The mystery of where and when Baruch Blumenfeld died led me down several rabbit holes to answer several questions. Did Baruch Blumenfeld move to New York and leave his wife Emma and his daughters and his grandchildren behind? Was the 1920 census accurate in reporting that he had immigrated to the US in 1869 and become a US citizen in 1875? If so, how did he marry Emma in 1872 and father two children between 1872 and 1875? And did he really die in New York City in 1923?
I turned to several Facebook groups for further help to confirm that this was the correct Baruch. First, I asked on Tracing the Tribe for help finding more information about the Baruch Blumenfeld who died in New York. My fellow Blumenfeld cousin Tova Levi suggested that I try and find a connection to the family with whom Baruch was living in 1920. That led me to search for Getta and Emma Neuberger and their place of origin, including locating their extended family in New York and searching for naturalization records that might reveal where they came from in Germany.
After hours of searching and getting help from the New York City genealogy group, the German genealogy group, and the GerSIG group, including from Sandy Hahn Lanman and Matt Luders, I concluded that the Neuberger family came from Thalmassig in Bavaria, not anywhere near Hesse where Baruch had lived, and that thus it was unlikely that my Baruch would have known them before coming to the US.
Steph Mayer, one of the members of the German Genealogy group, also was very helpful. She made several suggestions, including sending me a link to the entry for Baruch Blumenfeld on genealogy.net, an important Germany genealogy website. Steph recommended that I email the contact person, Hartwig Faber, to see if he had any additional information.
And so I did, and Hartwig helped solve one part of this mystery. He noted that on the 1900 marriage record for Baruch’s daughter Charlotte, Baruch is described as living at an unknown distance. That is, by 1900 Baruch’s whereabouts were no longer known by his family.
Here is the transcription and translation of that part of the record:
Tochter des in unbekannter Ferne weilenden Kaufmanns Baruch Abraham Blumenfeld und der nochlebenden Ehefrau Emma geb. Docter wohnhaft in Neustadt.
Daughter of the merchant Baruch Abraham Blumenfeld, living in unknown distance, and the still living wife Emma, née Docter, living in Neustadt.
That record supports the possibility that Baruch did immigrate to the US and did die in New York in 1923.
But I can’t still cannot find a Baruch Blumenfeld on any ship manifest even when I search without limiting by dates or with wildcards on the name.
I also have had no luck finding any naturalization papers for him. I’ve gone through indexed and unindexed records on Ancestry and FamilySearch, and the only citizenship record that came close was a declaration of intention dated October 8, 1873 by a Baruch Blum. In that era declarations carried no identifying information other than the name and country of origin, so that doesn’t help very much. And I remain skeptical that Baruch would have been in the US at that time, given that he married Emma in 1872 and had a baby later that year and a second three years later.
I also cannot find a Baruch Blumenfeld on any census record in the US except the 1920 census. If he really immigrated to the US in 1869, he should have appeared on the 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 US census enumerations.
I did find a German-born Benny Blumenfeld living as a boarder in New York in 1915 on the New York State census of that year. He was 72, so born in or close to 1843. He had no occupation. Could that be Baruch? Maybe. It says he’s been in the US for 32 years or since 1883. That would make a lot more sense than 1869, the year given on the 1920 census. There’s even a young man listed below, also a boarder in the same household, who was a butcher. Do you think this could be my Baruch?
But there is no one else with a similar name and age that I could locate on the 1900 or 1910 US census. My working hypothesis at this point is that Baruch Blumenfeld took on an assumed name when he immigrated and then changed it back years later.
When I received the copy of the actual death certificate for the Baruch Blumenfeld who died in New York in 1923, I was even more certain that he was the same person as my cousin Baruch Blumenfeld.
The first page of that certificate first of all made it clear that his mother’s surname was Strauss, not Lhauss. Secondly, his age is given as 80 years and eight months. Since he died in September, 1923, that means he was born in January, 1843. My Baruch was born on January 29, 1843. This definitely supports the conclusion that this was my Baruch Blumenfeld.
One other interesting bit of information is included on first page of the certificate. It reports that he had been living in the US and in New York for 42 years or since 1881. That would make a lot more sense than the year given on the 1920 census—1869. By 1881 both of Baruch’s daughters were born, and he very well might have left Germany around that time.
I was feeling pretty excited that I had enough information to confirm that this was my cousin Baruch Blumenfeld—until I looked at the reverse side of the certificate.
It indicated that Mary Farley, a sister of the deceased, had hired the undertaker to take care of Baruch’s burial. Mary Farley? A sister? There were many Mary Farleys living in the US 1923—too many to count. If I limited my search to New York City, I found 32 registered to vote in New York in 1924.1 I also searched for a Mary Farley born in Germany living in or near New York who might be the woman named on the death certificate. I only found one woman with that name born in Germany; she lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was married to a native-born American named John Farley. Her maiden name was Richardt, not Blumenfeld.
UPDATE!! Thank you so much to Lisa K of the GerSIG group on Facebook for pointing out that this is NOT the reverse of the death certificate for Baruch Blumenfeld, but for someone named James Graham. So Mary Farley must have been HIS sister. I’ve now ordered a correct version of the reverse of Baruch’s death certificate.
I very much doubt any one of the many possible Mary Farleys was Baruch’s sister. Friend, neighbor, whatever—she likely said she was the sister so she could arrange the burial for him.
What do you think? Have I convinced you that the Baruch Blumenfeld who died in New York in 1923 was the same man born in Momberg, Germany, on January 29, 1843, to Abraham Blumenfeld II and Giedel Strauss? Please share you thoughts in the comments.
I am so very grateful to the genealogy village for all the help I’ve received to try and learn what happened to my cousin Baruch Blumenfeld.