Monday, August 14, 2017

Interview with the Mammoth

By Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator

Have you met our sixth staff member yet? The small, fuzzy, prehistoric, supposed-to-be-extinct one? I’m talking about our museum mascot, Mark the Mammoth. You can often see him at the museum or check out his exploits on his Twitter page:

Mark the Mammoth, the star of the show
While the human staff here at the museum like to think we’re cool (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary), we’ve got nothing on Mark. Mark has an international fan base. He helps us spread the word about Chemung County history near and far. He has been featured in articles and conference presentations, starred in music videos, has participated in an international mammoth exchange, and more. From his Twitter account, he shares items from the museum’s collections, glimpses into daily life at the museum, and some extinction humor thrown in for good measure.

Mark with his pal Mortimer the Mammoth of the Hull Museums on Mark's international mammoth exchange to Hull, England. There are multiple mammoths and mastodons on Twitter.
At the risk of increasing his already over-inflated ego, I’ve asked Mark to take some time from his busy schedule to sit down for this interview.

The staff competes in an annual Mark the Mammoth Halloween costume contest. This is curator Erin's 2014 Marie Antoinette masterpiece (which wasn't even the winner that year!).
Kelli: Thanks for agreeing to this interview Mark. I know that you have a pretty packed Tweeting schedule to attend to.

Mark: Thanks for the invitation.

K: Let’s start with the basics. Why are you here as the mascot of the Chemung County Historical Society?

M: Over 10,000 years ago, my kind roamed this area. Of course, there weren’t any of you humans here and things were a lot icier, but this has long been my home. Then extinction happened. As we died off, our bones fossilized and were found thousands of years later by some rather confused humans. This area was named “Chemung,” meaning “land of the big horn.” We’d call them tusks now, but horn works, I guess. Most of our visitors don’t realize this county is named after mammoths. I blow a lot of minds with that fact.

K: Your Twitter bio says that you “beat extinction.” Could you describe that process?

M: The scientists are still examining how that happened. Basically, I somehow shrunk down, allowing my body to survive on far fewer resources than a full-sized mammoth. People think I’m a stuffed animal, but they are mistaken. I am an actual, miniature mammoth. A modern scientific marvel, if I do say so myself.

K: That is certainly fascinating. I see that you are named after important local figure, Mark Twain.

M: Since I’m thousands of years older than him, I prefer to think that he was named after me.

K: Ok, sure. What do you see as your main role at the museum?

M: I like to think that I put a friendly, approachable face on the museum. Even though I know that my human colleagues aren’t scary and intimidating (most of the time), I know that a lot of people feel that museums aren’t for them or that they wouldn’t be welcome. We want everyone, of all ages, to feel like they are welcome to come visit us. Who wouldn’t feel welcomed looking at my adorable, fuzzy face? And for people around the world, my Twitter account is a way to spread the word about our fascinating local history to people who probably will never get a chance to visit Chemung County.

K: You are pretty adorable. Is there anything you would like to do more of at the museum?

M: I’d like to do more educational programming about mammoths and mastodons here in our local history. We already do some, and I might be biased, but I think we could do more! Our mammoth tusk is the literal centerpiece of our Bank Gallery and it’s definitely something that wows our visitors. 
Our "big horn"
K: Thank you for your time, Mark. Is there anything else you’d like to share before we go?

M: Just that people should check out my Twitter account. You can see what I’m posting even if you don’t have an account yourself. Find it here: There are also lots of other fantastic museum mascots out there to follow. Just ask me if you want recommendations!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marriage Search

By Rachel Dworkin, Archivist

Your ancestors were probably married but, if they did it in New York before 1880, you’re going to have a hard time proving it. New York State began statewide registration of births, deaths, and marriages in 1880, although full compliance was not reached until 1913. Prior to that, records tended to be a bit, shall we say, inconsistent. A good breakdown of what official records are available where can be found at the New York State Archives website.

So, what resources are available when you can’t find official records? There are a couple of options:

1. Church Records

Most churches and pastors keep a record of services performed for members including marriages, baptisms, and funerals. Unless they have been lost due to catastrophic flood or fire damage, most churches maintain their records into perpetuity. When churches close, they often send the records to their denomination’s regional or national archives. Here at the Chemung County Historical Society, we have the original records of the First Baptist Church of Elmira and of itinerant Methodist preacher Rev. Joseph Riggs. We also have an index to the records held by Trinity Episcopal Church.

Page from the records of Rev. Joseph Riggs, 1864.
2. Newspapers

Often times newspapers would print marriage announcements. The Chemung County Historical Society has historic newspapers dating as far back as 1819. We have an index of marriage announcements which appeared in Elmira Gazette, 1830-1850, and are working on creating a comparable one for Elmira Republican & General Advertiser, 1832-1837. In addition to the various papers in our collections, there are a number of on-line databases you can search as well.

Marriage and death announcements in the Elmira Republican & General Advertiser, February 16, 1833

3. Ephemera

Lots of items are produce both in the run-up to and as part of the marriage which may serve as evidence. Some examples include invitations; marriage certificates; wedding souvenir books; photographs; accounts in letters and diaries; material associated with anniversaries; family bibles. Here at the Chemung County Historical Society we have a number of all of the above and your family probably has more. Don’t be afraid to use them as evidence in the absence of official records. 

Clark-Dean wedding, 1880