I took up knitting five years ago, and got into it big time. I think it would be fair to call it an obsession. I still pretty much knit every day of my life, and have completed dozens of hats, scarves, afghans, sweaters, etc. I have a yarn collection (my stash) that I can knit from for a very long, but that doesn't stop me from adding to it on a regular basis. Julie has also become a knitter, and there's nothing we enjoy more than traveling from yarn shop to yarn shop, comparing - and buying - yarn.
Which brings us to my current obsession: Ancestry.com. I saw a commercial last week while I was watching TV (and knitting) about their free 14-day trial offer. Oh sure, I had seen the commercial many times before, but that day, for some reason, I got up, went to my computer and signed on. I started with myself, of course, and before I knew it, I was adding family members in widening circles all around me. I was still at it when Ben got home from work that night. I was totally hooked. I practically hopped on Ben along with the dogs as I told him all about it.
Ben had gone through a geneology phase several years ago, which I hadn't really shared at the time, and he couldn't quite understand at first what had gotten me so excited about it now. But I kept talking, and eventually, he was digging out old photos and family records from plastic tubs he brought up from the basement. Soon, we were each seated at a computer, logging in information and photos, and yelling back and forth between our rooms with the nuggets of information we had uncovered.
When Ben asked me what got me started, I said, oh, you know, that commercial on TV made me curious about what I could find, and I truly thought that was it. It wasn't until I uploaded one of the photographs that Ben took for me that I realized what I most urgently wanted to accomplish. The photograph is of a framed document that has hung on the wall of every house where Ben and I have lived. The document is entitled "THE SOLDIERS INDIVIDUAL MEMORIAL" across the bottom, and, I believe, was sent to grieving families back home when a soldier died. Ben and I matted and framed the document, actually, before we were married. While I was growing up, the document was rolled in a tube and stored on the top shelf of the bathroom linen closet.
At my urging, my dad would sometimes get the document down, unroll it, and talk to me about his Grandma George, and her father, who was killed in the Civil War. He was called "Colonel Krear" in our family, although he was never a colonel. On the document, there is a small oval photograph of my great-great-grandfather in his uniform, and a hand-written list that includes when he was mustered in, the promotions he received, and the battles in which he fought, up to, and including, the battle at Jonesboro, Georgia where he was mortally wounded in August of 1864. He was twenty-five years old. Two months after his death, his widow gave birth to his only child, Carrie Krear, my father's Grandma George.
Today I transcribed all the information from the document and uploaded that to Ancestry.com, as well. Ben had suggested that I just toggle back and forth between the two electronic documents, but I really wanted to read from the original. I put on my reading glasses, got a strong magnifying glass, and began. I listed the names of the battles: Shiloh, April 7, 1862, Siege of Vicksburg Miss. May 19 to July 4 ‘62, Kenesaw Mt. June and July /’64. I realized I was crying as I typed in the words. I thought about this man, this boy, really, from Massillon, Ohio, who had probably never left Ohio before, who was fighting and bleeding and dying in conditions we can't even imagine. And he kept fighting. A dozen battles in cities across the South until his final battle in Jonesboro, Georgia.
Ben and I have been talking about how gratifying it has been to work on this project. Aunts and uncles we loved, grandparents long-dead come alive for us as we think and write about them. Most gratifying of all for me has been memorializing William H. H. Krear, whom no person living today ever knew. Now he will not be forgotten.