Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

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 http://www.uscis.gov/genealogy. 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 http://www.uscis.gov/history-and-genealogy/genealogy/historical-records-series-available-genealogy-program#C

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.

Sources:

         (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 (www.familysearch.org: 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, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com: 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 (www.uscis.gov/genealogy: 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!