Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

How Did I Miss This?

The excitement of discovering a document for a family member never gets old! I relish each new record. As my genealogy research skills improved, I learned to pay close attention to the most minute details. So, how come often, when I review such a document months later, I discover something new—something I missed? Has it happened to you? Have you studied a marriage certificate inside and out, only to learn later that perhaps you over looked a witness who happened to be a family member? Yesterday, it happened again, and I have to admit, I love it when it happens! It's true, I do get frustrated with myself for missing important clues, but then again, the prize of learning something new about my ancestors makes it all worthwhile!

Yesterday, I logged into my account, as I do most days. At the top of my ancestry landing page stands the members connect activity newsfeed. Unlike Facebook or Tweeter newsfeeds, my ancestry feed barely moves. There are new listing once a week or sometimes less than once a month. Rarely, have these bits of information resulted in something relevant, so I tend to ignore them. When I do check, I often discover that members connected to me took information from my public tree. I don't mind, it's public, but can't help feeling disappointed that they haven't discovered anything new that might help my research.

Yesterday was different. I noticed one of my favorite collaborators had attached new documents to family members we share. Our trees cross quite a bit, but my family is only related to him via an x-wife of a cousin of his. Still, he is an excellent researcher and meticulous with his documentation. Yesterday he sparked my interest since he was working on my second great-grandmother. I was curious to see if he discovered something I may have missed, so, I clicked on Freida Toby Bloomfield (Pomerantz) on his tree.

The three documents he attached to Freida Toby, were not new to me. I had located these documents as well as three others. But when I glanced at his comments, immediately jumped out. The annotation next to the 1910 US census, a document I had looked at scores of times previously, pointed out that Freida Toby and Moses had 15 children 7 of whom were living in 1910. Fifteen children!!!  How had I missed this fact?
Close up of 1910 US Census for the Bloomfield Family from
Click to enlarge. See line 47.
 Columns 11 and 12 are: Mother of How Many Children: Number Born: 15, Number living in 1910: 7

Photo of Moses and Freida Toby Bloomfield with a baby.
The photo is from Marty Bloomfield's collection. It is not
dated. Marty believes the baby is either Joseph or one of his
younger siblings (Barney or Ben).
Most likely taken in Russia c1900-1906.
The 1910 Census provided a wealth of clues. It lists not only Freida and Toby, and her husband Moses, but William (my great-grandfather), Harry, Joseph, Barney and Ben, all of whom were living with their parents, as well as three boarders, all of whom were cousins. The census lists their address as 179 North Street, in Claremont. It confirms William and Harry as well as the cousins were working at the Shoe factory (Maynard Shoe Factory listed in the City Directory), while the younger siblings were in school. I had studied this document inside and out. How had I overlooked this fact?

Well known family folklore suggests the seven Bloomfield brothers had sisters as well, but none of them lived to adulthood or made it to America. The story, not surprising for a poor family in Russia around the turn of the century, had never been confirmed, but consistent with some facts we knew about the family. A thirty year span separates Aaron Bloomfield, born c.1875, from Benjamin his youngest Benjamin (the musician, actor and engineer), born c1905. The age gaps vary from a year between Barney and Benjamin, to almost ten years between Harry and Joseph suggesting other pregnancies and children who may have not lived to adulthood. Another relevant detail is the fact Freida Toby and Moses were first cousins. First cousin marriages often unmasked a silent carrier gene in a family, which can leads to disease. These types of diseases can lead to early miscarriages, mental retardation and premature death. Then there is Barney, who was rumored to be "slow" due to uncontrolled bleeding at birth. My husband, who is a pediatrician, theorizes that Barney mostly likely bled heavily because of a vitamin K deficiency which can result in what was known as hemorrhagic disease of the newborn.  This self limited hemorrhagic illness, today treated with prophylactic vitamin K injection, was not well understood back then. In severe cases, it could lead to neurologic damage and death. If this is indeed happened to Barney, it certainly could have happened to other Bloomfield children, who may not have survived.

