Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Branch Family Arrives in America

I was born, "raised" and educated, as they say in the Deep South, in Mississippi, the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of women and men who were also born in Mississippi. Most of my great-great-great-grandparents, however, were born in other states, including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. The latter was information that I never knew until I began this genealogical journey.

During an intial search of the U.S. Census of 1850 for Branch family members living in Mississippi, I found an individual named E. T. Branch, who resided at the time of the census in Beat 5 of Attala County. He was shown on the census record as having been born in "VA" in approximately 1798. It was sometime later, after some research at my local LDS Family Research Center, that I identified E. T. "Ed" Branch as my paternal great-great-great-grandfather Branch. I was quite amazed by my discovery, and continued the search to find out how and why my relatives migrated from Virginia to Mississippi.

During one of my searches at the LDS Family History Center, I located a microfilm copy of a book, now out of print, written by James Branch Cabell. The book was Branchianna (being a partial account of The Branch Family in Virginia.) According to this book, Christopher Branch and Mary Addie Branch were the original Branch family emigrants. They were among 200 colonists who sailed west on board a 300-ton vessel, the London Marchannt, when it was dispatched from Tilburyhope, in England, by the Virginia Company.
Christopher barely seventeen years old, married Mary Addie, daughter of Francis Addie of Darton, shortly before the ship set sail.

The Virginia Company identified Christopher Branch as one of "fifty good persons" designed to "Christianize and educate the neighboring Indians." The company's plan called for setting aside an extensive area of land as "College Land" at the request of King Charles and several bishops of the kingdom. The land would be used to "erect and build a college in Virginia, for the training and bringing up of infidel's children to the true knowledge of God and understanding of righteousness."

By all accounts, the ship reached the James River area of Virginia during the Spring of 1620. Christopher Branch and his wife settled in Henrico County, Virginia, near present-day Charles City. Plans for the King's college were abandoned after the Great Massacre of 1622, when the Indians attacked the settlement, almost exterminated the Colony, and the lands were opened up to the public for settlement. Soon after the massacre, Mary Addie and Christopher welcomed their oldest son, whom they named Thomas for Christopher's own father back in England.

According to Cabell's book, Christopher Branch was born in England about 1600, in the County of Kent. He was the son of Thomas Branch, who was a son of William Branch, a Protestant fanatic who was allegedly burned at the stake. William was a son of Sir John Branch, (circa 1485), a Lord Mayor of London.

According to Branches of Abingdon, being a partial account of The Ancestry of Christopher Branch of "Arrowhattocks" and "Kingsland," in Henrico County, and the Founder of the Branch Family in Virginia, also by James Branch Cabell, a preserved notice of Christopher's marriage to Mary Addie states "September 2, 1619 - Christopher Branche, Gentleman, and Mary Addie, spinster, daughter of Francis Addie of Darton, County York, husbandman; at St. Peter's, Westcheap, London." - Marriage Licenses, London Harleian Publications, Volume XXVI, Part 2nd, Page 78. An earlier version of the surname "Branch" was also spelled "Braunche."

Christopher Branch would become the founder of the Branch Family in colonial Virginia, and his descendants would later migrate to Mississippi.

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