One Word After Another With James A. Autry

Which Valiant King Is Your Ancestor?

I’ve never signed up for one of those services in which they trace your family tree all the way back to prehistory, but I’ve been tempted because it seems that everybody who does finds they have descended from royalty. None of them came from poor dirt farmers. 

My only conclusion is that those old royals did an awful lot of bed-hopping in the kingdom.  

Where were the spouses, I wonder. Oh yes, the men were off pillaging and fighting and working unspeakable horrors on their fellow humans while the dukes and princes and highnesses and so on were taking care of the home front, the phrase “taking care” requiring definition not suitable for a classy magazine.

I met one man who was so proud of his familial connection with some ancient Bavarian king named something like “Spiegenvogel von Hofbrauhaus” that he had put the alleged family crest in a rather elaborate frame. When he showed it to me, I refrained from asking the favorite question of my publisher, “Very nice, but can you take that to the bank, Bubba?” whereupon he probably would have responded with something not suitable for a classy magazine.

I should say that this is not about those amateur genealogists who make a serious hobby of researching their own immediate families, then sharing that history with other members of the family. There was one of those in my family. He lived in North Carolina and spent years researching, then published a book that he offered to family members for a price that he insisted would only defray his costs. 

Of course I bought one thinking perhaps that I might, like those other folks of my acquaintance, also be related to some obscure king, or at least a count or a duke, in which case I could claim to be the 80th Duke of Indolentshire or some-such. Instead, my ancestors were the European equivalent of poor dirt farmers who were either fleeing the royalty or marching off to fight their wars. Alas, no family crests, no castles and no significant bed-hopping.

At some point, they came to America (yes, immigrants!) where they became—what else—poor dirt farmers, an occupation that I managed to escape when I went off to college.

My hope is that, perhaps someday in the distant future, one of my descendants will research the family and discover that I wrote a column for a classy magazine.

Take it to the bank, Bubba.

Mississippi native James A. Autry ( of Des Moines is a well-known author, poet, musician and business consultant who has written 14 books on such topics as gratitude, servant leadership and his Southern boyhood. Autry recently published his first novel, “The Cold Warrior: When Flying Was Dangerous and Sex Was Safe.”

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