We are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2017 Eleanor Gehres Award is Iris Agard Hawkins. This annual honor recognizes an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the Denver Public Library Western History Collection.
Hawkins has served as a volunteer and a docent with the Denver Public Library since 1991. As a a member of the Black Genealogy Search Group which had been founded at the Denver Public Library, she was already very interested in family research. As a leader in the genealogy community she's served as president of the Black Genealogy Search Group, and is a frequent contributor to the society's quarterly, Black Tracks. She's been the newsletter manager since April 2006, and also served for many years as the Library Liaison between the Colorado Genealogical Society and the Genealogy Collection of the DPL.
Hawkins holds a Masters of Social Work from the Graduate School of Social Work, New York University. Arriving in Denver from New York in 1991, she assisted the counselors at George Washington High School working with juniors and seniors. Using her skills and interests she's participated in the national conferences of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. Hawkins further honed her research skills by attending the national conferences of the National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.
Hawkins was cited in The Power of Black Women: Progress, Predicaments and Possibilities, a paper presented at the Anniversary Conference of the Association of Black Women in Higher Education, Inc, May 5, 1988, held in New York. She also served as recording secretary for ABWHE.
James M. Rose and Alice Eichholz consulted with her on their book Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy in 2003.
Hawkins is noted as the author, editor or contributor of several works including:
- 1870 Colorado Census Index of Minorities, 2001.
- Colorado Statesman: Index of Funeral Notices, Obituaries, and News Articles: 29 October 1904 – 17 April 1954, 2001.
- Five Points Neighborhood of Denver: All Name Index, 2001.
- A Genealogy Book for Young African Americans and Others of African Background: A Beginning Guide to Collecting Family History, 2002.
- World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918. Minorities Enrollments, Colorado, 2003.
- Denver Riverside Cemetery Database of African-American Cemetery Records 1876-2004, 2004.
- Elizabeth Jane Piper Ensley: One of Denver’s Pioneer Women, Suffragette, and Black voting rights activist: 29 January 1847 – 23 February 1919, 2006.
Hawkins, along with Val Tanaka, Faye Hudson, Willie Rivers and the late Janet Durst transcribed and published The American Woodmen Insurance Ledger: 5 June 1901 to 31 July 1907: Index, 2007.
As an active volunteer Iris worked on the Colorado Brides Project an index to all Colorado marriage records from 1859 through 1939. This resulted in the Colorado Marriage Index, a major resource for Colorado genealogical and local history research. It, along with the Denver Obituary Project, are major online genealogy resources for Denver and Colorado-facing genealogists.
Hawkins uses her talents and skills to assist researchers with tricky reference conundrums and always lends a hand to help people with the microfilm readers. Her talents are also employed to assist distance researchers with their needs. Hawkins contributes not only to the local and national genealogical communities but her talents serve the Western History researcher.