John Blue of Manassas, who has been hunting Civil War relics for 30 years, said he found the ring engraved with the name of union soldier Levi Schlegel at a Fredericksburg construction site and decided to return the $1,500 relic to Schlegel's family, WUSA-TV, Washington, reported Wednesday.
"I wanted to set an example. I've never heard of an ID piece going back to an original family member," Blue said.
Blue said he enlisted the help of a genealogist, who eventually sought assistance from the Reading (Pa.) Public Library.
"They actually said you know there's a Schlegel that works here and it just happened to be the guy that I'm meeting today," Blue said of the library.
Blue said he was proud to be able to hand the ring over to Ernie Schlegel, a fifth-generation descendant of Levi Schlegel.
"After 30 years of metal detecting, I wish my dad was here to see it," Blue said.
Schlegel, who said he learned his ancestor survived the Civil War and lived to be 93, said the ring will remain in his family.
"The ring is going to be handed down to my son. It will stay in the family," Schlegel said.