Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Insomnia and the Genealogist, or What Kept Me Up Last Night

I can be an insomniac at times and I'm used to it. That's generally when I read, or play a mindless game on my phone until I can finally slip into the comfort of sleep.

I slept 2 whole hours last night. Twice I thought about getting out of bed and jumping on the computer, but since our cat, Chloe, was contentedly ensconced next to me, I thought better of that and just tried to drift off.

Instead, I managed only to think more, and more, about what my newest research had uncovered and how it was that I could unravel the myriad of mysteries within.

Here's some of what I thought about:

  • A 29-year-old man leaving his wife and 3 young children to go off to fight in the Civil War. 
  • Dying of smallpox in Cahaba Prison, Alabama after being captured during a fierce battle at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. 
  • Existing at all after being captured and living at Cahaba. Just being there. 
  • Having 2 children born during the war, a son in 1862 and a daughter in 1865. Never seeing the daughter at all, and perhaps not even knowing she existed. 
  • Wondering how this couple managed to have 2 children during the war to begin with, given that the father was with the Army of the Mississippi and a little far from home. . 
  • The conduct it takes to rank up from private to 2nd lieutenant during a war. Perhaps there was more to this man than literacy. 
  • Why a family moved from Missouri to Illinois at the start of the war. 
  • Why the wife ended up marrying 4 more times after the loss of her husband, and what happened to her children. How did the loss of their father affect them, or were they too young to understand. 

The answers to these questions will undoubtedly lead to more questions, too.

I don't know about you, but this is enough to keep me awake for days. My mind has adopted this family and this Union solder buried now in Marietta, Georgia, and I cannot rest until I figuratively breathe the life back into them.

Have you ever had the same feeling about an ancestor you've discovered? Have you been bitten by the insomnia bug and become so doggedly determined about an ancestor that you cannot sleep? How did your sleep-deprived experience turn out?

Some people would call it being a bit obsessive. Others would just call it genealogy.

Some of those questions may never be answered, but I owe this man something for what he did in sacrificing his little family and his life to join the Union cause, and bringing his story to light is my goal.

It's the most, and the least I can do.

After I grab a quick nap.

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