Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back to Square One

On Monday Mystery Post, I presented a death certificate I received for a Max H Crane. The post was a call for help from my knowledgable readers. I was hoping to establish whether the certificate belonged to my great-great-uncle Max Hyman Crane. Immediately, I received several helpful replies, and would like to share two of them with you today.

One of two remaining photos of Max seated with his wife Frieda
to his right and baby Milton on his lap. In this photo, celebrating the return
of William Crane from WWI, the Max is the proud head of the family.
(My great-grandmother, his sister Minnie, is standing above Max and Frieda). 

The first reply arrived via e-mail from my cousin Martha who is, herself, an amateur genealogist and a wonderful collaborator. Martha writes:
"Dear Smadar,
 I just read today's installment of the Max Crane Mystery.  The reference to carbon monoxide poisoning which is mentioned might also have come about from an old-fashioned lighting fixture in the tenement.  Could that have been a source for the cause of escaping gas. Illuminating gas, instead of from a kitchen stove or room-type gas heater?
 This is such a dramatic story, and so sad.  If his end was really a suicide, there might be some question of where to bury him, if the family accepted the suicide theory. Without some kind of note or direct declaration to his wife or to others in the family, that might  have permitted him to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.  Usually suicides must be buried outside the walls of the Jewish cemeteries.  
Martha's assessment of the illuminating gas in the tenements is a reference to the cause of death mentioned in the death certificate (see Mystery Monday: Max Crane) which states the cause of death was "Carbon monoxide poisoning-Illumination-(an illegible word) suicide." I think this is an excellent thought and clearly comes from Martha's insight to life in the tenements. Thanks Martha for this clarification! Martha's other important point was about burial practices for suicide victims in traditional Jewish communities, and again, I'd like to thank her for bringing this up. I was aware of the practice of not allowing suicide victims to be buried inside the walls of the cemetery and kept that fact at the back of my mind when I discovered this grave at the Montefiore Cemetery, clearly marked as part of the I J Morris society (a burial society established by the funeral home I J Morris). I was not aware of getting around the rule when there is no note or direct declaration to the family. Thanks again for this helpful explanation!

The second important feedback I received, was an in-depth blog comment from one of my regular readers +Jacqi Stevens of A Family Tapestry who shared my doubts of the accuracy of death certificates, as well as commiserated with the difficulties of researching ancestors in the vast city of New York. She suggested I contact the cemetery for possibly additional records and recommended two resources I was not familiar with, which turned out to be extremely helpful:
The Brooklyn Standard Union,
Tuesday March 24th, 1925
(Click to enlarge)
Turns out, Jacqi was right! Even tough some families tend to keep suicide quiet, at times, the story makes the news. This one did! I found a mention of the suicide in three New York Papers: The Brooklyn Standard Union, the New York Times and the New York Sun!  

This short article lists a few important facts which are different or not present on the death certificate.
  • Max Crane was a delicatessen dealer- the death certificate lists him as an advertising manager. Max Hyman Crane, my ancestor was neither as far as I know.
  • Home address was 5113 New Utrecht Ave- The death certificate lists the address as 3113 New Utrecht Ave. Pretty sure we are talking about the same Max Crane from the death certificate. 
  • Max Crane's wife was Mary Crane- the death certificate only lists her as Mrs. Crane. Max Hyman Crane' wife's name was Frieda (also spelled Fredda or Freda), not Mary. This pretty much confirms we are talking about another unfortunate Max Crane who committed suicide in New York in 1925 . 
  • The description of how the body was found states that he was seated on two pillows, on a chair near the gas stove which was lit, but not burning. This led the police to conclude it was suicide. 
  • The wife, Mary, stated he had no reason to commit suicide and did not mention it to her, therefore she doubted he took his own life. It's very possible she knew her husband was depressed and why he would have wanted to commit suicide but chose to protect the family from what could have been a very shameful situation. Her public denial of any connection to suicide would have allowed him to be buried inside the cemetery, which explains why the Max Crane from this article was buried inside the Montefiore cemetery. 
  • Missing from this article is a mention of any children. Max and Frieda had an eight year old son. The omission of a child from this article also suggests a different Max Crane.
This finding takes us back to square one. The article confirms my worry that there was more than one Max H Crane who was believed to have committed suicide in New York around 1925. Unless Frieda used the name Mary as well, I am convinced this is not the Max I am looking for. I doubt the article would have changed Frieda's name to Mary in order to protect her privacy, since publishing her address suggest there was little concern for her privacy. Unless proven otherwise, I must assume that neither the death certificate nor the Montefiore grave belong to my relative. They belong to Max H Crane, delicatessen dealer from Utrecht Street in Brooklyn, husband of Mary Crane, who died of a suspicious gas poisoning. I now must re-examine everything I thought I knew about Max's death. 

Recap of the facts regarding my great-great-uncle Max Hyman Crane's death.
  • Max died sometime between 1922 where he was listed in the 1922-23 Hartford City Directory  and June 1925 where his wife Frieda was listed as a widow in the State of New York Census.
  • Max was not listed in the 1924-1925 Hartford City Directory. I assume they both moved, but I have not documented where they lived. They are not in the New York City directory from that period. 
  • Frieda lived in Brooklyn with her brother and sisters as of 1925. I do not know where Max or Frieda lived between 1923 and 1925.
  • It is possible Max died as early as 1923 or 1924 in Hartford and that he never moved to NY with his wife. 
  • Apart from Brooklyn, they may have also lived in Atlantic City where the rest of the Crane brothers lived (since 1920), though they do not appear in the Atlantic City Directory.
  • The family rumor is that Max committed suicide because he was in love with his uncles' wife. The aunt and uncle lived in Atlantic City. 
  • The rumor is that he either drowned himself or died of gas poisoning. 
What next? 

