Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

So Close and Yet So Far

How long has it been since I've been asking the simple question, where are the Bloomfields from? More specifically: what village where they from? Probably six years? America is a land of immigrants and William Bloomfield, my great-grandfather immigrated from somewhere in the Russian Empire. The hunt after this elusive village, is what makes genealogy fun. I share this journey with another Bloomfield cousin and together, systematically and patiently we have tried to pinpoint the shtetl.

Let's review the evidence so far:
The Bloomfields records have sent us on all over the map. I've examined the records of Moses Bloomfield, his siblings (Harris Blumenfeld and Mary Pincus) and seven sons and generated a list of towns. Check out the google map I created:

View Bloomfield Russian Towns in a larger map
  1. Malec (a town in Pruzhany district, Grodno region in current day Belarus) also known as: Malech [Rus], Malecz [Pol], Maltsh [Yid], Maleč [Bel], Maltch, Malch, Moletch- listed as Moses Bloomfield permanent residence from Harry Bloomfield's birth certificate,  and on Harris Blumenfeld naturalization papers and Mary Pincus' ship manifest as their place of birth.
  2. Pruzhany (a town and district in the providence of Grodno also in Belarus)- from Mary Pincus's naturalization papers and Minnie Bloomfield (Crane) naturalization papers which name Pruzany as her husband William's place of birth.
  3. Grodno (a town, a district and a province in what is now current day Belarus)- from William Bloomfield's WWII draft registration.
  4. Slawatczye (a town in Biała district, Siedlce and province, currently in Poland, 25 miles from the city of Brest) from Harry Bloomfield's birth certificate and WWI draft registration.
  5. Brest (a town and a district in the province of Grodno now also in Belarus)- from Harry Bloomfield's WWII draft registration.
  6. Wladimiretz, Wolyin- Determining which town this is referring to, is a bit difficult. Wladimiretz was mentioned on the ship manifest for Moses, Freida Toby and their four youngest sons. The name Vladimerz was mentioned on Barney Bloomfield's preliminary form for Petition of Naturalization. I believe this is the town of Vladimirets in the district of Lutsk and the province of Volhynia (also known as Wolyn). This town is known by many names which include: Włodzimierzec [Pol], Volodymyrets' [Ukr], Vlodimiretz [Yid], Vlodzhimyerzets, Wladimirez, Vlodzimezhets, Vladimirei and Volodymyrec'. Before WWI, it was called, like it is now, Vladimirets. Confusingly it could also be Volodymyr Volynskyy [Ukr] also known by many names such as Vladimir Volynskiy [Rus], Włodzimierz Wolynski [Pol], Ludmir [Yid], Lodomeria [Lat], Ladmir, Lodmer, Ludomir, Vladimir Volinski, Vladzimyrz, Włodzimierz, Wladimir, Wladimir Wolynsk, Wolodymyr-Wolynskyj, which was in the district of Vladimir and the same province of Volhynia. Before WWI, this town was known as Vladimir and that is why my sense is that it's not the correct town mentioned in the manifest. What do you think?
Making sense of the list of towns:
A close examination suggest that some of the named locations are one and the same.

  • Pruzhany for example was mentioned only on Mary Pincus' naturalization papers, while her ship manifest specifically mentions Malec. This suggest that Malec is the more specific location and Pruzhany is the district not the town. 
  • Grodno is mentioned only on William's draft registration  but it is also the province where Malec is located. Since on Minnie's naturalization papers, Pruzhany is William's place of birth, it seems that Pruzhany in the Grondo province is the more specific location and Grodno the town can be eliminated. William could s
  • Slawatczye was only mentioned in Harry Bloomfiled's birth record from 1892 and his WWI draft registration. The draft registration names Brest as the town and Slawatczye as the state. This seems to be backwards. Since, Brest is not mention with regards to any other family member it seems Brest the town can be eliminated from the list. Slawatczye remains on the list as Harry's place of birth. This birth record does say the family was from Malec, and only temporary residence of Slawatczye, meaning that they may have moved to Slawatczye but did not change their permanent residence. This makes Slawatczye an likely ancestral village. 
  • Finally, Vladimirets seems to be the Bloomfields last residence before coming to America. It's unlikely that the ship manifest correctly described all their places of birth since we have confirmed that Harry was indeed born in Slawatczye and not Vladimirets. It seems much more likely that the younger three siblings were born in Vladimirets. Though Vladimirets could have been where Moses and Freida Toby were born as well (and possibly where they returned to before going to the US), it seems more likely though that Moses was from Malec as he was registered as a permanent resident there and back then it was difficult to change one's permanent residence. Freida Toby's place of birth is a whole other mystery. Barney Bloomfield's naturalization papers state he was born in Vladimirets but qualify that he is not sure the name of the town. This suggests that they lived in the region of Vladimirets, but not necessarily the town of Vladimirets.
Using this train of thought we trim the list to 4 towns: Malech, Pruzhany, Slawatcyze and Vladimirets (or Volodymyr Volynskyy).

