Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Edward Tillman Branch and Winiford Ragland Branch

They Came for Land

When I look at the individuals in Mississippi enumerated in the U. S. Census of 1850, the list appears to be a "roll-call" of persons who have migrated from the states of Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and many foreign European countries. Original settlers came to the Mississippi Territory and later, the State of Mississippi, for various reasons. Many of those settlers came in search of land, green and fertile, with tall timber and plentiful water, and they found this land in Mississippi, particularly in the Attala County area, bordering the Natchez Trace. A land grant was often payment of service for serving in early wars, including the War of 1812.

Although Edward Tillman Branch did serve in the War of 1812, I was unable at the beginning of my research to find a record that he ever received a Land Warrant. This fact was explained later when I located Edward's records relating to his service in the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 - Land Grants and Pensions

According to documents located at the National Archives located on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., Edward filed for and received Pension Certificate #16,477, On May 4, 1872, for his service in the War of 1812. He was paid $8 per month, paid each quarter.

Later on August 1, 1872, Edward filed Claim No. 25,195, a "Claim of A Person who has never before had a Land Warrant or Made a Declaration Therefor" in the County of Attala, State of Mississippi, "for the purpose of obtaining the Bounty Land to which he may be entitled..." under an Act of Congress approved March 3, 1855. The document was signed by Edward Branch, Claimant, witnessed by R. B. Webb and A. G. Noah, and W. T. Davis, Clerk, Chancery Court of Attala County, Mississippi.

The claim stated that Edward Branch served as a "Private" commanded by Captain J. B. Rice, in Geo. Pegreem's Regiment of the Virginia Militia "in the War against Great Britain, declared by the United States June 24, 1812." Edward's military records show that "he volunteered in Brunswick County, VA on or about August or September 1814, for the term of three years and continued in actual service in said war for the term of (at least) fourteen days; and was honorably discharged at Petersburg VA". He served as a "Substitute for John Lenier." Bryan Tyson of Washington, D.C. was appointed to represent Edward in the matter of his claim "to receive the Certificate or (land) Warrant when issued...." Thomas M. Evans and E. B. Parker attested to Edward's loyalty, and Rufus N. Ousley, Justice of the Peace, attested that Evans, Parker, and Edward Branch were "men of good character for truth and veracity, and their statements in the affidavit referred to are worthy of full faith and credit."Records show that Bryan Tyson, filed the claim in Washington, D.C., when it he received it on Edward's behalf from Butt & Scarborough, the attorneys who represented Edward Branch in Kosciusko, MS.

Archived records include an undated copy of the certificate for Bounty Land, No. 113.202, subsequently sent to Edward from the Department of the Interior, Pension Office, Washington, D.C. The certificate states that Edward Branch was entitled to "160 acres, issued under the act of the 3rd of March 1855,...for service in the War of 1812."
Edward Tillman Branch died on October 28, 1874.

Although Edward was drawing a pension for his service during the War of 1812 when he died, Winiford was not eligible for widow's benefits, simply because widow's benefits did not exist at the time. When The Act of March 7, 1878 was signed, it authorized widow's pension benefits, and Winiford filed claim No. 24,219 shortly thereafter.

Correspondence, including affidavits and other documents reviewed show that Winiford had difficulty with the processing and payment of her claim for a widow's pension. Documents show the Hinds County, Mississippi record book, originally located in Raymond, Mississippi, and containing the license and bond executed March 24, 1830, for "said marriage has been destroyed or lost and cannot now be found, after diligent search..." Butt & Scarborough, Attorneys, Kosciusko, Mississippi, represented Winiford Branch in her claim to prove she was married and was the legal widow of Edward Branch, just as the attorneys had represented Edward when he filed his claim. The attorneys submitted an affidavit on Winiford's behalf, signed by Robert T. W. Ragland and Sarah Naxall, witnessed by J. W. Burden and Robert Paullitt, and attested to by R. N. Ousley, Justice of the Peace for Attala County, Mississippi. On May 9, 1879, Alex R. Speel, Pension Researcher, filed a document stating that Winiford Branch, Widow of Edward Branch, who served 102 days in the War of 1812, was eligible "to (receive) a pension of EIGHT DOLLARS per month from March 9, 1878."