At this point, I have to beging a new search for the whereabouts of Max Hyman Crane's elusive grave —sadly probably sitting outside a cemetery wall somewhere. My plan is to examine both Hartford Publications and Atlantic City. My next stop: Boston Public Library! I promise to keep you all posted.

To read more about Max Crane visit:
Mystery Monday: Max Crane
Should Genealogist Spill Family Secrets?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mystery Monday: Max Crane

Remember Max Crane?

I shared Max's sad story a few weeks ago in the post Should Genealogist Spill Family Secrets?. His life ended tragically when he committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and young child. The mystery of Max's story continues due to the lack of documentation and information about Max. Much hope was pinned to a death certificate I ordered from City of New York recently. It arrived last week and I've been pondering it ever since. I so hoped to report to you all, that the document I received belonged to "my" Max Crane. Unfortunately, I can't. It seems I'm on a streak of finding interesting, yet inconclusive documents. The good news? These documents make for interesting blog posts! The bad news? There are many more questions than answers related to this certificate. Therefore, once again, I decided to turn to my expert panel of readers for advice.

I present to you the document in question:
Max H Crane
Death Certificate
March 24, 1925
(Click to enlarge).
For your convenience, here is a summary of the information obtained from the death certificate:
  • Name: Max H Crane: consistent with my great-uncle Max Hyman Crane
  • White, married male age thirty-five: all consistent with what I know of Max Hyman Crane who was an Ashkenazi Jew, married to Frieda Levitt and would have been about 35 when he died. 
  • Occupation: Advertising Manager- this is not quite consistent. All I know about Max's work history from my great-grandmother's memoir, city directory, WWI draft record and census documents is that he was a grocery clerk. He did hold other odd jobs including meat cutter. It is possible that he advanced to advertising manager by his last job, but this would be new information to me.
  • Birthplace: Russia. Consistent. I wish this death certificate included his date of birth, but unfortunately it was left blank.
  • How long in the US: seventeen years. Max Hyman Crane arrived in 1905 (according to Minnie's Memoir as well as his immigration papers). He lived in the US for twenty years by 1925 (close enough, but not exactly seventeen years).
  • How long in NYC: 3 years. I know Max moved to NY with his wife and son sometime between the 1920 US census where he lived in Hartford and 1925 when he died in NY. This is consistent, though I don't know when they moved. 
  • Name and birthplace of parents: Isaac and Rebecca both from Russia. PROBLEM!!! Max Hyman's parents were Moshe Aaron and Feige. This completely doesn't fit!
  • Date of Death: March 25, 1925- Consistent. I know Max died around 1925. By June 1st of 1925 Frieda is a widow, according to the New York State Census. She was living at 1379, 54th Street in Brooklyn (with her brother Isaac and several of her sisters). If this truly was Max Hyman Crane, he would have turned thirty-six nine days before he committed suicide.
  • Body was found at: 3113 New Utrecht Ave, Brooklyn- This is consistent with the fact that Frieda was living in Brooklyn in 1925. It's not her brother's address, suggesting that the Cranes lived independently and Fieda would have moved in with her family once she became a widow.
  • Cause of death: Carbon monoxide poisoning-Illumination-(an illegible word) suicide. I'm not sure what illumination means as part of the cause of death, but suicide is consistent Crane family elder's story.
  • Place of Burial: Montefiore Cemetery- Possible. I don't know where Max Hyman Crane was buried. 
The second page of the death certificate states that Mrs. Crane hired the undertakers. Unfortunately it doesn't state her full name.

Page two of Max H Crane death certificate.
(Click to enlarge)

The most glaring problem in this record is the name of the parents which are inconsistent with what I know about Max Hyman. The other inconsistencies are minor (length of time in America, seventeen rather than twenty years, and the occupation). Can a mistake in the parents names be generated by the person who filed the death certificate. Mrs Crane, wife of the deceased hired the undertakers, but did she provide the information or did someone else, for example her brother Isaac? Isaac was living in Brooklyn, and we know he offered her a home once she was widowed  so clearly they were close. He certainly could have been called to do the difficult task of dealing with funeral arrangements. Would he have known Max's parents names? Max's brothers were living in Atlantic City by 1925 and his sister Minnie was in Texas. It's doubtful they provided the information as it's unlikely they would have arrived on time. Frieda herself was probably in a very bad state. Her husband who had been involved in a nasty extramarital affair, had just committed suicide. It's very probable that she asked someone close to her to deal with the logistics. The fact that there is no date of birth, also suggests that someone not so close to Max provided the information. Someone who didn't know his date of birth, which would exclude his wife and or his siblings.