As I mentioned in: Bingo! A letter from the Genealogy Program at USCIS! Part I and Part II, Minnie Crane' (William's Bloomfield's wife) naturalization papers listed Williams place of birth as Pruzhany. This seemed a bit disappointing because it did not specify if he was born in Pruzhany the town or the district. Since then, I've been waiting for William's naturalization papers to arrive from USCIS. I'm still waiting. But, thanks to one of my readers, renowned blogger—Legal Genealogist—Judy Russel, I need not wait any longer. Judy, kindly took the a little time to research William Bloomfield. She brought to my attention, that his naturalization papers are now online at as part of the Houston naturalization papers collection. I'm not sure how long the collection has been online but it's not on the new and updated list of collections which goes back to July 2nd. I guess I need to be studying this list more often, since somehow I missed this even though I'm on ancestry pretty much everyday. Unfortunately no little leaf pointed me to these new records, but fortunately, I am part of a wonderful genealogy community and Judy Russel alerted me much faster than Ancestry. Thanks Judy!

So, finally, after all this time, I bring to you William Bloomfield's Declaration of Intent to become a United States citizen:
William Bloomfield Declaration of Intent (Click to enlarge)

So Close and Yet so Far!

Unfortunately, this records did not bring us any closer to answering the big question. William lists his place of birth as Pruzany. Thanks gramps! Did you mean you were born in the town of Pruzany? Or where you born in Malec where you father and his siblings seem to be from and which is in the district of Pruzhany? Will I ever know the answer?

One new and very important clue provided by these documents is William's arrival information including the date and the name of the ship:

William arrived from Rotterdam on the Rotterdam on the 22 Dec 1903.

I was hopeful that maybe the ship manifest—another document I've been after for years—would shed some light on the subject. The manifest was not indexed which explains why it was so difficult to track-down without the specific ship information. Yet gain, luck was not on my side. While so many ship manifest forms have a column for place of birth, William's did not.
Wolf Blumenfeld Ship Manifest (click to enlarge)
See the close up for Williams entry on line 9:

(click to enlarge) Close up of Line 9, Wolf Blumenfeld Ship Manifest: William Blumenfeld, 18 M, Merchant, able to read and write, Nationality: Russia, Race or People: Hebrew, Last residence: Kuselin, Final Destination: Fall River, Trip paid for by: brother, In possession of $5, Going to Join: brother M. Blumenfeld, 965 Pleasant Street, NY.
What it did provide was a last residence: Kuselin, a place I never heard. There is a town in today's Ukraine called Kiselin [Rus, Yid], also known as Kisielin [Pol], Kysylyn [Ukr]. In 1903 Kiselin was in the district of Vladimir, the providence of Volhynia, which was part of the Russian Empire. It is located  between Vladimirets and Volodymyr Volynskyy, but closer to Volodymyr Volynskyy (only 21 miles). I believe Kuselin may indeed be the town because it would be consistent with the fact that the family reported Wladimiretz as their last residence, since Kiselin was very near to Volodymyr Volynskyy. Wladimiretz may even be the referring to the name of the district Vladimir and the actual town may have been Kuselin. William who was only was only 16 in 1903 (according the his 1887 year of birth which he used consistently thought his life) was likely living with his family. (The fact that he reported to be 18 on the manifest is not troubling since many underage travelers lied about their age in order to be allowed to travel alone). 

The answer to the big question: what was the Bloomfield's ancestral village? Remains confusing and illusive. Maybe my question is the problem. Maybe the question is too big and not focused enough. Which ancestor does ancestral village refers to? William, my great-grandfather, or a generation above? Am I asking where they were born or where they lived? Do I mean, where would they consider themselves to be from? Where they grew up? or perhaps where their ancestors lived? 

Perhaps I assumed when I formulated this big question, that they lived in one place until they moved to America. The Bloomfields seem to have embodied the term the wandering Jew. This close review of the records answer a lot of questions smaller questions and helps outline a timeline the family's whereabouts.

The Answer for Now: 

The town of Malec, in the district of Pruzhany seems to be where Moses's generation was born. If Moses was not born there in 1854, he considered it his permanent residence, and his younger siblings were born there (1871-1873). It is possible that some of Moses's older children were also born in Malec since William (the third oldest) was born in Pruzhany in 1887. The next son, Harry was born in Slawatczye in 1892 which means that between 1887 and 1892 the family moved, since Slawatczye is not in the district of Pruzhany. By 1903 the family living the Vladimir district where Barney was born (second to youngest son). They were very likely to be living in the town of Kuselin in 1904, the date William departed for America. 

Malec continues to appear to be the closest approximation to an ancestral town. There is much more research to do, but from now, there will be only small questions such as: Where were each of the Bloomfield children born? How would you go about obtaining the answers? My plan is to obtain missing naturalization papers for Aaron, Max, Harry, Joseph, Barney and Benjamin. A trip to the National Archives in Waltham is probably where I'll start since they all lived in New England. These records promise to provide ship manifest for the older two brothers, Aaron and Max. Where would you look next? 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday's Faces From the Past: Descendants Discovered

On Friday Dec 6th, 2013 I featured Charles Coff as my Friday's face from the past. Charles Coff was not a relative of mine, but his beautiful portrait alongside a family group photo were prominently displayed in my great-grandmother's photo album. My only clues were an inscription on the back, dated 1917 which described his "deep friendship" with Minnie Crane, my great-grandmother. "Deep friendship" seemed to be a code word for their courtship, as Minnie, in her memoir describes multiple suitors during her glory days of being a young single woman in Hartford and New York City. The group photo of the Coffs, dedicated to Minnie by Charles, suggests that she knew and was probably friends with his family as well.