The entire process, from the time Edward Branch applied for his pension on May 4, 1872, until Winiford Branch was paid widow's benefits on May 9, 1879, a little over 7 years had gone by.

By this time, Edward Branch had been dead almost 5 years.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Branch Family - Its Migration to Mississippi

By 1830, three BRANCH families existed in the State of Mississippi. According to the 1830 Mississippi Census, which shows only "Family Head" and "White Males" and "White Females" according to age, Edward, Edward, and John are listed in Hinds, Adams, and Marion counties, respectively. My research has not revealed whether any or all of these Branch males were related.

The Hinds County listing was likely my Branch ancestor, since records show Edward Branch married Winiford (sic) Ragland in Hinds County, Mississippi later that year. During the War Between the States, a fire apparently destroyed marriage records on file at the Hinds County Courthouse in Raymond, Mississippi, and years later, Winney and Ed Branch were required to obtain affidavits from family members and local Attala County citizens who knew them during their marriage in order for Ed to obtain veteran's benefits for serving in the War of 1812.

Research did not reveal information about Ed and Winney's actual whereabouts from 1830 to 1834. However, "Goodspeed Memoirs" , which contains a history of Leake County, Mississippi, includes information stating that on April 10, 1834, Edward Branch was elected to serve as a member of the Board of Police in Leake County, Mississippi. According to the Mississippi Census of 1850, the surname BRANCH headed up households in the following counties: Adams, Attala, South Carroll, South DeSoto, North Desoto, Harrison, Issaquena, Kemper, Madison, Marion, North Marshall, Panola, and Tallahatchie.

Since Attala County, Mississippi was one of the counties formed after the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed with the Choctaws on September 4, 1830, it is likely that Ed and Winney resided in the same physical location before and after the signing of the treaty.

We do know that Ed and Winney already resided in Attala County in 1850, according to the U.S. Census conducted in September of that year. Edward Branch was shown on that census as a 52-year old male, birthplace "Virginia", occupation "Farmer", and owning real estate valued at $1000. Also in the household was Winney, aged 36 years, John T., aged 15 years, Arthur J., aged 12 years, and Sarah T., aged 8 years. Mississippi was shown as the state of birth for Winney and all three children.

Attala County Mississippi is located in the North Central portion of the State and comprises roughly 724 square miles. Its name came from that of a fictional Indian maiden in a popular book of the same name in the early 1800s. Kosciusko is the county seat and is located approximately 68 miles north of Jackson, the State Capital of Mississippi. The town is situated 153 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, 253 miles north of New Orleans, Louisiana, 204 miles west of Birmingham, Alabama, and 263 miles east of Little Rock, Arkansas, and is accessed directly from the Natchez Trace Parkway and was named for a Polish military officer who served with General Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Kosciusko would became a melting pot of people migrating from the East during the late 1800s and became even more populated after a college was built in the town and the railroad came through on its way out west. Currently, it is a quaint town with more than several well-preserved structures of Queen Anne and Victorian design. A museum at the exit from the Natchez Trace contains local history as well as a statue of the city's namesake in military dress.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Edward Tillman Branch, b 1798 in VA

According to Thomas J. Wertenbaker's book, The Planters of Colonial Virginia, six (6) males with the BRANCH surname were living in Virginia in the early 1700's. These individuals were

Benjamin Branch
Henrico County, 1705

Francis Branch
Isle of Wighte County, 1704

James Branch
Henrico county, 1705

John Branch
Isle of Wight County, 1704

Matthew Branch
Henrico County, 1705

Thomas Branch
Henrico County, 1705

All research that I have conducted indicates that Benjamin Branch of Henrico County was likely the father of Edward Branch (1), who became the father of Edward Branch (2), whose son Edward (3) later married Martha Tillman and became the father of Edward Tillman Branch, born in 1798.