How many other Max H Crane's committed suicide in New York City in 1925? What is the likelihood that this certificate belongs to a different Max H Crane? To answer this question, I scanned the New York City directories. The 1920-21 1922-23 and the 1924-5 directories are available on I know Max was in Hartford in 1920, so I didn't need to check 1920. I found no Max Cranes in either the 1922 or the 1925 directories. This implies that, if as the death certificate states Max lived in NY for three years, and if it does belong to our Max, then Max and Frieda, most likely moved to New York, after the 1922 directory came out. (Note to self: trace Max in the Hartford City directories from 1920-1923). The fact that he does not appear in the 1925 city directory most likely means one of two things. Either he just didn't appear in the directory at all (not everyone did), or he died before this directory came out as well. One thing is clear though, despite how common the name Max Crane might be, there were no other Max Cranes in Manhattan or it's boroughs listed in the early 1920s. Therefore there is a very low probability that another resident with the same name committed suicide and could be confused with the Max Hyman Crane I'm trying to identify.

I may never know for certain if this is the correct record. If it is, it does divulge one important piece of information about Max and how he died. The way Max committed suicide is a family myth amongst the Cranes. One story talks about drowning while the other has to do with a gas oven. According to this document, it was carbon monoxide poisoning pointing towards the gas stove scenario.

I have one thought of how to confirm this document. I need to find Max's grave! The Max H Crane from the death certificate is buried at the Montefiore Cemetery, which is in Queens County, NY. Through the cemetery website, I found the exact plot for Max H Crane.  I have created a monument for him on, where I've had success in the past obtaining photos of tombstones from helpful volunteers. My hope is that the headstone will contain not only his date of death, but also date of birth and more information such as a Hebrew name or his father's name. My hunch is that Max's siblings may have been involved in obtaining a proper tombstone In Jewish tradition the headstone is unveiled at the conclusion of a one year grieving period. It's very likely that a year later, everyone was far enough removed from the suicide and the anger of the affair, to ensure a proper headstone.

For now, the mystery the handsome Max Crane, the first of the Crane brothers to come to America, continues. As always, I would love to hear from all of you with thoughts and ideas!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Inspirational Genealogy Quotes: Alex Haley

New Sunday Series! Inspirational Genealogy Quotes!

Alex Haley, RootsSource: via Smadar on Pinterest
"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage - to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness." -- Alex Haley, Roots

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past: "Most Entertaining"

(Click to enlarge)

Last year my aunt handed over one of my great-grandmother's album. This particular photograph jumped out immediately, and won the coveted title of "MOST ENTERTAINING" photo my collection.  It's an 8x11 print labeled only, 1927 on the back. I have no idea why it was cropped. My great-grandfather William Bloomfield, took me by surprise when I spotted him on the far right of the top row. He has the funniest mustache and is slumped over, looking quite uncomfortable. When I first saw this picture, I had no idea what it was about. The shoes made me think of an old fashioned basketball team, but that made no sense. What would a 39 year old, asthmatic, William Bloomfield be doing on a basketball team? One of my cousins came to my rescue when she immediately recognized the symbol on the fez.

I have a feeling some of you know the meaning of this outlandish uniform.  I won't give it away quite yet. Today, I'm going to let you guys, my knowledgeable readers, tell the story of this photo.  Feel free to venture a guess! I'll spill the beans soon!

Closeup William Bloomfield

Note: Friday's Faces from the Past is now a daily prompt on Geneabloggers! If you have photos, orphaned or not, you want to write about, join the conversation and start your own Friday's Faces from the Past series!

More from Friday's Faces from the Past series:
Friday's Faces from the Past: Mystery Lady
Friday's Faces From The Past: A Bicycle & A Boy
Friday's Faces From The Past: A Success Story!
Friday's Faces From the Past: Mystery Man
Friday's Faces from the Past: Harrison
Friday's Faces From the Past: Goldie and Bobby Rosenbaum
Friday's Faces From the Past: Julius Burakoff Anyone?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What To Do with Conflicting Data? Part II

What To Do with Conflicting Data? the dilema I posed on Monday regarding Gus Kaufman's naturalization papers continues to be unresolved. I've been very impressed with the response and support from my fabulous readers. Genealogy work can be very lonely and so great to have such a supportive and talented community! As promised, I have more documents to share which will shed light on the matter while at the same time leave more unanswered questions.

On Monday, I presented the first part of the process I went through as I tried to make sense of Gus Kaufman's Declaration of Intention for Naturalization and two ship manifest. One manifest was from a New York Passager List corresponded to the vessel, Oscar II,  Gus mentioned in the petition. The second, a Galveston manifest, I had previously assumed belong to the Kaufman family. Fellow Genealogist +Jacqi Stevens, author of A Family Tapestry, astutely pointed out that the source for the Declaration was from Dutchess County NY while the declaration itself was filed in Beaumont, Texas. This same observation was exactly, the same one I made when I first began to question the information provided on the Declaration. It was reassuring to see that +Jacqi Stevens followed my train of thought! The first time through, I had been so caught up in cross referencing the Ship Manifest, that I forgot one of the most important steps I always take when I find an online document—scroll back and forth and see if there are additional pages attached.

