JCPL Column: Navigating your history with the library

Have you ever wondered how you could possibly be related to Uncle Bob or Aunt Molly? It is at times when we gather with family and friends that we hear stories about people and places that we know little about. Sometimes we even hear a story that is unexpected and leaves us with questions.

I grew up listening to stories about family members’ service in the military and school sports achievements. I even have a box of old photos with people standing behind a grocery store counter and a faint recollection of how that photo came to be from an out-of-state uncle suffering from the slow decline of dementia. These stories have helped me define who I am and my family history. I always go to the library when I have questions about history – even if they are about my personal history.

I know my uncle has worked hard to keep his mind strong with activities like puzzles, sports and a healthy lifestyle, but some facts slip away with time. He, along with his wife, are former teachers, advocates for and volunteers at their local library. The library isn’t just a place where you can conduct research; it’s a community where you can find support for those unanswered questions. When I joined the staff of the Johnson County Public Library, I learned about the historical resources located at the Franklin Branch’s Historical Room. I visited to learn more about how I can access local property, birth, death and military records. I learned more about the Johnson County community, surrounding communities and the state.

Johnson County residents can access Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest Online or the Indiana Digital Archives with their Johnson County Public Library card. Cardholders can visit any JCPL Branch and log into a library computer to access Ancestry.com to find birth and death certificates, military records and more about distant family members.

I have been fortunate enough to have a strong network of family members, genealogy enthusiasts and librarians interested in conducting genealogical research. They located many of these records long before I began conducting my research. However, through Ancestry.com, I was able to connect with other distant relatives and even do a DNA test to identify my genetic heritage. My family and I have traveled across the state, into Illinois, and have plans to visit other parts of the world based on the information we found using these resources. I never would have been able to make these connections had I not used my library card.

Visit PageAfterPage.org/research to start your genealogy journey.

Jenelle Erickson-Bejarano is an Adult Services Librarian at the Clark Pleasant branch of Johnson County Public Library. JCPL staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]