Sunday, July 24, 2005

Back Online

Home leave is over, so I can go back to blogging after a five week hiatus. I was able to get online a few times during my travels, but not long enough to put together a post. And I think it was good to get away from it for awhile, as it gave me a chance to gain some perspective and consider ways to both broaden and focus my appeal. My wife and I got together with family members and with quite a few friends in the U.S. who we rarely get to see. Even those experienced with using computers had a hard time comprehending the world of blogging.

People who read blogs are mostly people who also write them. I tend to write my posts to share information with people I already know who don't generally read blogs and in most cases don't even know what a blog is. Perhaps that will change over time, but I think I might get more response if I focus on the people who actually read my blog instead of those who I think might or should read it. Only one reader commented on my blog while I was away, but that comment was important as it came from the person who transcribed and posted online the cemetery that was the point of departure for both my webpage and my blog. I just wish her comment had included some indication of how she managed to find my blog.

I was also able to get an e-mail address and exchange e-mails with my Aunt Vera who lives in Chippewa Falls. She's eighty-eight years old and may have some recollections of some of the people buried in the Tilden cemetery along with my great grandparents. On the plane ride from Tokyo to Minneapolis I was able to translate three or four pages of the biography of my great great grandfather's commanding officer in the Civil War, the Poet-General Konrad Krez, which is a recent book, published in 1988, but written in fairly technical academic German. Sometimes plane travel can actually enhance concentration. And in Milwaukee I met my mother-in-law's next door neighbor, a retired music teacher who it turns out is also a Civil War and genealogy buff. He's good with computers and has an membership which he can use to access census records I would have to pay to see.

I tried to get in touch with Lance Hertigan, a writer who has published several books on the Civil War. He has been the director of the Civil War Institute at Carroll College which I visited in Milwaukee. But that visit wasn't real productive as the Institute is currently being merged with another museum in Pewaukee that will be expanded to serve both Milwaukee and Chicago. I was, however, able to meet another writer a few weeks later in Seattle, Andrew Ward, who told me that his next book, already in progress, will be about an incident from the Civil War.

I spent an afternoon at the Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Campus. I had an hour or two to look at a collection of letters exchanged between the Reverend Alonzo Miller and his wife during the Civil War while he was serving in my great great granfather's regiment, the 27th Wisconsin Infantry. I made photocopies of some of the letters, and I'll be able to read the parts that are easily legible. Much of the handwriting though is in faded ink and will require close perusal with a magnifying glass and two or three weeks of daily access to the originals to decipher. One thing I did learn is that the unit didn't march on Brownsville until several days after my great great grandfather died, so it's clear that he wasn't done in by the rigors of that march.

My home leave visit two years ago resulted in a terrific and unexpected breakthrough which provided enough information so that I felt a need to pull it all together on a webpage and to start my blog as a means to continually update my findings. Nothing on this trip really qualifies as a breakthrough in my book, but I did get a chance to check some things out and to consider different ways of moving forward on this project. I'm gaining some momentum, but it's a slow train coming.