Sure enough, There were several pages included in Gus's naturalization papers! Another of my fabulous followers,  +Jenny Lanctot, author of the blog Are My Roots Showing, imagined quite correctly that "he filed the Intent in Texas and was then naturalized in NY and got his certificate there." The several of the attached documents were indeed filed and indexed with the Dutchess County papers where Gus finally received his citizenship. As of yet, the State of Texas Naturalization Papers are not available online, but luckily for me, the Dutchess County papers, and Gus's from Texas and NY are all together. Dutchess County, New York, Naturalization Records,
1932-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
(Click to enlarge). 
The Petition for Citizenship above, dated Oct 22nd, 1935 was submitted at the court of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, NY four years after Gus declared his intention to become a citizen in Beaumont, Texas (May 29th, 1931). In fact, the petition states that he resided in New York since August 10th of 1931 (only two and a half months after he filed the declaration in Texas). Most interesting is the different immigration information reported in the later document. This time, Gus reports that he entered the United States at Galveston, Texas, under the name Gerschon Kaufman on May 26th, 1909 on the SS Wittekind! Sound familiar? Bingo! The Galveston ship manifest was correct after all! 

The question remains. Where did the initial information Gus reported—arrival in NY, under the name of Boruch Kaufman in 1904 on the Oscar II—come from? Clearly, he changed his mind. Maybe he consulted with his parent? He was only five years old in 1909 and unlikely to remember much of the trip coming over, let alone the name of the boat. Clearly, immigration official concurred with the mistake. As +Jenny Lanctot was able to decipher from the NY ship manifest, someone—most likely an immigration official—had matched the entry with Certificate # 13-1487 but then crossed it out. Maybe the same someone, correctly annotated the Galveston document with the same certificate number.
Closeup of NY Ship Manifest Boruch Kaufman with crossed out annotation of certificate # 13-1487, Click to enlarge).
(See full manifest: What To Do with Conflicting Data?)

Despite this discovery, I continue to remain uneasy about the initial Declaration of Intent. I understand, that Gus may not have remember exactly when he immigrated, but I question why he would sign a document stating that he arrived under the name Boruch rather than Gerschon. How could he have mistaken his own name? Even if no one had called him Gerschon for a long time, it's rare to forget your childhood name. I also wonder how he could have named a completely different boat, including the date, where a different Kaufman family arrived?

Deposition by Alex Kaufman father
of Gus Kaufman
Feb 28, 1936
Houston Texas
(Click to enlarge)
I certainly am not an expert on the immigration process back then. I find it difficult to imagine the possibility that when Gus could not recall his exact arrival information, an immigration officer found a Kaufman family which fit the description and attributed it to Gus's petition. It seems far fetched that an immigration official in Texas would have had access in 1931 ( to NY ship manifest. The process must have required correspondence between the two offices and probably took a long time. Some poor immigration officer would have had to manually search all ship manifest from the correct period, find all the Kaufman families and identify one that fits the description Gus provided. It seems much more likely that Gus provided the wrong information at first. Immigration crossed checked with the NY manifest and initially felt it was correct. At a later point, Gus must have recalled the correct information and withdrawn his initial statement. I base this theory, on other documents attached to Gus's naturalization papers, two depositions on behalf of Gus Kaufman to be admitted as a citizen. Attached is Gus's father's deposition containing the pertinent information. (There is a second deposition from Morris I Mann, Gus's brother-in-law which contains similar information but not included).

Note the following two questions:
Question #10: State the period he has resided in the United States. Answer: Since about May 1909.
Question #13: Since you first met him in the United States has he ever been absent from the United States? Answer: Never out of this country since we came here.

In these two responses Alex Kaufman confirms that his son arrived in America in 1909 and that he never left the country once he entered. These statements supports the theory that Gus's parents helped recall the arrival information. They also dispels the theory that maybe Gus arrived initially under the name Boruch, then returned to Russia and re-entered later under the name Gerschon.

It's remains unclear where the mistake originated, but it was a mistake. Alex's deposition, provided another clue I need to follow up on. It contains the Alex's own Certificate of Naturalization number: 2019736 from December 10th 1924. I promise to provide this information as it becomes available to me. In the meantime I look forward to hearing all the theories you may have regarding the immigration process and how would this kind of mistake appear on a naturalization application.

Monday, February 18, 2013

What To Do with Conflicting Data?

Making sense out of conflicting documentation for Gus Kaufman, a research chemist and first cousin of my great-grandfather William Bloomfield has been challenging. At this point, I could use some help, so I thought I'd share what I found with my knowledgeable readers and see if together we can cleanup of this "mess".

The two big question? When did Gus Kaufman arrive in the US and under what name?

Declaration of Intention
Certification # 13-1487

Filed 29th of May, 1931, Beaumont, Texas
Source Citation: Dutchess County, New York, 
Naturalization Records, 1932-1989[ database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. This collection was indexed by

Original data: Dutchess County, New York, Naturalization Records, 

1932–1989. 10 Market St., Poughkeepsie, New York 12601: 
Dutchess County, New York.

When I found this Declaration of Intention, I felt as if I hit a jackpot! It's full of wonderful information and even a photo!

The following three pieces of information were news to me:

1. Gus Kaufman was born on September 3, 1904-in Scherschev, Russia! (First time, I heard of this village in the Bloomfield/Pomerantz clan)
2. He immigrated to the United States from Copenhagen, Denmark on the Oscar II, arriving in New York City on Dec 27th, 1904.
3. He entered the United States under the name Boruch Kaufman.

I crossed check the naturalization document with US Census records and confirmed I had the right Gus Kaufman.  At the age of seven he appears on the 1910 Census in Gonzales Texas with his parents Alex and Ethel Kaufman and his siblings. According to the next Census the family had relocated to Houston by 1920. By the Census 1930 Gus is logding at same 1117 Lake Short address in Port Arthur, Texas as listed on this document.

