Bloom Surname Meaning, History & Origin
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 billed 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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Mayor Bartholomaus Blume of Marienburg. The town of Marienburg in Pomerania (now part of Poland) had sprung up around its castle which had been built by Teutonic knights on the east bank of the Nogat river. In 1457 the castle was pawned to imperial Bohemian soldiers who then sold it to the King of Poland. The town itself came under Polish attack but held out under Mayor Bartholomaus Blume for three years. When the Poles finally took control in 1460, Blume was hanged and quartered.
A monument was erected in the town to Blume in 1864.
James Gardner Bloom of Norfolk. James Gardner Bloom was a prominent citizen of Wells-next-the-Sea in Norfolk. Ursula Bloom in her novels claimed that he almost made it to the peerage. However, the process was interrupted by the madness of George III. The Regency which followed didn’t favor the Bloom family.
A painting of him shows him in his militia uniform at the time of the Napoleonic threats to England. Ursula Bloom claimed in her book The Rose of Norfolk (which mainly covered the next generation of Blooms) that his fair coloring was due to Danish ancestry.
James Joyce’s Leopold Bloom. Leopold Bloom is the fictional protagonist of James Joyce’s Ulysses. His peregrinations and encounters in Dublin on June 16, 1904 are intended to mirror, on a more mundane and intimate scale, those of Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey. Bloomsday, June 16, is celebrated each year by enthusiasts of James Joyce.
Born in 1866, Leopold Bloom was the only son of Rudolf Virág, a Hungarian Jew from Szombathely who had emigrated to Ireland, converted from Judaism to Protestantism (after he had married Ellen Higgins), changed his name to Rudolph Bloom, and later committed suicide. At the time of Leopold’s fictional birth, the Jewish population of Dublin numbered some two hundred. Leopold was in fact born in an area of Dublin known as “little Jerusalem.” Today a plaque on Clanbrassil Road marks the spot.
“Here, in Joyce’s imagination, was born Leopold Bloom, citizen, husband, father, worker, the reincarnation of Ulysses.”
Leopold himself was not circumcised. He had converted to Catholicism in order to marry Molly Tweedy in 1888. The couple had one daughter, Milly, born in 1889. Their son Rudolph (Rudy), born in 1893, had died after just eleven days. They were living at 7 Eccles Street in Dublin at the time of Ulysses.
Bloom’s Restaurant in London. For the nearly 45 years of its existence, Bloom’s restaurant in Whitechapel in the East End of London was a magnet for exuberant dining. Be it the Marx Brothers or Princess Margaret, Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand, the boast of the proprietor, Sidney Bloom, was that no one ever went away hungry.
The establishment was equally well known for its cast of manic and long-serving waiters, who often featured in the – “waiter, waiter, there’s a fly in my soup;” “be quiet or they’ll all want one” type of joke. One of the best known (jokes, not waiters) was the story of the Chinese waiter who was congratulated by a diner on his excellent Yiddish. “Shush, he thinks he is learning English,” said the manager.
Quietly presiding over this theatre of dining was Sidney Bloom,
modest, shy, cautious man who, with his wife Evelyn, created Britain’s most famous kosher restaurant. Born in the East End, Bloom was educated at Raine’s Foundation School but left at 16 to join his parents’ salt beef business. Morris and Rebecca Bloom opened their shop in Brick Lane, then a centre of Jewish commercial life, in 1920.
Morris, a pre-First-World-War immigrant from Lithuania, had learnt the art of pickling meat in his home town. He got up at 3 am to go to the kosher meat market that then flourished in Aldgate, brought his purchases home by wheelbarrow, and pickled beef until the restaurant opened. He later decided to try his hand at sausage-making. Because he used veal rather than beef, resulting in paler sausages than people were used to, he initially had to give them away to convince customers of their tastiness.
The little restaurant flourished and Morris moved to a larger site in Brick Lane and opened a meat products factory in the next road, Wentworth Street. The restaurant moved into the factory, “over the sawdust,” when it was hit in the Blitz. After the War, the restaurant moved to Whitechapel and later to Golders Green and continued until 2010.
Blums, Bloms and Blooms into America by Place of Origin
The Blooms of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. The Blooms had been in Clearfield county, Pennsylvania for over a hundred years when they held their family reunion in 1909. This was an account of the family at that time.
“The Bloom clan is one of the largest in Clearfield county. They are the descendants of Wilhelm/William Bloom, a native of New Jersey and a Revolutionary war veteran who came to Clearfield county with his wife in 1796. They came up the west branch of the Susquehanna river in a canoe and settled on the spot where the family reunion was held.
The ancestor Bloom and his helpmate had eleven children, seven sons, four daughters, and from them are descended the many hundred Blooms of Clearfield and surrounding counties. The Blooms have figured extensively in the affairs of Clearfield county since its inception.
They are a hearty and tall people, noted for longevity and multiplicity. Ross Bloom of Curwensville, who was eighty-eight years old, attended the gathering of the family; as did
Benjamin Bloom who has a record of which he can be proud. He is seventy seven years old and the father of thirteen children, eleven of whom are living. He has so many grandchildren that he fears of missing some should he endeavor to count them, scores of great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.”
The reunions have continued to this day. The descendants now
number in their thousands.
Morris Bloom Wedded to Sarah Greenberg. The following article appeared in the October 1, 1878 edition of the New York Times.
“Morris Bloom, an industrious Hebrew peddler living at No. 49 Orchard Street, became enamored of a comely Jewish maiden named Sarah Greenberg, living at No. 104 Hester Street, and the attachment of the young people resulted in their betrothal.
Bloom’s relatives in the clothing business had other plans, however, for the advancement of Morris and urged him to break his engagement with Sarah in order that he might marry some girl of means and commence business on his own account.
But the young peddler was constant in his affection and refused to comply with their wishes. Sarah kept house for her brothers and worked as a tailoress. Bloom’s refusal to give up the young girl resulted in the estrangement of his relatives. When the requisite time had elapsed he found himself without funds to celebrate his marriage or to begin housekeeping. Abraham and David, Sarah’s brothers, did agree to give $300 which they had saved to furnish rooms for their sister. So the young couple, happy despite their poverty, presented themselves to the Mayor’s office to be married.
There they were told that the ceremony could not be performed unless a fee of $5 were paid. Not being in a position to pay that sum, they adjourned to Judge Gildersleeve’s chambers. Here they were speedily made man and wife in the presence of a crowd of lawyers, reporters, and court attendants.”
Hyman Bloom the Painter. Hyman Bloom, who died in 2009 at the age of ninety six, was one of the last survivors of the thousands of artists who benefited from the patronage of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program, the federal arts project. This project ran from 1935 to 1943 and at its height employed 5,300 artists.
Bloom, whose surname was Melamed, had arrived with his parents in 1920 in Boston where they had changed their name to Bloom. His paintings had their first outing in 1942 when he was a “shy, mop-headed” young artist living “a hermit-like existence in a Boston slum.”
Bloom had originally wanted to be a rabbi, but his father couldn’t find a teacher for him. So he made rabbis a subject of his paintings. His style of richly colored agitated pigment laid on heavily was like a visual equivalent of the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. He was also clearly influenced by the European
expressionists George Rouault and Chaim Soutine. The New York critic Hilton Kramer once wrote that on approaching the gallery showing Bloom’s work he could smell the pastrami.
Select Bloom Names
- 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 her name in the 1950’s.
Select Bloom Numbers 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).
Select Bloom and Like Jewish Surnames
The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders. They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered. There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.
In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina. In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany. Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora. Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.
Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy. Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer). Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s. The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example. Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island. And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.
Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.
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