John Blue's dad taught him to use a metal detector when he was just a kid.
"You never know what you're going to find," says Blue.
Years ago, he had gotten permission to search a construction site in Fredericksburg, Va. The detector beeped and he found a small ring worn as identification during the Civil War.
"When I got it home, I cleaned it up and it had the soldier's name on it,” he says. “The name of his company, his regiment."
The name on the ring was Levi Schelegel. He served in the 198th Infantry. His name is on the roster of Union soldiers.
"He was in seven or eight major engagements and, actually, was at the surrender of the Civil War," says Blue.
When Blue first found the ring in roughly 2005, he reached out to a friend who tried to help him track down descendants, but they didn't have any luck.
In early 2013, he asked her to try again.
She had called a public library in Reading, Pa., where Levi Schlegel grew up. A staffer sent her to a member of the library board named Ernest Herbein Schlegel. He says he is a first cousin four times removed. Ernest is a member of the Army National Guard and says his family has a history of public service.
"I don't know what to say. I am actually flabbergasted that after 148 years that I get contacted by someone who found a relic of a family member in the ground," says Ernest.
Blue will return the ring to the Schlegels next week. He believes it is worth hundreds and maybe thousands of dollars.
Blue says he doesn't want any money for it, but he "wouldn't mind" a new metal detector.
The manufacturer of Blue's metal detector is White's Electronics in Oregon. A spokeswoman tells FOX 5 they will award Blue a new metal detector.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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