Through last winter's post, I was hoping to return these vintage photos to Coff descendants. It seemed very likely that the Coff family no longer owns copies of these photos or maybe they have the photo but can not identify the people in them. Since they are scanned and included in my records, I felt happy to send the originals to a family member who might want them. As part of the earlier post, I did a bit of research about the Coffs, but lost track of them and their whereabouts after 1919 and found no descendants.

Charles Coff with arms around his sister
Sophia Coff (identified by her granddaughter). The
other three man in the photo are likely
also Coff siblings. One is probably Samuel.  
Last week, to my amazement, I received a comment on the post from a Coff descendant (who goes by the online name, Doctorbak). She is the granddaughter of Sophia Coff, the woman in the photo with her brothers. Recently, Doctorbak came across a photo of her grandmother Rose (who died before she was born) with a young man, probably her husband, back in Russia. Doctorbak and her siblings realized that they never knew Rose's husband name. On a whim, she googled Rose Coff and what she found was a link to my blog and a history of her family's early years in Hartford. Doctorbak never met Charles Coff nor any of Sophia's siblings.

This is the first time that thanks to the power of google, my blog has successfully found a home to an orphaned photo. Though this not the first time people researching their family history have connected to me through google and my blog, it is the first time that I am able to solve a photo mystery in this manner and return the photograph, along with some genealogy research to a family. One of the advantages using blogger is that google gives high priority to these posts in their search engine. Labeling (or tagging) individuals mentioned in a post, is a tool I use to increase the online visibility of these ancestors. If you are a blogger and do not label your ancestors, I highly recommend you start doing so. It works!

The Coff descendants were looking for the name of their great-grandfather, husband of Rose Coff. I believe it may be Moses, since Rose is listed as widow of Moses in the 1914 Hartford City Directory. More research would need to be done to prove that indeed Moses was the man in their photo, but thanks to the Friday's Photo From the Past series, they are now one step closer to identifying their mystery man and to find answers to many more family history questions they didn't know they had.

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Bingo! A letter from the Genealogy Program at USCIS! Part II

A few months ago I reported about a promising letter I received from USCIS in the post: Treasure Chest Thursday: Bingo! A letter from the Genealogy Program at USCIS! Part II. Finally, after what seemed like an eternal three months, the awaited naturalization papers for Minnie Crane (Menuche Kranowitz) finally arrived.

As you may remember, Minnie's naturalization papers have been difficult to find. I've been after them for more than five years. The hope in obtaining these papers was not so much to learn about Minnie, but more importantly to learn about her husband, William Bloomfield.

The Big Question: What was the Bloomfield's ancestral village?

For years, the Bloomfield cousins have been trying to answer a simple question. Where are the Bloomfields from? More specifically, what is the name of the village in Russia they came from? Moses and Frieda Bloomfield (known as Belous or Belo-oose in Russia) had seven grown sons (among them my great-grandfather, William Bloomfield). Where were they from? In order to be able to locate documents for the family in Europe, it is essential to identify where they were from.

Our joint efforts have lead to many many documents tracking the Bloomfields in the US including, ship manifests, draft registration and some naturalization papers (few) mostly named Russia or Grodno as the place of birth. Some family members papers named Pruzhany as their town of birth others named Vladimirets, Brest. Harry's birth certificate is from Slawatycze, and states that his father Moses was from Malech. In addition there is evidence that both Moses' brother (naturalization papers) and sister (ship manifest) were born in Malec.

The answer to this apparently simple question, maybe quite complex. Many Jewish family, moved frequently and it is very possible that different family members where born in different towns. Malech, a small shtetl in what is now Belarus, is in the Pruzhany district part of the Grodno Providence of what was then the Russian Empire. It seems to be where Moses' generation was from. Moses then moved his family and it is not clear where all the children were born.

As I mentioned in Part I of this series, because of the cost involved in obtaining these records, I've had to prioritize. I decided to begin with my own great-grandfather William Bloomfield. When the USCIS search failed for William, I proceeded with a search for Minnie's documents in the hope it would shed light onto William's naturalization papers.

Menuche Krainowitz Bloomfield
Petition For Naturalization
[Click to Enlarge]
Double Bingo! 

Sure enough, Minnie's naturalization papers did contain the clues I was after. According to the document, William was born in Prusinian, Poland. This could mean he was from the Pruzhany district or from the city of Pruzhany.

In addition, it's as if Minnie answered my question regarding how to locate William's naturalization papers directly:

"My husband was admitted to citizenship on November 4, 1925 in the United States District Court at Houston, Texas, and certicate of Naturalization no. 2180218 was issued to him."

Another interesting bit of information is how Minnie reported her legal name in 1928: Menuche Krainowitz Bloomfield. Though in most documents, she had been using Minnie Crane (including her marriage certificate from 1920), she used the name that she used in Europe when filing for naturalization.

The Next Step

Now it's time to write the USCIS again and provide them William's naturalization information. Hopefully, knowing he filed in Houston, having the dates and the number of his naturalization certificate, they will be able to locate his record. This record, may have a more specific town than just Pruzhany. In addition, it should contain William's arrival info into the US including the date and ship. Unfortunately, this will require a new Index search (3 months) and then at least another three months to request the records if the do find them. My next recourse, if they can not identifying in their archive is to contact the Texas courts directly. I promise to share the results on a future post, though we will all need a lot of patience!

