MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 24, 2013

Genealogy files help Harris dig up new dirt

MPL assistant says she likes helping people learn their history

— There’s no telling what Jere Harris discovers in Muskogee Public Library’s genealogy files.

“I probably learn something new every day about our little town,” she said. “It was where a doctor, lawyer and Indian chief could live on the same street. A deputy and an outlaw could be the same person. I think we found it to be kind of a wild, wild West out here.”

Harris, 58, wants library visitors to make the same discoveries. She is a library assistant in the genealogy department. She started there as a part-time clerk in 1998.

“My husband was interested in genealogy, and a friend was working here and told me about the job at the time,” she said. She learned how to use the microfilm reader and genealogy books.

“I eventually learned how to help patrons find what they need,” she said. “It can be overwhelming at first.”

She said she finds many people who are interested in Native American research, so she shows them the Dawes Commission enrollment records.

“I enjoy helping people learn their history,” Harris said. “The people are really grateful when you can help them find things.”

Harris said genealogy helped her learn a lot of things about herself and her family.

“It gives you a sense of heritage to know different ethnic groups may have contributed to your family or personality, how traits and sometimes looks are carried down,” Harris said. “Then you can look at your own children and think, ‘Oh, they look like my dad.’”

The Muskogee native enjoys sharing her family’s history as well as her city’s history.

“Both sets of parents moved from Arkansas to Muskogee,” Harris said. “My mother was 9, and she came here on a train from Arkansas with her family.”

Meet Jere Harris

AGE: 58.

HOMETOWN: Muskogee.

CAREER: Library assistant in genealogy department at Muskogee Public Library.

EDUCATION: Muskogee High School, 1973; bachelor of English degree, Oklahoma Christian College, Edmond.

FAMILY: Husband, Timothy Harris. Daughter, Laura, and son, Jeremy.

CHURCH: Chandler Road Church of Christ.

HOBBIES: Reading, genealogy, collecting antiques.

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