yiddish), blossomed into a thriving textile factory, thanks to their chemical engineering skills. Knowledge of structural engineering took the family into the construction business. Abraham built the first Ashkenazi synagogue, Nedji Israel, which after his death was renamed Nedji Israel al shem Abraham Gerson. He not only built the temple, but was also the Cantor. The five sons, followed their father's footsteps and were always present to sing backup at the temple.

Abraham and Fany Gerson with their sons, daughters in-law and grandchildren.
I've shared many family stories on this blog, and the Gerson story is certainly an impressive one. None, have a soundtrack. Pictures help put faces to the names of the ancestors on our tree, voices, are often lacking. Bellow, I've added a link to this rare recording of Salomon singing lullabies in Yiddish to his granddaughter Erika. Salomon was no longer in his prime, and may not sound like what he did when he accompanied his father the Cantor at the temple, but these sweet melodies are priceless. Mon, as his grandchildren lovely called him, loved singing to his grandchildren. Thanks to this recording, we can enjoy an auditory glimpse into the past. Salomon passed away four months before my wedding. In his honor, Erika sang one of these lullabies to the guest.

Salomon Gerson Singing Yiddish Lullabies

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What is a song worth?
Have you discovered records of your family's past and shared them with your family?
If you could create a soundtrack to your family tree, what would you like to include?

Where Were They 100 Years Ago?

Last night my head was spinning. I was lying in bed and think about +Randy Seaver Saturday Nigh's Genealogy Fun  post: Where Were They 100 Years ago? Randy proposed what at first seemed like an exciting and fun challenge.

  • Determine where your ancestral families were on 1 January 1913 - 100 years ago.
  • List them, their family members, their birth years, and their residence location (as close as possible).  Do you have a photograph of their residence from about that time, and does the residence still exist?
I loved the idea, but it was pretty late, so I decided to tackle this genealogy exercise in the morning. But when I settled down to bed, I couldn't help but scan my ancestors and try to imagine where they where 100 years ago. Very quickly I realized what should be any easy task for someone like me who has spent hundreds of hours researching her forefathers, was not as easy as it looked. As+Randy Seaver suggested, I cued the mission impossible music and tried to rolled back the clock. Part of me was hoping to use Michael J Fox's time machine from Back to the future. This Friday, was actually the day in the future he had visited. As I was dosing off to sleep, I imagined my self in the DeLorean, with Michael and Tom Cruise (why not?), landing in the old Russian Empire, in search of my relatives. 

Cruising back along my family's time line 100 years, takes me almost past my grandparents generation and into my great-grandparents. My grandfather Morris Bogdanow was born on July 10th, 1912 which would have made him about a year and a half old. He was living with his parents Abraham Bogdanow and Mollie Bogdanow (Katz) at 2103 Amsterdam Avenue, in NY City. There is a good chance the building is still standing, but I must admit, I have not visited. Google Maps did fly me right into the building faster than any time machine could have. 

View Larger Map
37 Eastman, Claremont NH, home to
Moses and Freida Bloomfield and
four younger sons 1914.
My other three grandparents were mostly a distant thought in 1913 so my challenge turns to my remaining three sets of great-grandparents. William Bloomfield, my mother's maternal grandfather, had been in the United States since 1904. He is a bit difficult to pin down as he moved around in search of work and personal fulfillment.  In 1913, I believe he was living in Claremont, NH. By 1914 he moved to NY. The Bloomfield family was in transition in 1913 (see my earlier blog post: Why in the World New Hampshire?). The 1913, Laconia City Directory, lists Moses (William's father) as owning a grocery store at 138 Oak Street. The 1914 Claremont Directory lists the family as living at 37 Eastman in Claremont. I don't believe William was living with his parents as he had been on his own for many years before that, but his exact whereabouts in 1913 are unclear.

To visit the rest of my ancestors in 1913, I must now take my DeLorean to Eastern Europe. Minnie Crane (Bloomfield), William's wife was very much dreaming of coming to America. If I was had set my time machine to January 1st, 1914, I would have caught Minnie on the deck of the SS Grosser Kurfurst as she was sailing across the atlantic from Bremen, Germany towards Ellis Island. But in January 1913, the idea of going to America seemed like an impossible dream to Minnie. Minnie, or Menuja Kranowitz as she was known back in Belarus, was fifteen years old, and had spent most of 1912 recovering from a terrible tooth infection and several botched mouth surgeries, alone in Konigsberg, Germany. Her older brother Harry had just visited on his way to catch a the Pinsk Oskar to the US which sailed  January 4, 1914.

Anna Celnik (Rosenblum)
My grandfather Baruch Lavi, or Zigmond Jampel as he was about to be dubbed, was probably very frustrated to have missed my visit from the future. Born on Feb 16, 1913 in Lvuv (Lemberg), Poland, he was close to embark on his personal journey. His parents Leon Yampel and Cyla Reiter were in the Fur Business. The both died in the holocaust and I know almost nothing about them. His wife Shoshana (Ruja) Celnik would be born in Tarnov, Poland later that year (September 28, 1913). Her parents Matias Celnik and Anna Rosenblum, had a three year old son Ashzer. They also all died in the holocaust and I know almost nothing about them. Anna Rosenblum, would have been about 23 years old in 1913. The only photo I have of her, is the one I've posted here, and though it's not dated, she certainly looks like she could be in her twenties in this photo, and so maybe it was taken around 1913.