In the comments on Part I of this series, some of you expressed interest in obtaining records from the USCIS for the first time. Have you had any luck? Please share your experience with us.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pilgrimage to New Britain Cemetery

This week, I had a chance to visit the Beth Alom Cemetery in New Britain, Connecticut. The cemetery has been on my to do list for a long time. The small cemetery, is the resting place for Aaron Kranowitz, along with many members of his family. Apparently, Aaron is the first of the Kranowitz's to come to America well deserving a tribute visit to his grave. In addition, to saying a blessing in his memory, there was hope the stone itself could answer some research questions. I've driven past New Britain scores of times in the past few years. Usually, the car was packed with my family members who were eager to get home and had no desire to trample through an old Jewish cemetery, looking for forgotten ancestors.

My family is in the midst of a transition period. Only three weeks ago, my oldest son left home to begin his college journey. Turns out, he couldn't live without his keyboard. The nice mom that I am, I decided to make the two hour trip and drop it off. Clearly, I had ulterior an motive in agreeing to take the drive. Mostly, I just wanted to visit him. We had a lovely visit and a great brunch together (some of the best banana pancakes I've ever had). On the way home, I realized I had time for a short detour to New Britain and there was no one in the car to complain about the genealogy field trip.

There are a lot of research destinations on my New Britain/Hartford list: the public library (to look at New Britain High School yearbooks), various address where my ancestors lived and the Rose garden my great-grandmother loved. Since my time was limited ( I had another son who needed to be picked up from school), I decided that the cemetery would be the quickest and most productive stop.

Google had no problem locating the small cemetery at 48 Allen Street, only about ten minutes out the way home. The gate was wide open and I parked near the office. I was hoping to find a map, but as luck would have it, the office was locked and gave the appearance that it has been locked for many years. The search for the graves, took a bit longer than expected without a map, but eventually I did located most of the graves. Most importantly, I found Aaron Kranowitz's grave and next to him, his wife Sophie. I did my best to clear the overgrown grass, laid a small stone on each grave and said Kaddish for my relatives. Before heading back to Boston, I photographed all the graves.

The quick trip, was a reminder of how important it is to obtain original documents, in this case, the actual gravestone.
I had two questions regarding Aaron Kranowitz was:
1. What were his parents names?
2. What was his Hebrew name?

Aaron Kranowitz, is Moshe Aaron Kranowitz (my second great-grandfather)'s brother. While Moshe Aaron's parents according to our family tree (compiled by family elders including my great-grandmother) were Lazar and Chaya Bryna. None of Moshe Aaron's siblings were on the tree, but I've since learned the names of 4 brothers and 2 sisters from various sources. Aaron, was one of the brothers. The problem is that Aaron Kranowitz's entry on JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) (a database of names and other identifying information from cemeteries and burial records worldwide) listed Aaron's parent's names as Leibel and Bertha.

Name:Aaron Kranowitz
Birth Date:1863
Death Date:26 Dec 1916
Age at Death:53
Burial Plot:G 30
Burial Place:New Britain, Connecticut, United States
Spouse Name:Sophie
Father Name:Leibel
Mother Name:Bertha
Cemetery:Beth Alom
Cemetery Address:Allen Street
Cemetery Burials:2060

Since there is much proof that Aaron is indeed Moshe Aaron's brother, my sense was that the JOWBR entry was mostly a mistake. The way this database is entered on it is not clear where the information came from. It is not specified whether it came from the cemetery or the burial record? Could there be a transcription error?  This is the reason for my first question. What were the names of Aaron Kranowitz's parents, Lazar and Chaya Bryna, or Leibel and Bertha?

The second question, concerning Aaron's Hebrew name, arrises from the fact that Moshe Aaron and Aaron Kranowitz, shared the name Aaron. It seemed unusual, yet not unheard of, that the brothers would have the same name. My great-grandmother Minnie, refers to Aaron as Oscar or Osher in her memoir, but in all the US records  (including city directories, census records, naturalization records), he appears as Aaron. I postulated that Aaron (though Hebrew) was the Americanized name he chose for himself. Possibly he chose the name in honor of his brother Moshe Aaron. My guess was that he had a different Hebrew and/or Yiddish name. Osher was probably his Yiddish name and the name my great-grandmother heard back in Russia. Often people continued to use their Yiddish names among the family even though on legal documents they used a more Americanized name. This would explain why my grandmother thought of him as Osher and maybe wrote Oscar in the memoir, thinking it was the Americanized version her readers would understand. On the Russian Voter and Tax registration list from 1875, Lazar is listed along with five sons. There is an Osher, son of Leizor (Yiddish for Lazar) in Belitsa (the Kranowitz' hometown). Is this Osher, indeed Aaron Kranowitz?

Tax and Voter's list 1875 (Litvak Sig) [Click to Enlarge]
The answer for both questions, was indeed on the gravestone:

The top Hebrew line is difficult to read (I should have done a better job with the grass), but the caption reads: Buried here is Asher son Eliezer (Hebrew for Lazar or Leizer). Aaron, is indeed Lazar's son. The JOWBR entry which is a secondary source, is less reliable and very likely incorrect. Aaron's Hebrew name is Asher (Hebrew for Osher). He indeed is the same Osher from the Russian Voter and Tax payers list.

