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Volunteer creating genealogy database at library

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Posted: Monday, March 5, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:50 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Sean Wardwell

Killeen Daily Herald

Every Monday and Wednesday, 71-year-old Beverly Kittinger can be found in the reference section of the Killeen Public Library's main branch.

Poring through birth, death and marriage records for eight to 10 hours a week, she's a one-person genealogy department for the library, creating a database that can be used not only by Killeen residents but also by people across the country trying to find out more about their family histories.

Kittinger, a former library employee, said she been working on the database for the past nine years.

"Part of my job while I was employed here was to increase the genealogy section itself," she said. "I didn't get it finished (by the time I retired), so I wanted to continue it until it was completed.

She has a daunting task in front of her. Using archives of the Killeen Daily Herald going back to 1953, along with newspapers dating back to the late 19th century, she inputs birth, marriage, anniversary and death records into the library's system.

Having that information helps researchers trace back their family trees even further. Having it in Killeen is especially important, said Kittinger, because of the military and transitory nature of the city.

"A soldier might have married a local person, or they retired, came back to Killeen and want to look up a possible relative," said Kittinger. "This is all helpful information."

Gerald Skidmore, a longtime Killeen resident and former managing editor of the Killeen Daily Herald, has an interest in local history, having authored the book, "Historic Killeen - An Illustrated History," which was published in 2010.

Skidmore said the library's database would be a valuable resource.

"I've been around a long time. We have a lot of people who are constantly trying to check on relatives (in Killeen)," he said. "When I worked for the (Killeen) chamber of commerce, we had a lot of military people coming back trying to check on friends or relatives, so that database would be beneficial."

Library staff said the service Kittinger provides in updating and maintaining the database is invaluable.

"(The database) is important to the staff because it saves us a lot of work," said Dawn Harris, assistant director of library services.

Harris said she's seen an increased interest in genealogy, which she attributes to the television show "Who Do You Think You Are?"

"We have one of the largest genealogy collections in the area," she continued. "We have many books that are specific to other states. We have access to (the genealogy software) Heritage Quest. We have how-to guides on how to begin research."

Kittinger is not a professional genealogist. However, she said she's been interested in it since the early 1960s and regularly attends conferences.

"I wanted to know my family history and where they came from," said Kittinger, adding she believes many have the same desire, which motivates her to continue her work.

"I think because we're such a mobile community with the military, and even society in general, we've lost track, somewhat, of who we are and of our culture," she continued. "I think some people might want to get back to those roots."

Aside from births, marriages, anniversaries and deaths, Kittinger also keeps an ongoing chronicle of the city's history. However, that has yet to make it into her database.

"I've been combining all that stuff and I've got notes all over the place," she said.

Harris said the database is only available at the main library branch, located at 205 E. Church Ave. However, staff at other branches can access the database and help patrons.

For more information, contact the library's reference desk at 501-8990.

Contact Sean Wardwell at seanw@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7552. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcity.

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