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Family History Road Trip

peggyandme.3.21.19I saw my cousin Peggy Kingsbury Rice last week on my annual visit to Charlottesville, VA for the Virginia Festival of the Book – a five day book festival with an amazing variety of authors and topics. It was our second visit in two years. Peggy’s father Deane is my father’s younger brother. Even though we didn’t grow up together and have almost a ten year age difference, when we get together the conversation flows easily and the family connections shine through.

Peggy and I have been talking about taking a family history road trip to Washington DC and have settled on the perfect time to do it. Peggy’s parents, Deane and Nancy will be visiting her the first week of June. They fly in and out of Washington DC so we’re planning a day trip around DC that will highlight places that are significant to our family history.

My father, Bryant Kingsbury (1932-2007) was four years older than his brother Preston Deane Bryant. Their parents were Joseph Bush Kingsbury (1890-1983) and Katherine Gertrude Bryant (1902-1959). Joe and Kitty met in Washington DC at a party in December 1926. From his letters to her in the year preceeding their marriage on 4 January 1928, it’s obvious he was smitten.

Although Joe Kingsbury often travelled for work and took an assignment out of the country near the end of World War II, Kitty and the boys stayed put in Washington DC until the family moved to Bloomington Indiana in 1948, when Joe joined the faculty of Indiana University. Kitty had grown up in Washington DC and there were strong connections to DC on both sides of her family.

Those are the people and places I’ll be blogging about over the next ten weeks in preparation for our visit in early June. When I refer to “our great great grandfather” I am including in the term “our” my two cousins Peggy Kingsbury Rice and Stacy Kingsbury Christiansen and me, so I’ll be citing the relationship to ancestors counting from “our” generation. Kitty is our grandmother, Papa Joe (aka Joseph Bush Kingsbury) is our grandfather. Kitty’s mother and father (Elizabeth Monica Preston and Herbert Sydney Bryant) are “our” great grandparents; their parents are our great great grandparents (sometimes listed as 2G grandparents) and so on.

We know a lot about our Kingsbury-Bush ancestry because of the “Blue Book” created by our great uncle Forrest Alva Kingsbury in 1958. In it, he captures the American ancestry of the Kingsbury and Bush families beginning with Joseph Kingsbury who came from England in 1637 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Forrest Kingsbury (1883-1972) was the oldest son of Wayland Kingsbury and Flora Jane Bush. He grew up in Osage, Iowa with three younger full brothers, Frank, Joe and Dean and one younger half brother, Clark. Flora Jane Bush Kingsbury died in 1900 and Wayland remarried Annie May Walker in 1902. All of the boys shared great love and affection for their new mother.

Forrest was a professor of psychology and taught for a number of years at the University of Chicago before moving to Redlands California where he taught at the University of Redlands from 1948 to 1952. Redlands is in San Bernadino County, east of Los Angeles. Forrest and his wife, Cornelia Hasselman (1887-1980) never had children but what a wonderful legacy he left for his nieces and nephews and their descendants.

We learned very little about our grandmother Katherine Gertrude Bryant growing up. Kitty died in 1959, when I was only four years old. Peggy and Stacy were not born until the 1960s. Contributing to the lack of information about her is that Kitty struggled for most of her adult life with alcohol addiction. This undoubtedly meant that many of the stories her sons might have remembered about her were too painful to share. I know this because I have a collection of my grandfather’s contemporaneous writings that provide a very detailed and sad account of how their lives were affected by her drinking.

So without dwelling on her illness and the effect it had on her family, I’ll start with what I know about Kitty’s side of the family, beginning with her paternal grandfather Levi Jesse Bryant (1839-1920). Fortunately there is a family genealogy, much like the one Forrest created for the Kingsbury Bush family about the Bryant family. It was published in 1938 and is entitled Charles Smith and Rachel Amy Bryant: Their Ancestors and Descendants. The author, Tenney Smith, was writing about the ancestors and descendants of his parents and by extension, at least on his mother’s side of the family, our Bryant ancestors as well. His mother Rachel Amy Bryant was the older sister of our great great grandfather Levi Jesse Bryant.

