06 Mar Finding Diversity and Family History At The Library
By Sierra Sullivan
2023 is the year of stories at Hamilton East Public Library. Every month on our blog, we’re featuring a guest writer from our community to share in their own words what the library means to them. We hope these stories will demonstrate that there’s something for everyone at the library, and you belong here.
Our March library story speaks about visiting the library to discover the right resources at the right time, from diverse books to genealogy tools.
“My family and I have called Fishers home for more than 10 years. Prior to having children, I occasionally visited the library, but now that I am a mom of two, the Fishers Library is one of our favorite places to explore. I have fond memories of my mom taking my sister and I to our local library as children. Now, I am happy to be creating similar memories with my own children.
Something for Everyone
I appreciate the number of activities and events that the Library offers. We have enjoyed attending preschool storytime, creating in Ignite Studio, and participating in the summer reading program, to name a few. However, my favorite part about visiting the library is the time spent exploring the bookshelves with my kids and finding new stories for us to read together.
One thing I love about the city of Fishers is the growing diversity within our community. When I look around my neighborhood, I see individuals and families of different races, religions, and backgrounds. As a Black woman married to a white man and raising two biracial children, diversity is important to our family.
As my children grow, I desire for them to learn about and appreciate their own culture, as well as the cultures of others. Books are one of the best tools at my disposal for guiding conversations with my children about Black history and to help us learn about other cultures together. One of my favorite resources for finding diverse books is the blog Here Wee Read. I will often use the book lists shared on this site to inform what I look for on our trips to the library.
I am grateful for the diverse set of books featured in the Library. When we visit, I know that we will find books that help my children learn about African American heroes, feature characters that look like them, and reflect their interests. It’s also easy to find and select books that share stories of individuals and families that are different from ours. I enjoy browsing the New Books area because of the diversity of stories featured. My kids and I will often select several books from this section, and reading the stories together helps us all learn and grow.
Discovering My Family History
“You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.” – Maya Angelou
In the aftermath of the racial unrest of 2020, I became more interested in learning about my own family history. My husband and I both completed DNA testing several years ago to learn more about our genetic makeup and family history. Those results fueled my curiosity, so I began to work on creating a family tree. I started with what I already knew through oral history, but I knew there was more to uncover.
In the fall of 2021, I participated in two adult genealogy and history programs offered at the Noblesville Library that allowed me to dive deeper into my family history: Eight Step Approach to Genealogy and African American Family History.
Through these programs, I learned about the resources available to me within the library system and elsewhere, practical tips for approaching family research, and tools/methods for collecting information from family members and online sources.
Some of the most notable moments and history uncovered include:
- Interviewing my grandmother about her experiences as a Black person growing up in Indianapolis. She even shared some research previously completed by another family member that helped me to fill in more of my family tree.
- Finding several newspaper articles about my great grandfather, Herman “Lefty” Watts Sr., who was a pitcher in the Negro League. He was later a player-manager for a club team here in Indiana called the Indianapolis ABCs.
- Finding yearbook photos and stories of my parents which helped me to learn a little bit more about their childhood experiences.
- Locating birth and death certificates that have provided crucial details needed in order to find information about specific family members.
- Discovering the U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Record for my 3rd great grandfather, Abraham Miller, who served in the Civil War.
Finding this information wouldn’t have come easily without the tools and resources offered through the Indiana Room at the Library. I know there is still so much to learn, but I am proud of the history I have uncovered so far, and I look forward to sharing that legacy with my own children.
I am grateful for the Hamilton East Public Library and its impact on my family and our community. Thank you for creating a safe space and offering something for everyone!”
About Sierra Sullivan:
Sierra is a wife and mom of two who is passionate about sharing stories to inspire and encourage others. She is a Senior Writer for Indianapolis Moms, has been featured on Her View from Home, and has her own blog and podcast, A Labor for Love. After years of “balancing” life as a working mom, she chose to take a career pause in 2021 to intentionally focus on her family. As a stay-at-home mom, the days are often busy and full, but in her free time, Sierra enjoys at-home manicures, reading, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, working out, and spending time with friends.
Have your own library story to share? Tell us about it here, and we’ll pick a few to be featured on our blog! You can also find storytelling resources and tips here.
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