According to Brunswick County, Virginia Marriage Records (Pg 81), Edward Branch was first married to Sally Goodrich, daughter of Mary Goodrich. Sally was shown as twenty-one years old, and a Surety Bond was posted by Henry Bailey. Witnesses to the marriage were John Goodrich and Lucy Sims. The marriage ceremony was performed on June 26, 1794 by the Reverend Edward Dromgoole, a Methodist Episcopal minister. It is safe to assume that Sally died at a very early age, since Edward's subsequent marriage to Martha Tillman is recorded on Page 97 of the Marriage Records, also Brunswick County. Lucy Harrison is listed as making an affidavit for Martha's age of twenty-one years at the time. A Surety Bond was posted by Hartwell Bass, and witnesses to the ceremony included Betsey Tillman, Polly Vaughan, and Frances Green. The couple were married on February 17, 1797, also by the Reverend Edward Dromgoole, and in 1798, Edward and Martha became the parents of Edward Tillman Branch, my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather.

The will of Edward Tillman Branch's grandfather, Edward Branch (2), of Manchester Parish, is shown in the Probate Records of Chesterfield County, Virginia, page 104, and contained the following language:

To wife Lucy for life, plantation I live on, 4 negroes, etc.
To son Edward, 400 acres in Charlotte county and 2 negroes
To son Thomas, 2 negroes and 10,000 lbs tobacco
To son William, 624 acres in Lunenburg county and 2 negroes
To son Benjamin, after my wife's death, plantation I live on and 2 negroes
To my 6 (sic) daughters Molly, Lucy, Obedience Turpin, Juday Finney, Elizabeth and Prudence Branch, equally, 6 negroes
To daughter Lucy Branch, feather bed, etc.
To daughter Obedience Turpin Branch, 1 bed, etc.
To daughter Juday Finney Branch, same
To daughter Elizabeth Branch, 1 bed
To daughter Prudence Branch, 1 bed
Rest of my personal estate to my sons Edward, Thomas, William, and Benjamin

All my research indicates that Edward Tillman Branch, born in 1798, continued to live in VA until at least early 1815, when he was discharged after serving in the War of 1812.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mississippi History Refresher

When I began this search for my ancestors who settled in the State of Mississippi, I needed a reminder of the different groups of people who lived and governed the Mississippi Territory and subsequently the portion of it that later became a state. Below is a brief outline of activities and developments that resulted in the formation of the area that was ultimately admitted to the union in 1817 as the State of Mississippi.

1541 - Hernando DeSoto discovers the Mississippi River

1541-1699 - Spain controls the area known as Mississippi

1699- France begins colonization with the founding of Fort Maurepas at Biloxi

1699-1716 - Settlements increase along the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River

1716 - Ft. Rosalie is established on the Natchez bluffs

1718- French land grants encouraged settlements on the Yazoo River, Bay St. Louis, Pascagoula Bay, and at Natchez

1721 - John Law's Mississippi Bubble Scheme results in the immigration of 300 colonists to Natchez

1722 - Law's Plan settles about 300 colonists at Pascagoula

1762 - France cedes territory east of the Mississippi River to Spain

1763 - France cedes area to Great Britain at the end of the French and Indian War. British colonization attempts begin.

