I have always been captivated by the lives and stories of the descendants of historical figures. For one thing, it is a reminder that those we read about were real people, not figures who existed for our entertainment and edification. They lived lives, had families, and struggled just like the rest of us. The phenomenon was captured well in this USA Today piece that appeared last year. What is intriguing, among other things, is the way descendants either embrace or shun the situation. Avoiding the shame of having an infamous ancestor is one thing. To pick a drastic example, we don’t see Hitler’s extended clan drawing attention to themselves, do we? Still, reflected glory can be just as big a burden for the children, grandchildren, etc. of those known for great deeds, perhaps even more so. How do you live up to the legacy of being the kid of a Martin Luther King, Jr, Abraham Lincoln, or Frederick Douglass? Some eschew the situation and avoid the limelight entirely. Go too far in the other direction, embracing the name and privilege it allegedly bestows a little too much, and you get accused of being a professional widow. An individual who has played it about right is Ulysses Grant Dietz, the great-great grandson of the general/president who lives primarily out of the limelight but involves himself just enough to defend Ulysses S. Grant’s legacy. Most famously he threatened to move Grant’s remains to Illinois in the 1990s if the government did not improve the grounds at the tomb in upper Manhattan. It is a difficult balancing act that is more difficult than the rest of us can imagine. This past weekend descendants of Harriet Tubman met in Baltimore to prepare for the 2013 Centennial of her death.