For years, I  understood the existence of Bloomfield daughters as a very likely truth, yet I found no birth certificates, graves or other documents to support this sad story. The 1910 Census, thanks to my connection, is the first paper proof for the existence of more Bloomfield siblings. This finding, magnified the harshness of my ancestors lives and the multiple tragedies they endured. Freida Toby and Moses had 15 children, 15 births (not counting miscarriages) and lost 8 children before 1910. Some were most likely girls. This sad reality, though not uncommon back then, surprised me. Once again, I was reminded of the importance of examining and re-examining documents. And if I was not a firm believer in the importance of collaboration and sharing of public family trees, I am fully now convinced! Are you?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past: Photo Challenge Solved!

There were many enthusiastic replies and some amazing stories associate with the photo from last week's photo challenge. I have really enjoyed hearing from the family as well as my readers. Many of the replies came via e-mail or facebook and I'd like to share some of them with you as I disclose the young Bloomfield musician in the photo.

The first to venture a guess was my second cousin once removed, Ellen—Harry Bloomfield's granddaughter. Here is what she had to say:
"...As for the photo, I'm going to guess that's a baby Joe with the violin. Otherwise, I don't have a clue. Thanks for posting all these wonderful photos and research!"
Closeup of Ben with the
Violin in a youth orchestra.
Ellen was only partially correct. She found the Bloomfield in the photo! But it's not Joe. Joe was musical as well, but this young Bloomfield violinist is not Joe. 

The next person to reply was my uncle Michael. His guess was based on the one time he met his great-uncle:
"Wonderful. I met him in Vermont many, many years ago, and remembered him as a saxophone and other types of horn player. That's why I picked Ben, and that's why I picked those two guys." (He is referring it's the two horn players in the back).
Ben Bloomfield (Top, second from the left)
holding a Saxophone with the original1937 Yacht Club band. 
Despite being partially incorrect, this is a good guess. Ben Bloomfield is the young man in the photo and between the two of them, my relatives found the correct Bloomfield. This guess, also teaches us a bit about Ben and his versatility as a musician. He did play horn instruments, but apparently at this young age, he played the violin.

The next person to take-up the challenge and the first to nail the reply, was not a relative at all, but a genealogist and faithful reader, +Mariann Regan. Here is how Mariann came up with the correct answer:
"Yikes, it's test time! OK, I'm going to guess that the young Bloomfield is the violinist, front row right. My guess is that it's Ben, Joe, or Barney. OK, just kidding. I'm going with . . . Ben. I looked at the photos in the last two posts and chose by the shape of the face and the ears. My second choice was Joe. I don't think it's Barney. I'm probably totally wrong. Wow, is there ever a strong family resemblance!"
Impressive Mariann! You are an excellent photo detective!

The last response I want to share, came from someone who knew Ben growing up, Shirley, Bareny Kenet's daughter (remember the flood Hero peddler story?). Shirley has no trouble identifying Ben, whom she knew well. Her e-mail was full of fascinating details about this amazingly talented uncle:
"...The picture of the little violinist is definitely Ben. Even then his great intelligence and interest in whatever he did is evident in his expression. Ben was a very accomplished musician and played a number of instruments , many were self taught. At one point the Vermont symphony needed a horn player (oboe or bassoon) so he taught himself that instrument and played with the orchestra. He also was an accomplished actor and performed in regional theatre groups in Ludlow and Weston Vermont in lead roles. The Spencer Tracy type roles. He was tall, ruggedly handsome, charming and had a great sense of humor and wonderful laugh.
Shirley shared another story about a girlfriend he brought home from New York, but I'll leave that story for another day. Shirley's account is consistent with other stories I've heard about uncle Ben, who seemed to have been quite the renaissance man. Here is what his nephew Marty wrote about him for his profile:
"Ben played the slide trombone in one of the famous jazz clubs in Greenwich Village during its heyday. Because of his talent he was selected to play in the all Indian Band (they needed a trombone player) for Roosevelt in 1932.... He was quite a man, involved in the Vermont symphony, theatre as acting and then directing, and also was political. He worked with the police department, helping them with troublesome boys, too. When he retired he had a direct line in his home to help GE with their cars.... He enjoyed solving math puzzles in the Scientific Magazine."
Ben Bloomfield, 1937
Photo from the collection of Marty Bloomfield.
And if he didn't play enough instruments, in the photo on the left, Ben is playing the piano. And so I'll quote Marty again when he summed up his impression of Ben: Quite a guy!
Questions remain about the original photo from our challenge. It is a remarkable photo of Ben at the onset of his musical career. As we have seen, the family had little money, and there are very few photos from before 1919. How old was Ben in the original photo with the youth orchestra? Where was the photo taken?

