I have been watching a programme where someone has been tracking his family history - Matthew Broderick in the US version of Who Do You Think You Are. He has been tracking his great grandfather through the Civil War and did eventually find the grave. To get there though he went through the usual census records, military records and got to a mass grave.
There he met a chap who has spent years doing research on Civil War burials, who cross checked all the known burial with the lists of all the people who were also known to have died, and ended up with a grave marker which almost certainly marks the grave of Matthew Broderick's great grandfather.
There are a few interesting things in story.
There is the fascination of knowing one's roots, finding where you came from, which the series explores - very successfully as it has been going for years now. It's something you don't think about as much when you are young, but as you get older, have children yourself, you can see that you are not only unique, but also part of a pattern. A thread in a tapestry. Matthew Broderick was clearly very moved by finding that grave, and I can see him bringing his children back to visit.
The other thing is the amount of time and effort the historian put into the research. He must spend his life at it. In one way that sort of dedication is awesome, but it is also a bit obsessive. But without people like him there would be no information on some of these things. There is a local studies group in the Vale of Glamorgan which has gone round photographing and deciphering all the inscriptions on graves in all the graveyards in the county. We have bought them as little leaflets as well as on micofiche because you can look at a lot of memorial inscriptions while sitting comfortably in a library instead of crawling round the gravestones.
It is a fine instance where the single mindedness of a person or group works for the benefit of others.