Q: Hypothetically speaking, were my stepfather a descendant of Moses Austin, would that entitle me to introduce myself as the great-great-great-great-great-step-grandson of the father of the Father of Texas?
Heath Dollar, Fort Worth
A: This is an intriguing question, Mr. Dollar, and also a fairly challenging one. Though the Texanist is totally up for it, you should know that while he is occasionally sidetracked for remarkably long stretches of time by the many deep rabbit holes that are part and parcel of his professionally related perusal of interest-piquing Lone Star pedigrees, he is not actually an expert in the realm of genealogy. Nor is he all that practiced when it comes to pondering hypotheticals. The Texanist is the Texanist, you know. He isn’t the Theorist. Or the Suppositionist, or the Speculativist, or the Professor of Postulation, or Mr. Say, What If? Moreover, the Texanist’s occasional habit of wandering into the realm of conjecture, rare though it may be, is reliably kept in check by his employer’s department of crackerjack fact-checkers, a collegial but hard-nosed lot who are never super jazzed when the Texanist drops a load of hypotheticals into their laps.
But you seem like an all right guy, Mr. Dollar. And, besides, the Texanist’s bread isn’t buttered by not responding to the letters that land in his in-box. So, what say we proceed?
As you allude to, and as most everybody knows, Moses Austin, the father of Stephen Fuller Austin (and the lesser-known Emily Austin Perry and James Elijah Brown Austin), was, in the early 1800s, the first person granted permission by the Spanish Crown to bring American settlers into what was at the time Spanish Texas. Fate intervened, however, and Moses died in 1821, at the age of 59, before he could commence with his colonization plans. His dying wish was that his eldest son, Stephen, fulfill his dream, which Stephen did in relatively short order, starting with a group of three hundred families known to history as the Old Three Hundred, though Spanish Texas had since become Mexican Texas.
The Texanist acknowledges Stephen F.’s bona fides as the Father of Texas, of course, but he has, at the same time, always considered Moses the Paterfamilias of Texas. Whatever you call him, though, the elder Austin’s standing with regard to the history of Texas is both critical and indisputable. Without him, it’s safe to say, you and the Texanist would be living in a very different world, a world in which, it’s also safe to say, you and he would likely not be corresponding. In short, for those interested in notable Texas bloodlines, being descended from Moses Austin is a big deal—though a somewhat fraught one, given that his son Stephen was not just the Father of Texas but, also, given his unyielding efforts to establish the peculiar institution here, essentially the Father of Texas Slavery.
Yet whether one regards descent from the Austin lineage to be a matter of pride or shame or some combination thereof, being able to claim such descent is something of a miracle, given how unproductive in the reproductive arts two of Moses’s three offspring were. Stephen neither married nor had any children (that we know about) before he died of pneumonia in 1836, at age 43. James married and had one child, whom he named Stephen F. Austin Jr. in honor of his brother, but that child died when he was 8 years old. Thus, all of the Austin succession is owed to Emily Austin Perry, formerly Emily Austin Bryan, who made up for her brothers’ relative lack of procreativity by giving birth to no fewer than eleven children by two different husbands (James Bryan and James Perry), though not all eleven survived beyond childhood. Among her descendants are members of the Bryan clan, such as Houston businessman and Texas history buff J. P. Bryan, who founded Galveston’s Bryan Museum and restored Marathon’s famed Gage Hotel.
So, now that the Texanist has shown that it is possible—in fact, certain—that Moses Austin has surviving descendants, he will turn to the question of whether the stepson of another purported descendant is entitled to introduce himself as the great-great-great-great-great-step-grandson of the Father of the Father of Texas. The first order of business when it comes to answering that question is making sure that one’s stepfather is, indeed, the great-great-great-great-grandson of the father of the Father of Texas. The Texanist would advise that anyone, yourself included, advancing such a claim exercise caution. Texans take such assertions very seriously, so it would behoove anyone boasting of such prominent stepparentage to verify the veracity of their stepparent’s ancestral claim.
If your stepdad has not already provided authoritative documentation in this regard, there are, the Texanist is somewhat loath to admit, better resources than he when it comes to authenticating genealogical claims. Perhaps the best option would be to darken the door of the Descendants of Austin’s Old Three Hundred, a group of folks headquartered in San Felipe (a.k.a. San Felipe de Austin, the colonial-era capital of Anglo Texas) who have documented their descendancies from those original three hundred proto-Texan Anglo colonizers, the Austins included. This group will be able to help any interested parties navigate the arduous process of making sure all their patrilineal I’s are dotted and all their matrilineal T’s are crossed.
And if those I’s and T’s are indeed properly embellished, then, well, the Texanist sees no harm in presenting oneself as the great-great-great-great-great-step-grandson of the father of the Father of Texas. If doing so somehow puts a little spring in one’s step, makes one stand a little bit taller, or just seems like an interesting conversation starter at cocktail parties, then one might as well proceed.
And if you are or are not, in fact, the actual great-great-great-great-great-step-grandson of the father of the Father of Texas, please let the Texanist know. Having spent a few days pondering and researching your query, he is now considering the potential cachet that might accrue from introducing himself as an acquaintance of the great-great-great-great-great-step-grandson of the father of the Father of Texas.
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.