Dating the photo: Ben arrived in America in 1909 at age four. He looks to be somewhere between 10-13 in the orchestra portrait, therefore we can further limits the time frame of the photo to between 1914 and 1917. Comparing the photo to the family photo of the Bloomfield boys with their mother Freida Toby, taken in 1919 (see close up on the left) confirms that the orchestra photo had to have been taken before 1919.
Close up Ben from the family photo c1919
about 15 years old. 

Location of the photo: In 1914, the Bloomfields were in the process of moving. They appear in both the Claremont and Laconia city directories of 1913 and 1914 and after that, they settled in Laconia. It's most likely the photo was taken in Laconia, although it's possible it was a Claremont Youth Orchestra. My next task is to locate information about the two youth orchestras in that period.

Do keep the stories about Ben coming and I promise to share more that didn't fit in this post (yes, there is more!).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday's Faces From the Past: Photo Challenge

A photo challenge for the photo detectives amongst you! This jewel of a photo, arrived in Marty's surprise package a few weeks ago. Unlike the perplexing Barney photos I shared in last week's Friday's Faces From the Past: Barney Bloomfield and this week in Stuggles to Identify Barney Bloomfield this photo is clearly labeled. But, before I reveal which of the Bloomfield brothers is in this amazing photograph, I thought give you all a chance to show your detective skills! There are enough family history clues throughout this blog which should make this weekend puzzle solvable. See if you can answer the following five question:
1. Where and when was this picture taken?
2. Which of these young musicians is a Bloomfield?
3. Which of the seven Bloomfield siblings is this?
4. How did you reach this conclusion.
5. How old is he in this picture?  
Leave your answers in the comment section and come back next week to discover who is the Bloomfield in the picture. Marty, you don't get to play! Family members who know the answer, please wait until next week to give it away.

Youth Orchestra
(Click to Enlarge)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stuggles to Identify Barney Bloomfield

Friday's survey of the three recently discovered photo of Barney Bloomfield was far from conclusive. Some of my most observant readers, were as uncomfortable as I was in concluding that all three photographs belong to the same person or even resemble the one known photo of Barney. Being the perfectionist that I am, it's been bugging me, and I've been re-examining these images and looking at my great-grandmother's album for possible clues. 

Let's start with our baseline photo. We'll call it photo #1 (as per the suggestion of Mariann). It's the close up of the one known photo of Barney from around 1919-1920. He is about 16 years old in the photo. As Mariann pointed out last week in her comment, Barney's face is a bit smudged. Both the nose and the eye seem to be affected. I've tried to rescan and enhance this photo to the best resolution. Unfortunately it's not much better than what I posted on Friday.

The next image, is photo #2, and a closeup of the second image I posted on Friday. I'd like to compare it to the formal image of Joe's from the same time. This second closeup, shows how much resemblance there was between the two brothers when they were young. 

Joe (left) has a very slight suggestion of his typical crease above the nose. Barney (right) , if that is the brother in the picture, has a slightly wider face. They both have a very stern look. Compare the two of them standing side by side from the family photo. The close up below, is from the same picture photo #1 is taken, but includes Joe.

Joe (left), Barney (Right) version 2 of photo #1. (Closeup of family portrait with their mother).
Both boys look remarkably different in this less formal portrait, than in the later studio photographs above, though Joe, two years the elder, seems to have changed a bit less. Still, without Marty's (Joe's son) help, I'd be hard pressed from this photo, to decide which of the formal studies correspond to Joe. What we can learn from Joe's formal portrait, is that the studio photo did distort a bit what they looked like. How many of us, barely recognize ourselves in a formal portrait?