One thing really bothered me about this document. The date of arrival in the US did not check. On the 1920 Census it lists the Kaufman children arriving with their mother in 1910. On the 1930 Census, Gus reported arriving in 1908.

Previously, I found what I was quite confident to be their Ship Manifest:
Galveston Passenger List SS Wittekind, May 26th, 1909 
 (click to enlarge)
[ Source Citation: National Archives and Records
 Administration; Washington D.C.; Passenger Lists of Vessels
 Arriving at Galveston, Texas, 1896-1951;
National Archives Microfilm Publication:
M1359; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration
 and Naturalization Service; Record Group Number: 85].

According to this record, Ethel (Eidel) Kaufman arrived on the SS Wittekind on May 26th, 1909 with her brother Moses Pomerantz and her four children: Enia, Aisisc, Gerschon and Meische Aron. They were headed to Fort Worth, Texas. The boat departed from Bremen, Germany and their port of entry was Galveston, Texas. Ethel and Moses listed their mother Tzvia Pomerantz as their nearest relative in the country of origin. I had no reason to doubt ship manifest. Everything about it checked. Ethel's husband, Alex had arrived in the US earlier (c1904-1905 according to 1920 and 1930 Census records). It made sense that he would have prepared for his family's arrival and then sent for them, five years later. It also made sense that Ethel would have chosen to travel with her younger brother Moses (Morris Aaron), who could help her four young children.  The children's ages and names were fairly consistent. Annie (born c1900), was the oldest and only daughter, followed by Ben (born c1901), Gus (born c 1903) and then Maurice (born c1904). The youngest of the 6 Kaufman children, the twins David and Julius were born in 1911 in the US and therefore do not appear on this ship manifest.

Gus, who would have been known as Gerschon in Hebrew or Yiddish according to this document was about 5 years old when he arrived. Certainly too young to recall the exact information of the trip. But why would he have reported on his naturalization papers, a completely different name of a boat, the Oscar II, arriving from Denmark, to New York, four years earlier? If wasn't sure, wouldn't he have stated as such?

Ship Manifest Oscar II, Dec 37, 1904 (Click to enlarge)
[ Source Citation: Year: 1904; Arrival; Microfilm Serial:
 T715; Microfilm Roll: 524; Line: 17; Page Number: 13].
My next step was to find the records from the Oscar II.  Sure enough, there was a Kaufman family on the boat. The father Elie (age 28), the mother Eidel (age 27), a son Boruch (age 4) and a daughter Henne (age3).

Our Alex Kaufman did arrive around 1904. Could he be Elie Kaufman? He was about 28 in 1904. I have not found any other ship manifest for him. Could our Ethel Kaufman be this Eidel Kaufman, rather than the presumed Eidel Kaufman who arrived with her brother on the Wittekind four years later? If so, how many kids would she have had in 1904? According to all the census records, she would have had at least three, Annie, Ben and Gus. Maurice was born in 1904. Also, Annie was the oldest and according to this record, Boruch was the oldest. Gus would have been only a year old in 1904, so there another discrepancy there.

If the Kaufman family from the Oscar II were not our Kaufmans, then why did Gus Kaufman report this information when he declared his intention to become a United States citizen? Where would he have gotten this information?

I am going to let you guys ponder this dilemma for now. I would love to hear some thoughts and promise to provide more documents and possible scenarios on my next post, What To Do with Conflicting Data? Part II

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday's Faces from the Past: Mystery Lady

Special Announcement!
GeneaBloggers just added Friday's Faces from the Past to it's list of daily prompts! Here is what they wrote:

Friday’s Faces from the Past – NEW! – Have you come across photos with people and places that you can’t identify? Do you rescue “orphaned photos” at flea markets and antique shops? Or do you just want to tell the story behind a cherished family photo? Friday’s Faces from the Past is a way to highlight photos, of known ancestors or complete unknowns suggested by Smadar Belkin Gerson of Past-Present-Future.


Today I give you a lady from the past. There are only two clues to help identify this elegant lady. The first, this photo postcard was printed in a studio in Philadelphia. The second, the photo was on the same Kranowitz cousins page as the boy with the bicycle from last Friday's post. Next to this beautiful woman's portrait was a photograph of Bernard Kranowitz and another of his nephew Harold Eisenberg (son of Bertha Kranowitz), both from New Britain, Connecticut. On the opposite page of the album, two pictures of Louis Kranowitz, all properly labeled except for the Philadelphia lady.

Aaron and Sophie Kranowitz of New Britain had five children, Louis, William, Bernard, Lena and Bertha. I have photos the first four, but not Bertha. They were my great-grandmother Minnie's first cousins. Minnie speaks very highly of their family in her memoir. Their home was open to Minnie and each of her siblings when the first arrived in America.

Lena E. Kranowitz of Mason Drive, New Britain, CT
I have an old Newspaper clipping of Lena Kranowitz. Lena, the chairman of the Benefit Fund for Refugee Children seems slightly older than the woman in question, but certainly shows some resemblance. I can not rule out that the unidentified lady is a younger Lena, or her sister Bertha.  I don't know enough about their lives to know what either of the Kranowitz sisters would have been doing in Pennsylvania. To my knowledge they were both longtime residents of New Britain, Connecticut, which suggests our mystery lady may not be a Kranowitz after all. (According to the 1934 New Britain Directory, Lena resided with her sister Bertha's family on 73 Mason Drive).

