Friday, September 4, 2009

Visit to Tioga County NY Historical Society

A few saturdays ago I hopped in the car and made the about 4 hour drive up to the Tioga County Historical Society in New York.

I was hoping that by going there I'd make some momentous finds that would help with my DAR application. Yes, I am an optimist, it's a disease and as much as I try to shake it, it sneaks up on me all the time. One of my main family lines is "MIX" and I have tons of info on them when they lived in Connecticut. My direct ancestor (Thomas Mix) eventually moved on to Vermont, where one of h is sons (Collins Mix) met his wife (Leafe Ide).

I've pondered much on the name "Leafe". It turns up several other times in my family tree, for the Ides, and then some Mix's, it was a name for girls. In some records it's "Lefie" or "Leaffee". The only thing I can come up with is that it's a surname. It was pretty common at different points in history to name children with the wife's surname as their first name.

Back to my story....So Collins and Leafe moved from Vermont to New York. I believe they paused in Sarasota, NY for a bit, but they settled in Tioga County, which is right down near the border of Pennsylvania in the Finger Lakes Region. Very beautiful country. Lots of Mix's moved over the border into PA and eventually one of them became Tom Mix, the silent movie star. Cousin Tom (4th cousin 3 times removed) is my tenuous link to Deadwood (I miss the HBO series A LOT) because he rode in a parade for Teddy Roosevelt that was led by none other than Seth Bullock. (I told you it was tenuous.)

But as for my New York Mix's? They are a hard to find bunch. They turn up in the federal census's (censi?) and that's pretty much IT! Where are they? What were they doing? Avoiding becoming part of any record? Yep, that's what they were doing! I'm starting to think they were shady! :-D

So I was hoping to find more info at the Tioga County Historical Society. It's a lovely old building right on the river in Owego, next to some big old homes (very genteel). Sadly though, the records are maintained using decades old technology. As in, index cards. Major bummer. The volunteers were EXTREMELY helpful and kind, I don't want to sound like I am knocking the place, but wow, it did show me how spoiled I am with electronic research! So even though I spent 8 hours straight there, I didn't really come up with much on my folks. It was like researching in the old days. I did find lots on an uncle, Miles Curtis Mix, oh sure, tons of records on him, he was all over the place. My guys? Not so much.

One cool thing I did find was on Collins Mix. He had a son, Jonathan Collins Mix. In the 1850 federal census, poor old Collins is living in the Poorhouse in Owego, NY. I couldn't figure out why he was there when his son Jonathan (my ancestor), was one town over in Candor. And his other son Squire (don't ask, but yes, his first name was Squire), was one county over in the town of Caroline. (He had a daughter too, but she's still a bit of a mystery.)

First I found (an index card) that listed something transcribed from the "Tioga County Keeper's Book". It stated:

Mix, Collins
D. 17 Jan. 1852 ae 73 at the Poor House
12 Nov. 1850 admitted ae 72, intemperate
Residence Tioga County

So there I had it, he was intemperate, which I suppose was a gentle term for what could have been many things. He could have been an old alcoholic, he could have had dementia or alzheimer's and was violent; the list goes on.

With that info, I was able to look at the microfilm of the local newspaper, "The Owego Gazette" and found this from the 15 January 1853 edition (it was published weekly):

Mortality at the Poor House
Names of persons who have died at the Poor House during the year ending on the 1st Day of Dec. 1852 (Furnished by Col. Daniel Bacon, Keeper).
Collins Mix, formerly of Candor, Jan 17th, 1852, 73

Unfortunately the microfilm reader was barely working, so no copies could be made from it, so I had to just manually transcribe it. I was glad to find at least this tidbit of info on my direct line, and I have a bunch of other notes on other members of the family (especially Uncle Miles, he's Everywhere!).

One other cool thing that was happening at the Historical Society was they had an exhibition in the museum part of the building on jewelery, clothing, mementos associated with death and mourning. It was a really impressive exhibit for such a little Historical Society! If you are nearby Tioga County NY at all I would recommend checking it out.

So I'll just have to keep digging on my Mix family in New York!!


  1. It was very easy to be invisible it seems in those days, not today with the computer age.

    Well, at least you can away with a couple of tidbits. Not very satisfying after 8 hours, but better than nothing.

    You will find more, I have great faith in you. You are such a great researcher!!!

  2. Hey Leah, great work! Did they say what town the poor house was in? I have always listed tioga co as place of death, but would like to be more exact if we could! I have seen Leafe also listed as Lepha and in one case as "Nepha" by the census taker in 1855. No idea where she's buried.... or exactly when she died!