It can be dangerous to rely on previously published family histories without evaluating the data, but it offers a shortcut that I’m willing to take in this instance, to know a little more about our Bryant family. Several of our early Bryant ancestors were in Massachusetts as early as the Kingsbury family but living in Plymouth and Duxbury, which are south and a little east of Dedham.

Our first Bryant ancestor to arrive in America was Stephen Bryant who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts from Essex, England as a young man. The exact date of his arrival is uncertain but from the references to him in the records of Plymouth it seems he arrived sometime around 1632. He was on a list of Plymouth men able to bear arms in 1643, married Abigail Shaw in 1646 and became a freeman in 1651.

Fast forward a 150 years and we find Prince Bryant and his wife Rebecca Everett living in Springfield, Massachusetts. Rebecca came to Massachusetts from Northern Ireland with her parents when she was 13 years old. She is the source for some of our Irish DNA although we get another dose from the Preston side of Kitty’s family. Rebecca and Prince Bryant married in Springfield in 1798 and left for Monroe County, Illinois in 1800. Their second son, Jesse Bryant, our 3G grandfather, was born there on 8 Mar 1802.

Jesse Bryant married Betsey Williams on 18 Jun 1826 in Monroe County, Illinois. Betsey was the daughter of Zopher Williams and Ama Ludington who came to Illinois in 1815 from Tioga County, New York. Jesse bought land from his father’s estate and built a stone house near Waterloo, Illinois, where most of his children, including our great great grandfather Levi Jesse Bryant were born. The house was still occupied in 1935 when Tenney Smith researched his family genealogy.

In 1844, Jesse and Betsey loaded their eight children into covered wagons and moved to southern Missouri. There they encountered “malarial fever and insects beyond endurance” (p.46) and one of their younger daughters, Electa Elizabeth, died at the age of three in October 1845. The family loaded the wagons again, traversed the state of Illinois from south to north, and stopped briefly in Argyle, Wisconsin, where Betsey’s family was living at the time. They journeyed west to Jackson County, Iowa where they lived for a couple of years before returning to Moscow, Wisconsin, where their last child, a boy named David Zopher Bryant, was born in December 1847. Moscow is about 15 miles north of Argyle, Wisconsin, which means that Jesse’s and Betsey’s children grew up in close proximity to their maternal grandparents.

Jesse Bryant died on 21 Sep 1853. From this point on, the family stayed put (at least for a time) in Wisconsin. That’s how Levi Jesse Bryant, who was 14 when his father died, came to enlist in the Wisconsin 3rd Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War, which is where we’ll pick up the story in my next post. His older brother John Prince Bryant also fought for Wisconsin (Company B of the 18th Infantry) during the civil war. He died in Corinth, Mississippi on 3 October 1862.

One of the reasons I enjoy genealogy is because I like to imagine what our ancestors were like. It is very difficult to find enough information in most sources to form a good picture of their personalities but Tenney Smith does a great job describing his grandmother Betsey Williams Bryant, who was born in Candor, New York in 1807 and left for Illinois, “an almost untracked wilderness,” (p.53) when she was just eight years old. She is our 3G grandmother. Of her, he writes:

“She was a worthy daughter of an honored mother. She is remembered as an old lady with full, round, pink cheeks and a halo of white hair. Her placid face beamed with loving kindness. It was a face that attracted children at sight. They liked to be with her. That face did not come from having led a sheltered carefree life. It came from having lived a life of unselfish devotion in the service of others and the care of children.” (p. 53)

Betsey’s final days were spent as a pioneer. She joined her youngest son, David Zopher Bryant when he travelled west to Clay County, Nebraska, where they each took up a homestead. “They had a house on the line between their homesteads and lived together in one house. There the end came to the long and eventful life that had been hers. She was found sitting in her rocking chair , with her knitting in her lap. Just fallen to sleep, without pain or suffering.” (p.54)

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Where has the summer gone?!?

I have not done a very good job of keeping up with a regular posting schedule on this blog. I blame it on summer time mode. Having a teacher spouse who gets the summer off tends to make me a bit more relaxed about getting things done from late June to mid-August. Now that we’re gearing up for the start of another school year, I’m focused on how to get back on track.

