Blum in German means “flower”, as does the Dutch bloem and the Swedish blom. These names often anglicized to Bloom; as did the Ashkenazic ornamental name Blum, from the Yiddish blum or “flower.”
The English surname Bloom, however, has no connection with flowers. The English noun “bloom” which arrived from Scandinavia in the 13th century is not thought to have given rise to any surnames. The Bloom surname instead appears to have come from the place-name Brom (found near Norwich in Norfolk but also elsewhere), itself derived from the Old English brom meaning “gorse” or “broom.”
An alternative derivation makes Bloom an occupational name, an iron-worker, from the Old English bloma meaning “ingot of iron.”
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Present numbers in Europe are approximately:
- Blum and Blume, 40,000 in Germany (plus additional numbers in Switzerland)
- Bloem, 17,000 in the Netherlands and Blom, 10,000 in Sweden (plus Blombergs and Blomquists).
The Blum/Blume name first appeared in Hamburg in the 13th century and is to be found mainly in that part of Germany today. Blums and Blumes also came from Wurttemburg and from Pomerania (now part of Poland).
The Jewish Blum or Bloom name could have come from anywhere in the Jewish settlements in central and eastern Europe. Being an ornamental name, it had no attachment or history to any particular area.
There was in fact a story of a Jewish immigrant from Russia who had simply borrowed the Blumenthal name from a fellow passenger while enroute to England. His Blumenthal name became Blume in England and later Bloom. Another story tells of an official at Ellis Island instructing some new arrivals to select a surname beginning with “B.” As a result the Bialystok brothers morphed into Blooms.
England. The medieval de Brome family held Brome manor in Norfolk from the 13th century. Their numbers included Adam de Brome who is said to have founded Oriel College in Oxford. The line seems to have died out by the 1500’s. By that time the Brome place-name had become Bloome and Bloom was appearing as a surname.
The Bloom surname is traceable in Norfolk parish records from
the late 1500’s. Some of these Blooms worked in the textile industry. Stephen Bloom, for instance, was a weaver in the 18th century in Mendlesham. When that industry declined, it is thought that a number of them migrated to the Nottingham area where they found jobs in the hosiery trade.
Bloom, however, remained very much a Norfolk name. Ursula Bloom’s Norfolk family traces back to the late 18th century and James Gardner Bloom at Wells-next-the-Sea. Alan Bloom is considered Britain’s greatest horticulturist of the 20th century. He started the Bressingham nursery near Diss in Norfolk in 1946. This nursery and garden center has now passed down through his son Adrian to Jason Bloom of the next generation.
Jewish Blooms However, there are more Blooms in London than in Norfolk today and English Blooms are considerably outnumbered by Jewish Blooms. According to one survey, Bloom is the seventh most common Jewish surname in England. Their arrival began in the late 1800’s.
Morris Bloom came to London in the early 1900’s and he and his wife Rebecca opened a small Jewish restaurant on Brick Lane in 1920. His son Sidney made Bloom’s Restaurant the kosher restaurant to visit in London. Meanwhile, the English actress Claire Bloom was born in 1931 to Jewish immigrant parents in north London.
America. Blooms and Blums and Bloms in America show a mixture of German, Swedish, Russian, and some English origin.
German Blooms Early Blooms were from Germany. Johann Peter Blum from Wurttemburg arrived on the Two Brothers in 1752 and settled in Hunterdon county, New Jersey. His eldest son Wilhelm fought with five of his brothers in the Revolutionary War and then in 1796 moved with his wife to Clearfield county, Pennsylvania where his family has remained.
A Bloom family from Pomerania arrived in the 1840’s and settled in southern Pennsylvania. As the Bloom Brothers, this family later became owners of a number of department stores in Pennsylvania and Baltimore. Bloome Avenue was named after them in their home town of Chambersburg.
Jewish Blooms The Jewish Bloom influx stepped up in the second half of the 19th century. Many, like Morris Bloom, came to New York and eked out a living on the Lower East Side. Rube Bloom who grew up in this milieu was a successful composer of popular songs during the 1920’s.
Meanwhile, Sol Bloom, the son of Jewish immigrants in Illinois, became an entertainment and popular music entrepreneur, first in Chicago and then in New York. He billled himself as “Sol Bloom, the Music Man” and went on to have a lengthy career as a New York politician. His 1948 The Autobiography of Sol Bloom makes interesting reading.
The first and second generation Blooms are to be found both in the trades (particularly in the garment trade) and in the professions.
South Africa. Jewish Blooms have made their mark in South Africa. Tony Bloom’s family arrived from Russia as peddlers in the early 1900’s. The family built up a milling business which Tony made, as the Premier Group, into one of the largest in South Africa. However, Tony Bloom was opposed to the apartheid regime and he left the country for England in 1988.
A more outspoken critic was the writer and political activist Harry Saul Bloom (his first novel Episode had been banned in South Africa for its potential incendiary message). The English actor Orlando Bloom was thought to have been his son. But his mother later revealed that his biological father was in fact another man.
New Zealand. Jacob and Leah Bloom (whose family had come originally from Poland) left Wales in 1879 for Wellington, New Zealand. Other Blooms of this family emigrated to South Africa and America.
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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
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Leopold Bloom was the fictional protagonist of James Joyce’s Ulysses, set in Dublin in 1904.
Alan Bloom, who created the Bressingham nursery in Diss, Norfolk is considered Britain’s greatest horticulturist of the 20th century.
Harry Saul Bloom was a South African journalist, novelist, and political activist.
Allan Bloom was an American academic, best known for his book The Closing of the American Mind.
Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic.
Claire Bloom, the daughter of Jewish immigrants into London, was an accomplished English film actress who made he name in the 1950’s.
Select Blooms Today
- 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
- 13,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
- 3,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).
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