This powerful exercise, highlighted to me, once again, how little we know about our past. One hundred years, only four generations back, and my family's story is just a silhouetted image, almost within my grasp, but yet foggy and unclear. While all my great-grandparents were all young, either single or about to start a family of their own, the were optimistic of their future. How sad it is to think that world history, intersected with some of their plans and prevented four of my eight great-grandparents from completing their journey the way nature intended. Thanks, +Randy Seaver for this genealogy challenge which truly embodies what we do in genealogy. You have re-inspired my to find my way to Europe to answer some of the major questions I have about my family's story.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Julius Burakoff Anyone?

Past-Present-Future is now in it's second year! This year I plan to post more often on an expanding set of topics, so be sure to check more frequently! To kick off the year, I would like to announce a new Friday Series of posts about one of my favorite genealogy mysteries: unidentified photos.

Friday's Faces From the Past will feature unidentified photos from my collection. As I leaf through my albums, I wonder who these people were and how their lives crossed with mine? I'm convinced that some hold an important clue to my family's past. I know many of these fading images belong to friends of the family whose descendants may have never seen a photo of their ancestors.  The beauty of the internet is that I can share these priceless portraits with the world, and together we can solve their mystery and share their story. 

There are many blogs posting unidentified photos, and I'm not sure how successful they are. This series is challenge of sorts. I want to test how long it will take to identify these images. In addition to the photo, I will share why I choose this particular photo and any clues I may have to improve the chances of identifying these images. My barometer for success? At least one identified photo in 2013. 

Genealogy is full of questions about the past. We attempt to answer these questions by collecting clues and piecing together a puzzle of sorts. This is a creative process and is much like weaving a tapestry from random strands of yarn or pasting a collage. It requires diverse scraps of materials such oral testimonies, official documents, aging tombstones, newspaper articles,  personal letters and memoirs as well as pictures. I collect these bits of history, try to make sense of them and weave them together onto the tree. By sharing these photos, I hope to draft my family, friends and fellow genealogist to the growing project of my family tapestry collage.

Today's Face From the Past is Julius

Julius came to me from the my Uncle Michael's lastest bag of treasures. Somehow, when I think there are no more lost treasures in the attics, some uncovers another surprise, mixed bag of old photographs and home movies belonging to my great-grandmother and my grandmother. Luckily, this particular photo, printed on a postcard cardboard has a lot of information on the back. 

The dedication written in pen,
is dated Labor Day 1918 and reads:
In commemoration of Sep 1,2- 1918 Htfd. CT
To Minnie from Julius. On the side in pencil it says Mrs. Burakoff.
The image is stamped H Tucker Photographer,
666 Pitkin Av, Brooklyn NY
This seems to be a photo of Julius himself, which he gave to my great-grandmother Minnie in 1918. There is something serious, yet gentle and kind in Julius's gaze in this rather stiff formal portrait, typical for the period it was take. From the nature of the dedication and my knowledge of Minnie's life, I surmise that Julius and Minnie had some kind of romantic weekend on Labor Day, 1918. In her memoir, Stored Treasures, Minnie reflects kindly on her early years in America when she was single and dated often, until she finally settled down and married William Bloomfield. She mentions many suitors, but rarely gives names. She never mentions Julius or the Labor Day escapade. Even if her "relationship with Julius" was not long lived, it's not surprising it is part of her collection. Minnie had many friends and remained friends with many of the men she dated which would explain why she kept his photo. I looked at our family tree, and there is no Julius which fits the age range (mid-late twenties?) for the man in the photo. This leads me to believe that this man was a friend or suitor, rather than a cousin.

The photo was taken in Brooklyn. Julius was likely a resident of New York rather than Hartford, though he may have spent some time in Hartford and that is how he met Minnie. Alternatively, they may have met during the months Minnie spent in NYor during one of her  brief visits, and then he came to visit her on Labor Day in Hartford. 

Mrs Burakoff, is the additional clue which jumps up at me. Scribbled later than 1918, in what is most likely Minnie's hand writing, is the name Mrs. Burakoff. Is this a photo of Julius Burakoff? Did Minnie intend to give the photo to a Mrs Burakoff later and that is why she labeled it such? Was Mr. Burakoff no longer around?

I did a little research on Julius Burakoff on-line. On Ancestry, I found a Julius Burakoff born in 1896 who registered for the draft in Jun 1918. He was living in Brooklyn. The form lists his father as the closest relative so I assume he was not married yet. Then in 1925 he appears in the NY State Census as living in the Bronx with a wife, Rose and a one-year-old daughter Mildred. I've located a family tree for this same Julius Burakoff and have contacted the manager to see if this may be the same person in my photo.

I'm not sure Julius' story will shed light on my family, but I have a feeling some of his descendants might enjoy seeing his portrait.

All of you photo detectives out there, I'd love some ideas of where to look next!