First things first. I’m in the planning stages of a short trip to the Kingsbury Family mecca – Osage, Iowa. I have a meeting in Minneapolis, MN from Thursday Oct 27th – 31st, but I’m planning to fly out on Wednesday October 26th and drive to Osage before the meeting starts. For others who lack a good sense of the geography in the middle of the country, it turns out that Minneapolis is only a 2.5 hour drive from Osage, Iowa.  I’m soliciting advice on where to go and what to see and would certainly like to connect with any extended Kingsbury relatives in the area. I know that Cedar Valley Seminary is a must see and of course the cemetery where Wayland, Flora Jane and Annie May are buried. But what else?

Though I haven’t been blogging about the Kingsbury family history, I’ve certainly been spending lots of time sharpening my genealogy research skills.  In mid-July I took a week-long course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh learning more about how to research Italian genealogy records. Closer to home I’ve taken a couple of day-long courses in Genes and Genealogy – specifically, how to interpret DNA results. It is simply amazing how much information is available. I know that a lot of adoptees use the DNA testing services in hopes of finding biological parents and siblings. Used in concert with available documentary evidence, it can help establish connections with earlier generations that you might not have known about. But for the most part, every time I look at the list of people with whom I share DNA, I end up more confused. Even when the person has a family tree posted on ancestry (surprisingly not very often) and even if the tree is not locked (locked trees frustrate me) I usually cannot work my way back through the branches of a DNA match’s family tree and mine to find the source of the common branch. ARRGHHh…. Frustrating!!!

In his writings, Joseph Bush Kingsbury, my grandfather, describes himself and his Osage, Iowa relatives, as reserved, staid and proper. He attributed much of the Kingsbury personality to the pioneer experience and to the significant role that religion, particularly the Baptist faith, played in their upbringing. He often remarked (favorably) on the more gregarious and fun-loving nature of people he met around the world, including members of my southern family. As a young man he worried about being pious and prudish but most of all, he didn’t want to be close-minded, a trait he ascribed to many of his Iowa family members.

One topic that comes up a lot in the courses on genetic genealogy is something that is often called a “non-paternal event.” This happens when someone thought to be one’s biological father, is not. Instructors are quick to point out that “misattributed paternal event” would be a better term. Obviously if a person is born there has been a paternal event – it’s just that the correct pater is not always identified. This is why using DNA evidence in combination with traditional research methods can result in some interesting findings.

Most of the time, it is very difficult to determine where the misattributed parental event has occurred – probably somewhere too far back to identify. In my three years of genealogical research I’ve yet to find an unknown sibling or even an unknown cousin but I did get an interesting inquiry recently on my Ancestry.com account.

“I am S.P. but was born as Dennis Lee Bill in March 1947. I grew up in Story City, Iowa and through DNA have been able to locate 3 aunts that are still living in Charles City, Iowa. I have a brother that lives in WI and a sister in Houston. My mother Edith M Bill died in 2006 and is buried in Genoa, Illinois. They were all happy to have me join the family. On my birth certificate the father was unknown but it appears that my father may have had Kingsbury roots and lived in a small town near Charles City. Thanks for any assistance.”

I am not sure what led to his conclusion that his biological father may have had Kingsbury roots but his message certainly got my attention. “Hmmm… which one of my Kingsbury ancestors wasn’t as reserved, staid and proper as Granddaddy would have us believe?” I’ve got to admit that “misattributed paternal events” tend to get my genealogical wheels spinning. It’s like solving a puzzle – a real life “who done it” mystery.

In a subsequent email, S.P. wrote that he was trying to get in touch with a Laurel Kingsbury, who has an Ancestry.com account but isn’t active anymore. He thinks she may be a second or third cousin. So if anyone reading this has any tips or advice that might help connect S.P. with his biological father’s family – please share what you know and I will relay it to him.

Keep in mind that the Kingsbury roots could someone without Kingsbury as a last name – i.e. a Kingsbury daughter married a Smith and had three boys and a girl. One of those three boys or any of their sons (also named Smith) could be the biological father. Likewise, when that daughter named Smith marries Harry Brown, any of their sons (all Browns) could be the biological father. So the Kingsbury roots could date back  to the mid-1800s and may be really, really difficult to identify.

According to Ancestry.com, S.P. and are likely to be 4th to 6th cousins. Here’s what the our DNA match page looks like:

SPDNAMatch.screenshot.8.15.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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?