I've made a note to check out all of the New Britain's high-school yearbooks when I visit the local library. Until then, I welcome all of your input!

Have a wonderful weekend!

More from Friday's Faces from the Past:
A Bicycle & A Boy
A Success Story
Mystery Man
Goldie and Bobbie Rosenbaum
Julius Burakoff

Monday, February 11, 2013

February Writing Challenge & the Snow!

This weekend, Nemo blanketed the East Coast with more than two feet of snow. Four days later the snow continues to cause havoc resulting in school cancellations and difficult driving conditions. Under any standards this was a BIG storm. The travel ban imposed this weekend kept us all home sipping hot chocolate and cooking delicious meals! The long weekend, enabled me to catch up on back episodes of Downton Abbey and get ahead in the Writing Challenge I'm participating in. This February, I joined the family history writing challenge headed by +Lynn Palermothe Armchair Genealogist. For a long time I’ve wanted to write a story about William Bloomfield, my great-grandfather. The writing challenge has help jumpstart this project. +Lynn Palermo provides great support to the more than six hundred participants in the challenge, including a newsletter full of writing tips, prompts and advice. One great suggestion she gave was to use photographs to inspire our writing. The storm, brought to mind this great photo of the Bloomfields in the snow and inspired my writing throughout the weekend.

Ethel, Minnie and William Bloomfield
Houston, Texas
Winter 1927 or 1928
Both Minnie and William, were from the Russian Pale area also known as White Russia. The whiteout conditions this weekend certainly felt like we were in the Russian tundra. My ancestors grew up battling the elements and were accustomed to difficult winters. They spent their early years in America on the East Coast, where winters were not necessarily much better than where they came from. In her memoir, Stored Treasures, Minnie describes how she struggled with the cold in the one room barn they converted into a home and grocery store near Laconia, New Hampshire. 
"I suffered a lot from the below-zero temperatures. My feet and fingers froze. The little wood-burning stove that provided heat was inadequate. It burn my dress if I got close enough to keep warm and froze me all over if I kept a fair distance from it."
The cold was one of the main factors leading to their decision to settle in Houston, Texas. 
Houston historically received very little snow. Once every ten years or so, the city found itself covered in an inch or two of the white fluffy stuff. While my great-grandparents, don't look thrilled with the weather as they posed for the photo above, Ethel, who was about six-years-old in this snapshot, looks quite proud. She may not have built this snowman—she looks a bit too dry—but she certainly enjoyed her first real snowstorm and the snowman, skinny as he was! (Ethel, left New Hampshire at the age of two, and snow was not part of her conscious memory). 

Do you have photos of your ancestors in the snow? Do share!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday's Faces From The Past: A Bicycle & A Boy

This photo may belong in a Wordless Wednesday series, except I don't have such a series on my blog and today is Friday.

Unlike previous photographs I've posted, this one comes without clues. A truly orphan photo form my great-grandmother Minnie's album. The beauty of this vintage shot speaks for itself!

What do you guys think? I just love this little boy's pose, the right leg raised high on the step and his arm resting comfortably on his legt. The bike is clearly too large to be his. I love his knickers, boots and especially the little hat. Unfortunately the photo is neither labeled nor dated. It may belong to the Kranowitz clan from New Brighton, Connecticut, since it sits next to their photos in an old album. I tried to preserve the order of the album as I found it, but I can not be sure that the photos are in the same place Minnie placed them, and therefore I can not assume this little boy is related to the Kranowitz's. It's quite possible this photo slipped into their page years later.

I'm stumped and open to suggestions!

Have a great day and enjoy the snow, if you are in the East Coast! Stay safe and warm!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fun Yearbook Finds!

Monday's yearbook post was such a hit, especially amongst the Bloomfields, whom very much enjoyed Ben Bloomfield's yearbook photo. As a treat, and in honor of the Super Bowl, I thought I would follow up with some more fun yearbook finds.

 After reading Monday's post, Joe Bloomfiled's daughter, astutely pointed out that her father was probably the "notorious brother Mulligan" mentioned in Ben's description from the yearbook photo (see Monday's post: The Hidden Gems of Yearbooks). I originally thought the comment was in reference to a fraternity brother but decided her hunch made more sense. Mulligan was probably not a surname, but a nickname "second chance" or "second Bloomfield brother". Sure enough, we were both correct. Here they are, Joe and Ben Bloomfield, seated with their Tau Gamma Phi brothers:
Ben (bottom row, far right)  and Joe Bloomfield (bottom row next to Ben)
Tau Gamma Phi 1925. (Click to enlarge)
The brothers must have been amongst this Jewish Fraternity's founding members as in the next page of the yearbook (not shown here) it states that Tau Gamma Phi was founded in 1922. I'm not sure what happened to Tau Gamma Phi, but by 1926 there is no chapter at the university. Perhaps it was renamed Phi Alpha. Though no longer active, Phi Alpha, founded in 1914 at George Washington, was amongst the wave of Greek Letter Jewish Fraternities born in the early 20th century as a response to the closed nature of the already established Greek societies. Jews, less than four percent of the general population, were over represented on college campuses. Highly motivated Russian immigrants (like the Bloomfields) made up the bulk of this group of students, fast approaching ten percent of college students nationwide. Like other minority groups such as Blacks and Asians, Jews by and large found themselves excluded from the Greek Letter system. The solution for all these minority groups was to create their own fraternities. (For more on the history of early Jewish fraternities see: Going Greek: Jewish College Fraternities in the United States, 1895-1945 By Marianne Rachel Sanua).

