Today, a major genealogy website, ancestry.com, is offering free searches of various databases for its non-paying members.
I decided to take the opportunity to do a little research on my mother's side of the family, one that I don't have that much knowledge of. I am more fortunate with my father's side, as an uncle did extensive research years ago. I quickly found I needed skills I did not have enough time to learn, but spent an interesting hour or more stumbling around the site.
Then, I decided to satisfy some curiosity today - do major figures of the Civil War have living direct descendents? Years ago, I had met a man who had claimed George Armstrong Custer (although best known for his death in the famous Battle of Little Big Horn, he was also a Civil War general) as one of his ancestors. What other people related to the Civil War had descendents, and what had those descendents accomplished?
What I found would take me many days to read about.
Many people who know they are descended from historical figures in the Civil War are proud of that fact, but many also have the philosophy of "don't depend on your ancestry".
It turns out there are a number of famous Civil War related figures who have living descendents- Confederates and Federal figures, abolitionists, and slaves.
Reading through their stories is fascinating, and there are thousand of more stories waiting for the reading - civilians, soldiers and others who lived through the war. It is estimated that one in 17 people in the United States have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War.
The story of Kenneth Morris, Jr, in particular, inspires me. A descendent of both Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, he fights to abolish modern day slavery- just as his great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Douglass, fought to abolish slavery in our country.
Then there is Ulysses S. Grant's great-great grandson, a native of Syracuse (a city about an hour from where I live) who is a museum curator and art expert.
There is Bertram Hayes-Davis, who preserves the memory of his ancestor Jefferson Davis, best known as the President of the Confederate States of America.
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (who has a number of ties with New York State) has living descendents although he did not survive the war- his granddaughter, who passed away in 1991, was 104.
Meanwhile, Dennis Chamberlain, a direct descendent of Union General and Battle of Gettysburg hero Joshua Chamberlain, is the latest of a long line of Chamberlains to service in the military.
The Lee family of Virginia also has had a distinguished history, although many of them were not direct ancestors or descendents of the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
There is one missing name, though, from people alive today. Abraham Lincoln. The man who was President of the United States during the Civil War, has no direct descendents alive today. This is his genealogy.
Do you have a famous person or historical figure in your family tree?