Let's examine photo #3. In this last, more spontaneous closeup of the shot on the dock, the man is smiling. He seems a bit older, maybe in his early twenties, and the sides of his head remain shaven, like in the formal photo, but the top is allowed to curl more naturally. Despite trying to improve the resolution of this photo, the eyes and bridge of his nose remain fairly obscured. Placing the closeup of photo #2 next to photo #3 helped convince me, that this can be an older version of the same man. The width of the nose and the hairline, only a bit more receding, suggest the same man.

Photo number #4 is not much help since the quality is so poor. Here the man is smiling and the general structure of the face seems to be the same.

Now for the last clue. This next photo, photo #5, comes from a different source,  Minnie's album. It lies on the same page as several similar unlabeled photos, long suspected to be taken in Frieda Toby's back yard and most likely belonging to the Bloomfield brothers. Over the years, as I familiarized myself with the brothers, I was able to identify most of the photos in this group. I reasoned that one photo must belong to Barney, but I was never quite sure which one. After receiving Marty's package and studying the four possible photos of Barney, I believe I've identified Barney in the group from Minnie's album. this positive ID also helps confirm his identification in photos #2-4. 

Photo #5, Most likely one of the Bloomfield brothers. ?Barney, sitting on his mother's stoop. c1920
(click to enlarge)
Closeup of photo #5.
(Click to enlarge)
This closeup shows a young man who could easily be the same man in photo #3 and probably photo #4. It's easier to tell the resemblance between this photo and photos 3-4, because he is relaxed and smiling. I am able to date this photo to about 1920 because it belongs to the group of photos which looks like it was taken when Minnie and William arrived in Laconia for their honeymoon, October, 1920. According to Masse Bloomfield (Harry's son), the Bloomfields did not own a camera, since aside from the family photo, the formal portraits and the photos in Minnie's album, there are no photos of the Bloomfield brothers growing up. Minnie and William's visit, was a big occasion. Masse suggested that someone, a friend possibly, came out and took some photos for them. There is a photo of Minnie feeding her mother-in-law's chickens in the yard, which is clearly dated and labeled. Then there was this additional group of photos, which were most likely taken the same day. Masse, identified his father Harry easily when I showed him this next photograph (#7).

Minnie in the Yard. Her mother in-law's house is
clearly visible. The back porch is behind the
chicken coop fence.
Oct 30th, 1920. Photo #6
Harry in his mother's checken coop. Most likely taken on
the same day as Minnie's photo. The house is barely visible,
but there is a better view of the back porch and stairs. Notice his
hair is cut in the similar shaved sides fashion.
Photo #7 (Click to enlarge)

Photo #8: Joe (click to enlarge)
These next two photos (#8 & 9) are of Joe and Ben respectively. They are both fairly easy to identify. Ben's picture is taken at the same spot as the one I suspect to be Barney. So far, all the siblings who would have been present when Minnie and William arrived in Laconia is in the photos. Maybe Minnie and William, who were not planning to stay long, wanted a photo of each of William's brothers. Possibly, the brothers were excited with the prospect of a camera around and wanted their photo taken. Notably absent are Aaron, the eldest who lived in Windsor Vermont, and Max the next eldest who lived in Springfield. It's very likely that they did not join the family in Laconia during William's visit which would explain why there is no photo of them.

Photo #9: Ben (Click to enlarge)
Photo #10: William Bloomfield c1920 (click to enlarge).
 The last photo was impossible to identify, until I scanned it and zoomed in on my computer. It's of a heavy set man, standing next to the back porch of Freida Toby's house. I suspected this to be one of the brothers because it was taken in next to the same screened porch, but the figure was too small to identify with the naked eye. When I looked at the photo closely, I realized it was William! My great-grandfather! William was very over weight in 1920. Minnie described him as such in her memoir. There is no wedding photograph so, I was not quite sure what he looked like at his heaviest, but I've seen enough photos from before and after, to recognize his face immediately. Aside from Barney, he would have been the last Bloomfield in Laconia on October 1920. Once I identified all of the siblings, but Barney, it left little doubt in my mind that photo #5 must be Barney.

Here is one last look at the five potential photos of Barney Bloomfield, and a bit of algebra. 

Photo #1=Barney. Photo #2=probably Barney.
Photo #1

Photo #2

If Photo #5=Barney then Photo #3 & #4= most likely Barney. 
Photo #4
Photo #3
Photo #5
As always, I'd love your input!

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