The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations

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Celebrating my Father’s Birthday

I’ve gotten so far behind on posts on my personal blog that I posted about my father’s birthday there but here’s a link for you to read about it.

Interesting tidbit about my father’s name. He has no middle name even though he spent most of his life using the initials BBK. Growing up, everyone in my family called him K.B. – not sure why except that those were his “Navy initials” last name first.  On his birth certificate his name is Bryant Kingsbury. The middle name he often used, Bush, was his father’s middle name. So now for the interesting tidbit.

According to my father, who apparently knew that he did not have a middle name even though he used one, the reason he began using Bush as his middle name is because when he was born, a friend of the family dedicated a book to him and she used the name – Bryant Bush Kingsbury.

“And that’s how I got Bush as a middle name.”

TitlePage.Murder in Maryland.1932

When my father was born, his parents were good friends with another professor at St Johns College and his wife. The professor’s name was Ford Brown and his wife was Zenith Brown who had some success as a mystery writer using the pen name Leslie Ford. One of her novels, Murder in Maryland, was dedicated to my father.


Leslie Ford was born Zenith Jones (nee Brown) in 1889 in Smith River, Calif., where her father was a missionary among the Indians, and spent her earliest years in a papoose, raised among the Indians to whom her father ministered. She studied to be a journalist and started freelancing in 1928. She wrote her first novel, Footsteps on the Stairs in 1931 and her last, Trial for Ambush, in 1962. In-between, she wrote more than 60 mysteries, created two major crime series (as Leslie Ford and David Frome), and was a foreign correspondent in the European and Pacific Theaters.


Thanks to my very thoughtful husband, I have one of Leslie Ford’s books. When he heard the story I just recounted (from my father, I had never heard it before) he ordered the book on line. Maybe I’ll even read it one day!

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Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury’s Civil War Records

Most people know I’m a big Civil War buff and some might assume its because I grew up in the land of magnolias and sweet tea. I think it is because my husband and I started visiting Civil War battlefields when we were first married so it is a  hobby we developed together. I am sure we will do even more of it when we retire.

One of the first things I did when I got interested in genealogy was to track the Civil War records of my ancestors and I have both Northern and Southern soldiers in my family tree. Our direct line Kingsbury ancestor who would have been old enough to fight in the American Civil War – Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury was born in Vermont in 1827. I knew from his daughter Ella Kingsbury Whitmore’s book entitled Salt of the Earth, published in 1944, that he did not serve. Here’s what she writes about that:

p.20 The Civil War came on with all its tragedy. To this day, the sound of the fife and bugle, on patriotic occasions, recalls those stirring days, small as I was. Our father’s place was seen to be with his family, so we were spared the anxiety that came to the homes from which the father joined the army.

Today I found out why Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury’s place was “seen to be with his family.” FLBlog.5.27.16

His name is on line 13 of the record copied above, which is the 1863 draft registration record for the Third Congressional District of Iowa. He is registered as Class II, which is the designation for married men over 35. If he’d been born one year later, he would have been Class I and might have been drafted in the later years of the war.




Method to my Madness

I wonder if my grandfather – Joseph Bush Kingsbury – was organized? Could he find things on his desk? Did he misplace bills and get past due notices? Could he stay on top of the grading and lectures that were required of a college professor but run out of milk?

From the volumes of meticulous diaries and financial ledgers that I have inherited, I imagine that he was completely organized. And yet – he was a Kingsbury and I know from my own experience and that of my father’s – he might have suffered from some of the same organizational challenges we face.

My husband calls it – “a German mind trapped in an Italian body.”(No offense intended to the thousands of organized Italians out there.)  I can’t blame it on the Italian genes (although I do have 7% Italian DNA that I cannot begin to explain) but I understand what he means. I crave organization and efficiency -but I often let mail go piling up for WEEKS before I open it. Since I’m the only person in my family who knows how to open mail – that can create problems.

Any other Kingsburys out there who want to ‘fess up?

This is a segue into a post that will probably appear tomorrow about something my grandfather and his older brother did almost 100 years ago that I would like to do some day. Stay tuned and weigh in on the question – what sort of organizational skills are imbedded in the Kingsbury DNA?




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Precious Photo Memories

Here are a few pictures of Joseph Bush Kingsbury that I am sure other Kingsbury family members would like to see. You can read more about how I recently discovered them here.

This has to be one of the cutest baby pictures I’ve ever seen!


I wonder if there are photos like this for each of the Kingsbury boys born to Wayland Briggs Kingsbury? This picture was probably taken in late 1890 or early 1891 since Joseph Bush Kingsbury was born on June 23, 1890.

Chris Pahud and I have shared our fascination with JBK’s first-hand account of being a student in Germany the summer that World War I broke out, but it was almost 5 years later when JBK was serving in the Army in the Medical Corps at a field hospital in France. When this picture was taken.


And here is Joe and Kitty’s wedding picture taken in January 1928. I’ve seen very few pictures of JBK at this age (37) when he was just beginning his career as a political science professor. Notice the Kingsbury chin dimple, a feature that JBK asked about when he got word that his youngest son Preston Deane was born in Osage, Iowa in August 1936.