Sophie Kranowitz lay next to her husband and her stone contained two new pieces of information as well:

Sophie's Herbrew name was Shifra, and she was the daughter of Abraham. Thanks to this new piece of information, I discovered another record for Aaron and Sophie, a marriage certificate index. I have not seen the microfilm of the original marriage certificate yet, but this is the index I found:

Index Lithuanian Marriages and Divorces, All Lithuania Database (Litvak Sig) entry for Osher Krainovich and Shifra Grozen, 13 Jan 1886 [Click to enlarge]

I had seen this record before, but since this was a record from Vilna and not Belitsa, and I didn't know Sophie was Shifra, I was unable to confirm this marriage corresponded to Aaron and Sophie. On the 1900 US census, Aaron and Sophie reported being married for 15 years which places their wedding date to about 1885, consistent with the above record dated 13 Jan 1886. Aaron also reported arriving in the US in 1886. Since he married in early January, we can assume he arrived shortly after he married. Aaron is listed as 27 years old, placing his year of birth as 1859, while the tombstone implies he was born about 1862-3. This four discrepancy can easily be explained by the fact that many people did not know their exact year or date of birth. They also had many reason to want to appear older or younger at certain points so it is not uncommon to see different years of birth for the same person on different documents. Aaron's date of birth is 1863, 1862 (1900, 1910 US census), 1859 (Hamburg ship manifest for Isser Krinowitz from Wilno, arriving 17 Aug 1886). Interestingly, the earliest record, the ship manifest, closes in date to the marriage record and the one most likely to have Aaron himself as the informant, is the most consistent with the year of birth in the marriage record. All of this evidence suggests that the marriage record indeed corresponds to our Aaron Kranowitz and his year of birth is likely to be in about 1859.

Luckily this microfilm from Vilna is available through LDS and I should be able to review it in a few weeks. This 1886 document promises to be the oldest original document for the Kranowitz family that I will be able to examine. For now, I look forward to returning to New Britain for further research.

If you haven't visited a cemetery on your list, I highly recommend you take the trip. Has a visit to a cemetery help move a long your research? Do share your story!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Bingo! A letter from the Genealogy Program at USCIS!

How long have I been researching my great-grandmother Minnie Crane (aka Menuche Kranowitz, Minnie Bloomfield, Minnie Heintz, Minnie Falk and Moma)? At least five years! In these five years, I have amassed a large amount of information about the only great-grandmother I had the privilege of knowing, and as most of you know, I even published her memoir. Yet, holes in this research remain. One of these glaring holes is Minnie naturalization papers.

Don't you love naturalization papers? I do. They are full of important genealogical pieces of information. Information such as place of birth, arrival information including ship manifest and sometimes even photos. I have successfully found naturalization papers for many relatives, near and far, but Minni's has managed to remain hidden.

Research Background: The first time Minnie appears on the US census was in 1920 (1), living in Hartford, Connecticut with her brother Harry, his wife Sarah and their oldest son Herb (the one who just passed away last month at the age of 94). On the census, Minnie was listed as an alien. By the end of 1920, she married my great-grandfather, William Bloomfield in New York City (2). William, was enumerated in Houston, Texas on the 1920 census. He was living with his uncle Morris Aaron Pomerantz and family. William's immigration status on this record was listed as Pa, which stands for Papers Filed, meaning he had submitted his declaration of intent and was in the process of becoming a citizen. By the 1930 US census (3), they were both naturalized and living in Houston (after an almost three year period in New Hampshire).

Texas naturalization records, are not readily available online. Because of the time period, it is not clear whether Minnie was naturalized as a "derivative" of William's naturalization, or became naturalized on her own right, as was required by the Cable Act passed in 22 Sep 1922 (4) when women began filing for citizenship independently from their spouses. It seemed prudent to search for William's papers first. In any case, William's papers, promised to answer more of my research questions: where was William born? Aboard what ship did he arrive to America? I already knew the answer for these questions for Minnie who was born in Belitsa, Russia (now in Belarus), and she arrived aboard the Grosser Kurfurst, on 7 Jan 1914 (I have the manifest) (5). Therefore, finding Minnie's naturalization, was not high priority, while William's documents took precedent.

Where did William file for citizenship? By 1920 (6), he had been living in Texas for about 5-6 years. In all likelihood, he filed in Texas, but prior to his Houston stint, he lived in Claremont, NH, Pittsburgh, PA and New York City. It's possible he filed in any of those places. NARA had no records for William. After months of waiting to hear from USCIS, I got a disappointing reply that they also were unable to located any naturalization papers for William.

What next? When the search for William's naturalization record reached a dead end, I decided to try my luck one more time and order a second USCIS Index search, this time for Minnie. Having had no success with USCIS so far, I must admit, I was reluctant. It costs $20 for an index search and takes about 3 months to receive a reply. It then costs another $20 or $35 to order the documents they locate. When you are researching as many ancestors as I am,  $55 per document can really add up. But Minnie's naturalization papers are important to me, and not just for the sake of completeness. I am hoping the they will provide a clue to William's missing papers. And so, I bit the bullet and paid for yet another index search.

