I’m following the second prompt for 2015 by describing a relative who left England to start a new life in America. There are plenty of “King”sburys in my family tree but I might as well start with my first American immigrant ancestor.
Joseph Kingsbury, was the youngest son of John Kingsbury of Boxford, England. He came to Massachusetts with his older brother John and they eventually settled in Dedham, Massachusetts sometime around 1638. When genealogists write about the Kingsburys in America they differentiate between the Joseph Kingsbury line from Dedham Massachusetts and the Henry Kingsbury line from Ipswich Massachusetts. It’s easy for me to remember which line I’m from because my grandfather is also named Joseph.
I don’t know why Joseph (1600-1676) and his brother John left England but I do know they were the youngest boys in the family so it may have had something to do with the laws of primogeniture (meaning that the eldest son in the family inherited all of his father’s estate.) This was the only way real property could be inherited in England until the Statute of Wills in 1540 but even after that it was common practice and was often followed in America as well. It meant that the younger sons in a family, often with support from the older brother, entered the military or pursued a profession. So if they weren’t going to get any of their father’s land in Boxford, perhaps the chance to become landowners in the New World appealed to Joseph and John.
I’ve seen conflicting reports of when they arrived in Massachusetts (sometime between 1630 and 1638) but most sources agree they were here by 1638 and they were not part of Winthrop’s fleet that arrived in 1630. Joseph came to America with his wife Millicent, whom he married in Boxford, England in 1628. Their first child, Sarah Kingsbury, was born in 1635 so depending on when they arrived in America, she was either born here or was a very young child on the voyage. Town records indicate that the second child ever born in Dedham Mass was Mary Kingsbury, the second daughter of Joseph and Millicent. She was born on September 1, 1637. After another daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1638, Joseph and Millicent had four boys – Joseph (1640), John (1643), Eleazer (1645) and Nathaniel (1650). After about eleven or twelve generations you get to me. I kept my maiden name because I came of age at the height of the women’s liberation movement, but also as a way to honor my grandfather. His only male heirs (my father and my uncle Deane) only had girls.
When I think of our ancestors coming to America, in part, for religious freedom, it surprises me to learn how oppressive the early church in America was. I guess that shows you how much the term “religious freedom” can change over time. The Puritans who were part of the Great Migration wanted the “freedom” to impose their religious views and practices on everyone in the community. There were very strict rules for joining a church and what was expected of members. Apparently Joseph Kingsbury hadn’t been following those rules so he was NOT admitted to the church in Dedham in 1638. His wife Millicent however, was found to be “a tender harted soule full of feares and temptations, but truly breathing after christ” and was admitted. Some sources indicate Joseph was ill-tempered, but others suggest that his differences with the church may have started when he “swapped” land, giving the church some of his very desirable land in town in exchange for rocky, swamp land. He expressed his displeasure with the trade, which may be why he was found to be “too much addicted to the world” and denied church membership.
By 1641, the church was convinced of his piety and repentance for his worldly ways and Joseph was christened on February 9, 1641. Although their grave markers did not survive, Joseph and Millicent were probably buried in the church burial ground, the very land he had given the church many years before his death.