1776-83 - Americans migrate into Mississippi to escape involvement in the Revolutionary War

1779-81 - Spanish control the Natchez District

1798 - American troops occupy Natchez and claim all the territory including present-day Alabama. Congress subsequently creates Mississippi Territory with its capitol at Natchez

1803 - Louisiana Purchase encourages land boom in MS

1804 - Georgia relinquishes its claim to Mississippi western land

1804-12 - Mississippi Territory includes all of present-day Mississippi and Alabama

1817 - Mississippi becomes the twentieth state

1861 - Mississippi becomes the second state to secede from the Union

1865 - 70 - Mississippi under Federal Military Occupation

1870 - Mississippi is readmitted to the Union

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How We Got Our Names

Locational Naming Conventions
In early England, one's surname was usually a locational name, pointing to the place where a man held his land or where he already lived. In the instance of the Branch family, that location was likely a spot in County Wiltshire, England. Early records of the name BRANCHE was recorded in Wiltshire in the year 1185. Other instances of similar names have been found when a Peter Branchett was documented as residing in County Somerset during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and when Edward Braunchett of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. In 1400, Thomas Braunche was documented as a resident of Lancashire. The family is of Normandic origin. According to James Branch Cabell, author of "Branches of Abingdon", "first mention of the BRANCH name in written history" occurred around 1118 in the Chronicle of John Brompton, when he listed the "names of the great men who crossed the sea with the conqueror, William the Vigorous." His entry is shown as "Braunz et Columber." Therefore, we know the surname of the current BRANCH family can be traced back to at least the twelfth century. Legend, however, claims the name can be traced back even earlier, and attempts have been made to link it to the Licinian family of old Rome.

Hereditary Naming Conventions
After the Norman conquest of 1066, a few individuals passed on hereditary surnames, but most of the population seemed to exist well without the use of more than one name. As the population grew, surnames that grew out of labels to distinguish a person's occupation or trade, became plentiful enough that another name was added to allow one individual to be distinguished from another. The hereditary principle of surname use for given names gained popularity as the population of the known world grew. Research indicates that by the 14th century, most of the population had acquired a second name.

The Patronymic System of Family Naming
Before I can continue with this story, I feel that an explanation is needed to explain the system of naming children prior to the mid-nineteenth century. During my research, I found that given names were repeated in families to a point that it became very confusing, and sometimes almost impossible, to determine the person of reference. The following information was taken from an article in "The Genealogical Helper - Magazine", Nov-Dec 1986, page 8, and it proved quite useful as I proceeded with unraveling the traditional naming system for sons and daughters of my ancestors.

First Son: Named for his paternal grandfather
Second son: Named for his maternal grandfather
Third son: Named for his father's paternal grandfather
Fourth son: Named for his mother's paternal grandfather
Fifth son: Named for his father's maternal grandfather
Sixth son: Named for his mother's maternal grandfather

First Daughter: Named for maternal grandmother
Second daughter: Named for paternal grandmother
Third daughter: Named for mother's maternal grandmother
Fourth daughter: Named for father's maternal grandmother
Fifth daughter: Named for mother's paternal grandmother
Sixth daughter: Named for father's paternal grandmother

As strange as the custom may seem today, it was also customary to name the next daughter or son born within a second marriage for the deceased husband or wife. If a father died before his child was born, a male child was often named for him. If a mother died in childbirth, the child, if it was a girl, was usually named for the mother. Another child was often named for a child who had died previously within the family.

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.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The "Names" Project

During the coming months, I plan to post genealogical and historical information about several families who lived in Attala County and the surrounding area after migrating to Mississippi from other states during the 1800's. The BALDRIDGE, BRANCH, GIBSON, MERIWETHER, NETHERLAND, PETTUS, PORTER, AND WILLIAMS are these families. I am descended through these lines, as many of you in Attala County are, as well. If you are related in any way to the family names shown, or if you have information or stories from long ago to share, I would like to hear from you. Please contact me at the email address shown on this blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


If you have found this blog, you must have roots in Mississippi, and your ancestors may have lived in Attala County or the surrounding area. Within the coming weeks, I hope to share with you stories about Attala County, its rich cultural history, and the results of my own genealogy research. Let me hear from you.........who knows, we may be related!