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March 2, 2013

Jim Bailey: European roots? You’re probably related to Charlemagne

When I started exploring online genealogical avenues to find out something about my Combs ancestors, I had no idea how far into antiquity it would take me.

First I discovered a line of Lynches extending into 10th-century Ireland. Then I found I was related not only to presidents and kings but had at least one ancestor who came over on the Mayflower. And that English royal line extended through France to the Scandinavian countries and wound up in the Middle East around the time of King Xerxes, unbelievably another of my ancestors.

Trying to wrap up the project, I went down the road of one of the loose ends I hadn’t yet tied up. That line, the Chiny line, took me through Belgium into France, where I encountered a whole new line of royalty.

That’s right, if the genealogists are to be believed, I’m a direct descendant of Alfred the Great, Louis the Stammerer and Charlemagne.

Of course, I’m not alone. At least one commentator states flatly that every person of European descent who is able to trace his ancestry far enough is likely to be descended from Charlemagne, the Frankish emperor who had 10 wives or concubines and fathered at least 20 children.

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short, and his mother was Bertha Broadfoot, said to have been so named because one of her feet was larger than the other. And the ancestry, real or contrived, of Bertha Broadfoot is almost beyond belief.

While there is some dispute as to the proper links, her line goes through the Merovingian kings, the Sicambrians, Cimmerians and winds up in legendary Troy. My ancestors apparently include the brother of the fabled Helen of Troy, Andromache of literary fame, King Priam who ruled during the Trojan War, Laomedon who was slain by Hercules, and Dardanus. That takes us back 1,500 years before Christ.

Dardanus was born in Egypt. His mother was said to be Electra and his father either Corythus or the god Zeus himself. But another version names him as the son of Judah and Tamar of biblical notoriety.

Dardanus’ wife, Basia, goes back even further with three more generations dating to Aeacus of Epirus in 1780 B.C. But there again the name of Zeus comes up as his likely father.

Thus, though the ancient writings that chronicle this descent could be, and probably are, mixed with mythology and contain gaps, it is possible I could be descended from the patriarch of the Jewish nation. That would mean the chronology listed in the book of Genesis would take me all the way back to Adam and Eve.

I’m reserving judgment on the veracity of all that. But I don’t imagine my Great-Grandpa Andrew Combs, a not-so-humble preacher who grew up in Missouri in the 1800s, had even the foggiest notion he might have been descended from royalty.

Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.

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