His senior year, Joe—seated front and center—held the prominent position of President of Phi Alpha. As such, he represented Phi Alpha in the inter-fraternity council known a the Casque and Casket (front and left).

Aside from the fraternity, Joseph and Benjamin pursued different interest. Joseph studied liberal arts and majored in history. Ben studied electrical engineering. 

Joseph J Bloomfield, Senior, Class of 1926  (listing from the 1927 University of New Hampshire Yearbook)
Joe was listed as Bloomfield under the seniors of the Glee Club
 in the 1927 yearbook. There were no other Bloomfields in the senior
class (I checked).
Ben was the musician in the family, but Joe must have had some musical talents as well. He was listed as a member of the Men's Glee club. 

Between the fraternity, glee, football, boxing and the R.O.T.C, it's remarkable he found time to study. The yearbook actually had a fascinating history of the R.O.T.C program on campus were Joe served as Lieutenant and Captain, and I assume was the way he sponsored his studies. Clearly, he was passionate about sports and since I promised, in honor of the Super Bowl, here is a photo of University of New Hampshire's Varsity Football Team from 1925. If you enlarge the photo, you'll spot Joe Bloomfield, third from the left, on the bottom row. 

Scenes from University of
NH Football Games
1927 yearbook.
As an extra bonus, I've added another page with photos from a few games. I hope you'll enjoy seeing the old uniforms and the mud as much as I did. 

Joseph's athletics activities in the University of New Hampshire, served him well. When he graduated, he worked as teacher-athletic coach at Houlton High School, in Houlton Maine. He continued to teach physical education as well as science and eventually was named assistant principal at the Junior High School in Carson, RI, where he settled with his family. 

I invite his children, whom I know are reading this post, to add stories about their father in the comment section of this blog!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Hidden Gems of Yearbooks

Yearbooks are not at the top of the my source document list. Vital records (birth, death  and marriage documents) rank highest, followed by census records and immigration papers such as ship manifest or naturalization petitions. These keep me pretty busy. When I need to dig further, I look at City and Business Directories. The list keeps going, and I admit that I didn't use to pay much attention to yearbooks? Do you?

Why do yearbooks place so low on my list? Partly because few of my relatives, prior to my grandparents generation, completed more than a few years of elementary education. If they did study, it was back in the "old country" and there were no yearbooks in the cheder or the yeshiva (Jewish schools in Eastern Europe).

Lately, I've decided to reconsider the importance of yearbooks and have systematically scanned my tree looking at yearbooks entries. Turns out, Yearbooks are hidden gems, a remarkable sources of information! For one, they help bring the tree to life by providing a photo of my relatives to go along with their profile. In addition, there is much to learn from a yearbook. Facts such as where a person went to school, where they lived and what they studied are only the beginning. Fun information is sprinkled throughout for example: hobbies, honors and friends. When in luck, you may come across a statement they wrote. Something they wanted to share with the world about themselves. 

Here are a few of my favorite yearbooks discoveries:

Adrian Samuel Rosenberg
Second row from the top, second from the right
(Click to enlarge). 
A typical find is this yearbook page from the University of Texas where cousin Adrian Samuel Rosenberg, was a member of the class of 1953. An example of the least amount of information one can obtain from a yearbook.

Harold Eisenberg
Harvard Yearbook 1926
(click to enlarge)
Harold Eisenburg's Harvard Yearbook offers a lot more interesting tidbits. The entry lists his date of birth, his home address, and the name of his high school. He graduated Harvard in four years with a Law degree.

Howard's younger sister Alice's yearbook photo provides a window into her personality. Nicknamed Al, Alice graduated in 1937 from New Britain High School were she was an honor student. She excelled in Mathematics and planned to go to Teachers' College. She was a member of the Junior College Club, Phi Delta Sorority and Girls League Interesting to note that they had Sororities in high school back then.
Alice Rosenberg b. Aug 31, 1919
 New Britain, High School, 1937
(Click to enlarge)

Morris Bogdanow, University of Maryland
Varsity Cross Country Team, 1931
Top row, fourth from the left.
Click to Enlarge

The page on the right is one of my all time favorites. It's a photo of my grandfather, Morris Bogdanow, with the Varsity Cross Country Team at the University of Maryland. It's one of the few pictures I've seen of my grandfather with a full head of hair! I knew my grandfather was a good athlete, a swimmer. He swam every day of his life and taught many children to swim. Until I found this image of of his college year book, I didn't know he also ran cross country. I now know he made the team Freshman year. At eighteen years of age, he weighed 150 lbs and was 5'10" tall.

I saved Benjamin Bloomfield's University of New Hampshire yearbook picture for last. Ben, my great-grand-uncle, William's younger brother was affectionately dubbed "Texas Ben" by his classmates. This surprised me, since William was the only Texan amongst the seven Bloomfield brothers. The rest of the blurb  explains the nickname and sheds light onto Ben's college career, as well as my grandparents early years in Houston.

