Today, while visiting a site that I visit every week (sometimes several times a week) I found that they actually have a list of Union Soldiers who never claimed their medals awarded during the war. I cannot believe I had never visited this area before and was just amazed at the size of the list and my ignorance! I understand from reading up on this that these medals are still in their original packaging AND can be claimed by someone proving their relationship to the person. Note: According to the information below, it does not have to be a Direct relationship. I have seen comments from others stating that they claimed a Great-Great Uncle's medal.
Here's some info directly from the site:
If you know of a Civil War Union Soldier in your family's past, it's worth checking the site just to check the list. I've been busily checking mine this morning and comparing surnames with those on the list. It helps that a lot of my family comes from Virginia/West Virginia. I find it heartbreaking that these medals were never retrieved by the soldiers to pass down to us...."Many heirs of West Virginia Union veterans of the Civil War may be eligible to claim medals struck to honor their ancestors years ago. Most of the medals were claimed by the veterans themselves, their immediate families, or their descendants, but several thousand medals remain unclaimed. A list of the unclaimed medals is available in the Archives and History Library and on its website.
To claim an ancestor's medal, a claimant must submit his or her line of descent from the veteran along with documentation to support this line of descent. To establish line of descent, claimants must include copies of primary sources, including birth, death, marriage, will, deed, military,census, Bible records, etc. Old letters, diaries, marriage announcements, or obituaries may also prove helpful in supporting a descendant's claim. Please note that a family chart submitted without primary source documentation is not sufficient.
The claimant who establishes the most direct relationship to the veteran will be awarded the ancestor's medal six months from the date the fully documented claim is received by Archives and History. The purpose of the six-month waiting period is to allow for sufficient verification of the descendant's claim and for submission of counterclaim(s) by other potential descendant(s). In the case of equal claims, the descendant whose claim was received first will be awarded the medal."
Heres the website link: http://www.wvculture.org/history/medals.html