Advantages of ordering naturalization papers from the USCIS over NARA: If you are not familiar with the USCIS genealogy program, you should check out their website The advantage of obtaining naturalization papers from the USCIS, is that their files may be much more complete than NARA's records and may include the following types of documents(7):

Naturalization Certificate Files (C-Files), September 27, 1906 to March 31, 1956
Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2), August 1940 to March 1944
Visa Files, July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944
Registry Files, March 1929 to March 31, 1944
A-Files, April 1, 1944 to May 1, 1951

To learn more about what each of these categories of files contains, visit

Bingo! Last week, I finally heard back from the USCIS genealogy department about Minnie's Index search (see letter). According to the letter they located a C-File for Menuche Krainowitz Bloomfield. The personal identification information they provided all checks. The second file for Menuche Blumovicz is not hers.

Letter from USCIS re: Index search Minnie Bloomfield29 May 2014 (8)
A C-File is a Naturalization Certificate File which according to their website contains "copies of records relating to all U.S. naturalizations in Federal, State, county, or municipal courts, overseas military naturalizations, replacement of old law naturalization certificates, and the issuance of Certificates of Citizenship in derivative, repatriation, and resumption cases. Standard C-Files generally contain at least one application form (Declaration of Intention and/or Petition for Naturalization, or other application) and a duplicate certificate of naturalization or certificate of citizenship. Many files contain additional documents, including correspondence, affidavits, or other records. Only C-Files dating from 1929 onward include photographs."

Unfortunately, Minnie was naturalized on 22 Nov 1928 (before photos were included), but I am now hopeful that her paperwork, may reveal some information about William Bloomfield and might help identify his ship manifest and/or his naturalization papers.

I've now paid the additional $20 fee to obtain Minnie's C-File. I promise to report back when I get my hands on this precious documents!

Have you received any interesting files from the USCIS, or do you obtain all your naturalization papers from NARA? I'd love to hear what you've discovered.


         (1) 1920 U.S. census, Hartford City, CT, population schedule, Hartford County, ward 2, p. 375D (stamped), Enumeration District  (ED) 54, sheet 8A,  dwelling 42, family 149, Minnie Crane; NARA microfilm publication, T625 roll 182.

         (2) New York City Department of Heath, marriage certificate 271 (1920), William Bloomfield-Minnie Crane; New York City Department of Public Records, NY. 

         (3) 1930 U.S. census, Houston City, TX, population schedule, Harris County, ward 2, Enumeration District  (ED) 55, sheet 34A,  dwelling 237, family 248, William and Minnie Bloomfield; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2345.

       (4) Family Search Wiki ( accessed 12 Jun 2014), "United States Naturalization Laws," last edited, 13 October 2010.

         (5) Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, microfilm publication M237,  (Washington: National Archive and Records Service), roll 675, arranged by date of arrival; SS Grosser Kurfurst, 7 Jan 1914, for Menuje Krajnowitz, p. 144, line 22; New York, "Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital image, ( accessed 12 Jun 2014).

         (6) 1920 U.S. census, Houston City, TX, population schedule, Harris County, p. 84 (stamped) Enumeration District  (ED) 39, sheet 6B,  dwelling 40, family 145, William Bloomfield; NARA microfilm publication, T625 roll 1812.

         (7) United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ( accessed 12 Jun 2014), "Historical Records Series Available From the Genealogy Program,"last edited 27 Sep 2013.

         (8) Lynda K. Spencesr, Chief Genealogy Section, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Washington, D.C., to Smadar Belkind Gerson, letter, 29 May 2014, Index search for Minnie Bloomfield, GEN-10115890; Personal correspondence, privately held by Belkind Gerson, MA.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday's Faces From the Past: Smokey, Flossie and Skippy

Early in the month of May, when I was hoping for some sunshine, I posted a summary photo of my great-grandmother Minnie, visiting her nieces and nephews in Atlantic City in 1926. The photo sparked a family discussion and over the identity of the baby in the photo. I felt it was my grandmother's first cousin Flossie, but not everyone agreed. To confirm the identification, I dug up this second photo, taken maybe a year later.

Sidney (Smokey), Flossie and Herb (Skippy) Crane c.1927

In this beautiful studio portrait, Flossie is seated among her two older brothers, Sidney and Herb Crane. Last week, Herb, the eldest of the Crane siblings passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, music and loved ones, in his home. He was 94 years old.  

The 2009 Kranowitz reunion was were I met, Herb, Sid, Flossie and Miriam Crane. Since the reunion, three of the four Crane siblings passed away, leaving only Flossie. It has been tough loosing so many of our family elders. Herb was the eldest of the Kranowitz cousins at the reunion and impressed all of us with his love for life and his sharp mind. He became a very active supporter of my research, contributing memories, stories and even a DNA sample. Constantly, Herb reinforced how important it was to record our family history. He will be greatly missed!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Breaking the Brick Wall - Step By Step

What's Brick Wall?
Where you ancestors are just beyond your reach!
What is a brick wall? A brick wall is what separates you from those ancestors whom are just beyond your reach! 

Are you frustrated by brick walls blocking you from your ancestors? I have plenty of imposing walls and I bet you do too. Recently, one of my most imposing walls came tumbling down. This post will be the first in a new series which will use Mollie Bogdanow (Katz)'s story as a case study and share some tips of how to bring down brick walls.