Benjamin Bloomfield, University of New Hampshire 1925

"From the Rice Institute in Houston, Texas comes this lanky kid to the Class of 1925. Negro lynching and Ku Klux Klan demonstrations seem to have played an important role in his having bummed his way from Houston to Durham. His appearance in Durham will always be remembered: he thought that the barracks were sheep barns; Ever since his arrival he has far surpassed his notorious brother Mulligan in the art of escorting the co-eds to numerous affairs."
This remarkable comment, attributes Ben's departure from Rice to the racism he encountered in the South, and focused my attention to the issue. My great-grandparents had relocated to Houston in 1923 (only two years before Ben, graduated from U of NH). Though I have spent much time researching this period of their lives, I paid little attention to the political climate surrounding them. This yearbook entry has forced me to rethink about their experience and question how they must have dealt with the drastic cultural differences between north and south.

I highly recommend you take a second look at yearbooks. Don't just look at class photos, explore Clubs and other sections as well. You'll be amazed at what you find!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday's Faces From The Past: A Success Story!

Today's featured photograph went from orphan photo to a success story in a span of two weeks. As a wedding picture, it moved to the top of the wait list last month, when in celebration of my own anniversary, I dug up vintage wedding photos, and began to share my favorites as part of the Friday series.

Wedding photo of an unknown couple from my great-grandmother's photo album.

As luck would have it, last week, this young couple—proudly displaying their elegant wedding cake— was bumped from the top of the line and replaced by the mystery man post. Seredipiously, in the two week gap, I was able to identify this couple, whose photo I've been staring at for over a year. 

How Did I Do It? Remember my New Year's resolution? I am proud to report that during the first month of 2013, I've successfully sorted and archived all but two old photo boxes. Call it a fluke or good fortune, but another photo fell into my hands during this massive project. Actually, I believe it has nothing to do with fate and everything to do with the importance of organizing and properly storing the photo collections we inherit as family historians. This second photo is from the same wedding, and to my delight, the entire wedding party is in the photo! 

The Wedding Party (click to enlarge)

Some of you may recognize a few of the main characters. Minnie Crane, my great-grandmother, whose memoir I published last year, is front and center to the right of the unknown bride. My grandparents, Morris Bogdanow and Ethel Bogdanow (Bloomfield) are to the far right. Best of mother, is the little girl standing between her two older brothers, grinning ear to ear! My mother was at this wedding! It seemed fair to assume that she assist in the identification task!

The stars were alighted in my favor, and my mother was expected in town the very next day. My only fear was that she looked very young in the picture, perhaps four or five years old, and very possibly too young to remember the event. The group photo did imply a certain prominence of my my mother's family in relation to the bride and groom. Since I did not recognize any one to the left of the groom, I figured they must be his family. Therefore, by default, the group to the right where my mother's family stood, must be the bride's family. But how could they be such close family and I've never seen them before? So, as soon as my mother stepped through my front door, I bombarded her with questions and the photo.

She did not hesitate for a moment. "I remember this wedding!" she exclaimed. "I was so excited, because I was the flower girl for the very first time in my life!" No wonder she wore such a big smile. 
"So, whose wedding was it?" I asked. For a moment, she fell silent, examined both photos closely and attempted to jug her memory. "They were Heintz, I can't remember their names," she stated emphatically!

Louis Heintz was Minnie's second husband. Their short lived marriage (March 11, 1914-December 30, 1951) was interrupted when Louis died suddenly of a heart attack and rendered Minnie a widow for the second time. Louis was not an ancestor I had given much priority to investigating. In another coincidence in this chain of coincidences, I recently came across his descendants when alerted me of a duplicate profile for Louis Heintz. I noticed that they did not have a photo of Louis. I owned a particularly faded black and white image of him. One can scarcely make out his facial features, yet I happen to love this snapshot, since they both look very happy, almost laughing. It took a little work to successfully merge the  trees. Thanks to the magic of the internet, two families, linked sixty-five years ago by a brief joyful matrimony, are now electronically connected. Faded or not, it's better than nothing, and I shared the photo of Louis and Minnie with his descendants. 

Louis and Minnie Heintz (before Dec 30, 1951)
(click to enlarge)
My mom and I scanned the group photo again, and established that Louis was not present. If he had been alive he certainly belong next to his son or daughter at their wedding. In my estimation, if Minnie is standing on the bride's side, then Louis belonged between the bride, Louis's daughter and Minnie. Instead, there is a much younger man, probably Louis's son—the bride's brother—standing in his place. Louis's absence dates the wedding no earlier than 1952. I consulted the Heintz tree on and was able to positively identify the newlyweds as Philip Gradolph and Ida Gradolph (Heintz), from another photo of Ida, Louis' daughter.  

Ida Gradoph (Heintz)

The rest was easy. Minnie Heintz and Mr and Mrs Ernst Gradolph (probably standing to the left of the groom) posted a  wedding announcement in the Houston Jewish Herald-Voice, which is indexed on ancestry. The wedding, took place on June 14, 1953, a year and a half after Louis' death. Few unidentified wedding party members remain staining. Judging from their age, the couple to the far left may be Philip Gradolph's grandparents. The pair standing between my grandmother Ethel and her mother Minnie must be Heintz relatives, possibly Louis' mother and brother? Hopefully the Heintz descendants can shed some light on the matter. 

There you have it! Mystery solved! Shabbat Shalom!