The headlines in newspapers reported my first visit to West Palm Beach in Florida in 1982 as follows:
Greyhound bus driver Walter Venable is king of the road as he thunders along the highways of the United States. But now he reckons it’s time he was given a crown to replace the peaked cap he wears at the wheel. For he has just found out from a Morecambe man, Terry Ainsworth, that one of his ancestors is King Stephen of England. Which has left Walter tickled pink at the thought that blood with a dash of blue is coursing through his veins.
News of his ermine festooned family tree has come from 41-year-old ex-footballer and hotelier Terry Ainsworth of Mount Avenue, Morecambe.
Terry, who spent time at Blackburn Rovers and Stockport County until injury forced him out of the game, has been blowing dust off old parchments and poring over musty records for ten years now in pursuit of his genealogy hobby. It was while he and his wife, Margaret, were touring the United States that he met Walter, who was driving the Greyhound bus taking them to Disneyland in Orlando. Terry pricked up his ears when the courier introduced Walter to the tourists. For during investigations into his own background he had come across the name of an ancestor called Venables (with an “s”), who was a member of the aristocracy.
“I got talking to Walter, who lives in Miami, and was able to tell him straight away that his surname, a derivation of Venables, went back to William the Conqueror. You should have seen his eyes,” said Terry. But now Terry, former licensee of the Victoria Hotel, Morecambe, has gone further and traced Walter’s family tree in detail. And he’s unearthed the all-important information that sitting on one of the branches is good King Stephen, who reigned from 1135 to 1154.
“I can just imagine how proud he will have been to learn that he’s a descendant of a king,” said Terry.
Terry has been able to trace his own tree, on his mother’s side, back to 1500 and his wife Margaret’s to 1750. Has he discovered any skeletons in the cupboard?
“Not really,” he replied, “the only one was someone on my mother’s side who used to own a lot of land at Bolton-le-Sands and had to sell it to pay off his gambling debts. He eventually died in a Lancaster alms house.”