Through a little online serendipity I discovered this photo of three Confederate veterans which included Francis M. Poore on the right. The other two, from the left, are Thomas Scanlan and Thomas Shockley, Francis’ comrades in the 13th Mississippi Infantry. Melvin Tingle, who owns the photo, also was able to tell me some Reconstruction lore about my ancestor.

I once thought of the past as though it were a foreign country.

It was a long way away and nobody I knew had ever been there. I could read about it in books and visit its artifacts in museums, but talking with someone who actually came from there seemed out of the range of possibility.

Of course, I was a kid when I held those beliefs. And kids have lots of other things going on in their lives to hold their attention. Family history isn’t usually one of them.

I was well toward my 30s before it dawned on me that I had ancestors who had lived through the Civil War. And later still that I discovered my grandfather’s father, his uncles and many of his in-laws had been Confederate soldiers. My grandfather died when I was 13 and, for whatever reason, had never mentioned that fact to me.

Had I been knowledgeable and interested enough, I might have gained valuable family stories about the Civil War as told by my great grandfather to his children. Not quite firsthand, but pretty close.

That didn’t happen, and I wish I could change the past, but I can’t. Because of the Internet I’ve been able to connect with distant cousins, compare notes and use far-flung resources that were once difficult or expensive to find. This has allowed me to take the scattered pieces of a family jigsaw puzzle and pull them together into a family picture I have called Poore Boys In Gray.

The point is, that it is never too late, or too early, to begin gathering the stories of your family’s history. You may not be able to tell the same story if you start later than sooner, but there is still a story to be told.

How did you discover your Civil War ancestor?

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