On August 6, 2019, I received a message on Ancestry.com from a Laurel Bleadon-Maffei who was trying to establish if her branch of the family was part of my Blieden branch. According to our DNA tests on Ancestry.com, Laurel was predicted to be only a 5th – 8th cousin to me. Usually, that is too far back to trace. However, we were both told the same thing over the years by older family members: All of the Bliedens from Lithuania and Latvia were related. We therefore felt our connection was worth pursuing. We are glad we continued.
Laurel’s great-grandfather was Yehuda (Julius) Bleaden (Blieden). His father was Arye Lieb. She thought Yehuda’s sister was Shana Fruma Blieden. Ber, my great-great-grandfather, was married to Shana Fruma who was his cousin.
From this introductory message we started a motivating correspondence, and soon after, Laurel started a Blieden Genealogical Research Group on Facebook where we could share stories and photos with several of us Bleadon/ Bleedens / Bliedens who were interested in our ancestry. Laurel’s sister, Mimi Bleadon Qnell, Suzi Dubin, her half-sister, Patti Allen, my cousin, Amy Blieden and my sisters all joined the group amongst others.
Not only are we distantly related, but through our messaging and emailing we discovered a few interesting accounts of where our ancestors crossed paths over the years.
Here is an example of one such occurrence: My grandfather, Harvey Blieden, had a brother named Abe Blieden. On the ship manifest when he arrived in the US from Wenden, Latvia, he was listed as a watch maker. Abe settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where he owned a jewelry store. Somehow, my brother ended up with Abe Blieden’s jeweler’s tool box. When he opened it up to photograph the tools inside, he noticed an invoice from Bleadon Jeweler’s in Chicago. We often wondered if this Bleadon could be a cousin. Thanks to Laurel, we discovered that was the case. Laurel’s family owned a jewelry store in Chicago! We now knew that tour Great-uncle, Abe Blieden, stayed in touch with his cousins after they arrived in the New World.
Here is another example: Laurel grew up in Chicago. When she decided to move to California after college, her father told her to look up her cousin Joe Bleeden. Up until that time, she had never heard of him but obviously, her father kept in touch with him. Joe had a daughter, Suzi, who was about Laurel’s age and the two became fast friends.
Joe Bleeden was very interested in family history. He liked to invite potential relatives to his home to try to figure out the Blieden connection. My first cousin, Amy Blieden, lives in the Los Angeles area and Joe invited her, along with some others, over to his house. This took place in 1986 before the luxury of Internet research so they never could figure out their exact connection. Joe’s daughter, Suzi, took this picture! Little did any of them know this picture would resurface in 2019 in a Bleadon-Blieden Facebook Research Group!
In the photo was Nettie Schwartz from Louisville, Kentucky. Nettie (far left) was trying to write a history of her Blieden ancestors and travelled all over the country trying to meet as many Bliedens as possible. She also scoured phone books from all over the country looking for Bliedens and would write to them asking for Blieden information. One such letter was sent to my Uncle Arthur Blieden. My Aunt sent the letter to me, since I was becoming known as the family historian. I answered Nettie and we struck up a correspondence that lasted several years. I had no idea until recently that she was in the meeting with my cousin Amy, my Uncle Arthur’s daughter.
Norman Blieden was at that gathering, too. Norman originally hailed from South Africa where several Blieden ancestors settled with their families.
Last, but not least, Pearl Bleadon and her husband Ed were there at Joe Bleeden’s house. They were from Muscatine, Iowa, and were descendents of Rabbi Joe Bleeden who was hired from Lithuania to be the first Rabbi in Muscatine. About 2 years ago, someone else contacted me who was related to this family. Again, at that time, we could not figure out the connection but now we can.
Our oldest known ancestor was Mordekhl. He had 4 sons that we know of: Zundel, Hirsch, Leib, and Ber. My branch descends from Ber, as does Joe Bleeden’s branch. Pearl’s branch also descends from Ber. Nettie’s branch descends from Zundel as does Norman’s. Laurel’s branch descends from Leib, although there is still some question as to which Leib, as there were more than one who were cousins.
As you can see, there are many spellings of the name Blieden. Thanks to Internet research, I have been able to place all of the Bliedens / Bleedens / Bleadons I have been in contact with over the years onto my family tree. (Actually, there are more Blieden cousins that I have virtually met, but I will save them for another blog!)