Allow me to refresh your memory. Mollie, my great-grandmother, has been somewhat of a mystery. For years, knew very little about her. What the earlier posts which featured Mollie on this blog, as part of the Fearless Females series and on the Friday's Photos from the Past: Bogdanows have in common, is that they demonstrate how little I knew about this elusive ancestor.

Step 1: Examine the Wall Itself

The first step in breaking down a wall, is to examine what you know, which in Mollie's case could be summarized in a few bullet points:

Mollie Bogdanow:
  • Maiden name: Katz
  • Father: Jacob Katz 
  • Birth: 8 Dec 1884 (according to the her death certificate) or 1886 (according to her tombstone), in Galicia, Austria.
  • Arrival in the US: between 1900-1902 (1920 and 1930 census respectively).
  • Marriage: Abraham Bogdanow, 15 Oct 1911, NYC.
  • Additional names: Mollie Cohen. (Katz is a Hebrew acronym, caf"tazdik which stands for Cohen Tzedek (which means righteous priest). Many families used both names interchangeably). 
  • Children: Morris and Gwen Bogdanow.
  • Residence: 
    • NY until after 1915. 
    • Jersey City, NJ between about 1920 and 1943 
    • Houston, Texas 1943- 1952.
  • Death: Houston on 23 Feb 1952.

Step 2: Evaluate What You Have

Looking at this data, I noticed that there is very little information about Mollie before she married. I had failed to locate census records for Mollie prior to the marriage. Her common last name did not help. There were several Mollie Cohens and Mollie Katzs living in New York around the turn of the century and since I didn't know much about Mollie, I couldn't pin point, which one was my Molly. 

Mollie's ship manifest was also frustratingly evasive. It was impossible to identify the correct record without knowing her town of birth or the name, which she may have used in Austria. Most Jewish immigrants entered the country using their Yiddish or Hebrew banes. They tended to Americanize their names within a few years of living in America. I had no idea what first name Mollie may have used and compounded with the Cohen/Katz surname, there was no easy way to find her ship manifest.

Another set of missing records were the immigration and naturalization records for Mollie and Abe. According to the 1920 census, Abe's papers were pending and Mollie was an alien. By 1930 they were both naturalized. Mollie may have become naturalized with her husband; however since in 1922 immigration law changed and women applied for their own citizenship, Mollie may have had her own naturalization file. The Bogdanows were living in Jersey City at the time. These naturalization records are not available online. I realized I had yet to request them. Since my research covers so many ancestors, I usually try to obtain all the records I can find for free and online before I begin spending a lot of money on documents. 

The last document, which was most glaringly missing, was Mollie and Abe's original marriage certificate. I located this record on German Genealogy Group but I realized that I had never ordered the original (probably another money saving measure I had taken). I had the information from the index, but clearly the original needed to be reviewed.

Undoubtedly, I didn't have much, but at least some documents were within reach. If I hoped to break down this particular brick wall, it was time to start paying for documents. 

Step 3: Order Documents
I requested the marriage certificate from the City of New York and ordered an Index search from the US Citizenship and Immigration records. An Index search is the first step to obtain the immigration file from the USCIS when you don't know the file number. The problem is that it can take up to three months just to get a reply. Then, if they find your ancestor, it can take a few more months to obtain the record. I'm still waiting!

Step 4: Evaluate What You Do Not Know 

There was a lot I didn't know about Mollie. I could think of so many questions and things I wanted to know about this Austrian great-grandmother. Where in Austria was she from? What is the name of the village where she was born? What was her given name when she was born? What was Mollie's mother's name? Did she have any siblings? When did Mollie arrive in the US? Did she have any family in America? Where did she live in NY before she married Abe? 

Step 5: Focus the Research

There were too many unknowns. One of the most important lessons I learned at the BU Genealogical Research course was to focus my research. Mollie's case truly needed focus. I chose to tackle one question. Before I share with you the question, I would love your feedback. If you had to choose one question to answer about Mollie, which of the above questions would you chose? And why?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Friday's Faces From the Past: Summer is Around the Corner

It's Friday, which means it's time to pull out another of my favorite photos from the archives. This one is from 8th of July 1926 (according to the inscription in the back). Can you identify the ancestor in the photo?

Click to enlarge
You might have to click on the photo in order to get a better view, but if you look at the woman surrounded with three kids to the right hand side of the boat, you should be able to recognize Minnie Crane (who would have been 118 a couple of days ago). My uncle, actually pointed out that April 30th was a fictitious birthday. She didn't know her real birthday (not uncommon back in the 1890s in poor Jewish families where parents had more to worry about than remembering their children's date of birth), so she made one up.

Back to the boat. In this photo, she is seated with her daughter Ethel (my grandmother) to the right and her nephews Fred and Herb Crane to her left. By 1926, Minnie was living in Houston, Texas, so this must have been a summer trip up north to visit her siblings in Atlantic City. I think the woman in the white dress and light hat, seated 3rd from the front, on the left, across from Minnie, maybe Sara Crane, Minnie's sister-in-law. She is holding a little girl who is probably her daughter Flossie who was born in 1924.  I don't recognize any of the other people on the boat, maybe some of my elder cousins will?

I chose this picture because it reminds me of summer. Summer has been so hesitant to arrive this year to Boston. We really need it after the long winter we had, therefore, I  thought maybe this beautiful vintage photo of a summery scene, can conjure some warm rays of sun. Enjoy the weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Great Grandma!

Minnie Crane 1917
I can't think of a better day for returning to the blog, than today, my great-grandmother's birthday. Minnie Crane born Menuche Kranowitz and also known by her married names Minnie Bloomfield, Minnie Heintz and Minnie Falk (now that is a lot of names), was born 118 years ago today. Aside from the gift of life, Minnie gave me many gifts throughout the years I had the pleasure of knowing her, but the biggest gift of all, was her journal, which I helped her turn into a book, thirty years after she passed away. This Stored Treasure, is the gift that keeps on giving. Only recently, I got an e-mail from Minnie's great nephew who was extremely moved by reading the book. I hope it's alright with my cousin, that I share his kind words. In his letter, he thanked me for putting the book together, but I know he is also thanking Minnie for if she hadn't written down her story, it would have been lost.
Minnie at the wailing wall, Dec 1969

"Stored Treasures... came last night, and she [Minnie's great-nephew's wife] surprised me with it as a late Hanukkah gift. I just finished reading it from cover to cover.
    I am speechless. What an incredible thing of beauty and act of love you have created! I can't begin to convey to you how thoroughly I enjoyed reading it, and how much I learned about my family, my namesake and myself. You have done something wonderful, not just for your immediate family, but for your extended family as well.
    You probably don't remember, but in the fall of 1973 I came to Israel as a volunteer to do civilian work during the Yom Kippur war.... while I was in Jerusalem, I remember standing at the Western Wall for the first time. I'm not a particularly religious person, but I remember experiencing an incredible feeling of connectedness to something timeless, something greater than myself.  I had never felt anything like that before.  Since then, I've only felt anything like it three other times in my life. The first two times were at my two childrens' b'nai mitzvot, when I handed them to torah. The third was when I read your book."
Minnie's story has moved not only family members, but complete strangers in similar way. She provide a unique window into a time period and a places, which no longer exist. Like genealogy itself, her story is personal yet universal at the same time. Thank you Minnie and Happy 118 birthday!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Returning from Sabbatical: Back and open for business!

Past-Present-Future is back from sabbatical! I am proud to announce that this week, I completed Boston University's, Genealogical Research course. It's been an intense experience, one in which I learned a tremendous amount and at the same time discovered that I have much more to learn.

As I mentioned in my last post before leaving blogging for the semester, we were asked not to blog about the course, so unfortunately, I can't really give much detail. I believe I am allowed to highly recommend the course. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to send me a personal note or an e-mail and I'll be happy to talk about my experience. I'm not sure when I'll actually have my certificate, but it will be a proud moment!

Behind the Brick Wall
For now, I'm excited to return to blogging. There is much I look forward sharing since though the blog was on hold, my research was not. On the contrary, thanks to the course, I feel more equipped than ever to break down brick walls.

Here is a heads up of posts to come:

1. Remember Mollie Bogdanow? I've written about this great grandmother several times, as part of the Fearless female series:  29: Fearless Female: Mollie Bogdanow, as part of Friday's Faces From the Past series Friday's Faces from the Past: The Bogdanows and Past-Present-Future: Where Were They 100 Years Ago?. Mostly I've written about how little I know about Mollie, she is one of my biggest brick walls. Well, the wall literally came tumbling down! I'll be posting a new series about how I broke through.

2. Remember the post Bullish on Genetic Genealogy! Since 2012 when I did had my DNA tested on FamilyTreeDNA, I've been meeting genetic cousins, and writing about the experience in posts such as My Mitochondria. Despite my vast family tree, until recently, I've never been able to workout any family relationship. All that has recently changed and I can't wait to share this story!

3. Guess who has an FBI file? I recently learned that one of my ancestors has an FBI file. You'll have to come back, to find out who.

Which series would you guys like me to start with? Write me a comment with your vote!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blogging Sabbatical!

ImageChef.comPast-Present-Future is on a "short" vacation. Despite the fun beach umbrella photo, this is not a travel vacation. It is more like a blogging sabbatical.

I am currently taking part in the Boston University Online Genealogy Research course. So far the course has been great! The problem it, that it is much more time consuming than I imagined and I am finding it difficult to find time for blogging on top of the course workload and my family responsibilities.

I plan to be return to blogging in full force at the end of April, 2014 (once the course ends). I hope to blog a few times between now and then, so do check in! They did ask us not to blog about the course, so I will not be sharing my experience in the class on this blog.

In the meantime, if you missed some of my old posts, this is a great time to check them out! Do leave me comments when you stop by. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2nd Blogiversary!

Happy 2014 to all and a special happy blogiversary to Past-Present-Future which is two years old today!

Though I have not been posting as regularly, it's been a good year on the blog. There have been some very popular posts, great feedback and lots of comments from my readers, recognition from the online genealogy blogging community, and connection to long lost cousins. 

The top 10 all time popular posts are as follows:

Surprisingly, or not, is that A Photo Worth A Thousand Words continues to top the list. Surprising because it was also last years winner. Not so surprising since it is a great post!
Interestingly, only three post from 2013 managed to make the list. I believe this is because older posts are continuing to get views, which is a great thing.

Google, twitter and facebook are the top referring sites to Past-Present-Future, followed by pages from within Past-Present-Future.

I wish you all a wonderful year, full of happiness, good health and peace! Hope to see you back here at Past-Present-Future soon!