Today’s warning: I am posting a tree for the Christopher Branch family, who settled early in Virginia. Christopher, wife Mary, and son Thomas, aged 9 months at muster, sailed on the Merchant of London, sent by the Virginia Company, to Virginia in March 1620. However, this tree has been cobbled together from online data so PLEASE DO NOT take this as proven in any way shape or form. Actually, if you look carefully, you’ll see a problem right away.
Branch Family Tree
Here is the family tree that I was able to put together for the descendants of Christopher Branch, who settled in Virginia in the early 1600s. I wanted to build this out because there is a unique given name among the Branch girls – Verlinche – which is said to be a corrupted version of Valentia, the reputed wife of Christopher Branch.
Where dates are given, they have been estimated because there are few birth and death dates in early Virginia history. Marriage records are a bit more plentiful, but they are also lacking in many places.
The first issue I noticed right off is that Christopher Branch is said to have been born c1602, but a marriage record for him is dated 1619. This isn’t too much of an issue if the rest of the data is correct, as his father was born c1566. Christopher easily could have been born several years earlier, which would make the 1619 marriage date more realistic.
Second, Thomas’s birth date is given as April 1623, but baby Thomas was nine months old in March 1620, giving him a birth date of June 1619, unless this Thomas died soon and another, later son was also named Thomas.
With vital records not to be found, probate and land deeds will need to be examined to determine whether all, or even any, of this tree can be documented.
I can attack this problem from two directions – I can begin with Elizabeth Branch, born c1710, who married John Wooldridge and work backwards or I can begin with Lionel Branch and Valentia Sparke and work my way down the generations until I reach Elizabeth, his 2X great granddaughter.
Often, it is necessary to work both directions to find all the puzzle pieces. However, generally, it is more fruitful to begin with the most recent connection in the tree, which, in this case, is Elizabeth.
This method might also save a lot of work if the tree connection is debunked along the way.
Beginning with James Branch, I checked online and found a William and Mary Quarterly article, volume 25, no. 1 (July 1916), pages 59-70, titled Thomas and William Branch of Henrico and Some of Their Descendants as a PDF on JSTOR.
The Branch line appears to be solidly documented back to Christopher Branch, as Christopher, Thomas and James all left detailed wills, naming their descendants.
Will of Christopher Branch, Henrico County, Virginia
In the name of God, Amen; the twentieth of June 1678, I, Christopher Branch of Kingsland in the County of Henrico, being in yeares & memory, praises be to God, doe make this my last will and testament as followeth:
Item: I give unto my sonne Thomas Branch my great Copper Caetell and a Book called Ursinis Catucis, and I doe confirme the two hundred and forty acres of land that I have given him by deed of gift formerly. Item: I give to my granson Christopher Branch all the land betweene the River and the long slash, beginning at procters Creeke mouth, and run upward on the river to the pine tree that parts my land and my sonne Thomas, and from procter Creek at the lower end of the long slash on the inside of the slash running upward to my sonne Thomases land, unto him and his heirs males forever, provided that he shall help to build for his Brother Samuel a house of four lengths of boards, every length to be five foot, with the help of the Negroe and Joab, if they live till Samuell be of ability to help and to seat it, and to help him clear a corne field sufficiently fenced to keep out hoggs and cattle.
Item: I give unto my gransonne Samuel Branch, all the land that lyes between the long slash and the bottome called by the name of Jackes bottome, beginning at proctors creek and running upwards to my sonne Thomases land, to him and his heirs forever provided that he with the help of Christopher and the Negroe and Jobe, if it please God they live doe build Benjamin one house of four lengths of boards, every length to be five foot long, and clear and fense him a corne field as much as they doe for Samuel, with his help when he shall be able to seat it.
Item: I give unto my gransonne Benjamin Branch all the land that lyes between Jackes bottome and proctor Creek and running upwards to my sonne Thomases land, to him and his heirs Males forever.
It is my will that Christopher doe give unto Samuell and Benjamin six locus posts and two elm pasts when they shall build them their dwelling houses if they can find none of their own ground.
It is my will that if any of these Christopher, Samuell and or Benjamine, doe dye before they come to the age of one-antwenty years they their land shall return to the next Brother and the goods that they shall have out of my estate after my decease.
It is my will, that after my decease my sonne Thomas shall pay unto Christopher the rent that shall be due unto his Mattie for his two hundred and forty acres of land when it shall be demanded, likewise Mr. Gower, Samuell and Benjamine when they shall seat their land.
It is my will that neither Samuel nor Benjamine go off the plantacon but they are to live with Christopher and to have housing and ground and to worke together till they be able to seate their owne land, unless they be willing to goe of themselves.
It is my will that my part of Jobes labour soe long as he hath to serve shall goe to maintaine Samuel, Benjamin and Sarah, and that the halfe of the Negroes labor goe to maintaine them.
It is my will that the cart way not be stopt up nor altered that now is to goe into the Woods for timber or for Fire Woode, ut to have a Clear passage.
It is my will that William and John Branch shall have liberty to fish or fowle in the creeks or swamp. If Christopher shall refuse to help build and clear for Samuel or Benjamine as I have set down in this my will, then he shall pay six hundred pounds of tobacco to each of them; and if Samuel shal refuse to help Benjamine to built and clear, as I have set downe in this my will, then he shall pay to Benjamine six hundred pounds of tobacco.
Item: I give unto Thomas Jefferson one hogshead of tobaccoe of four hundred pounds weight, whome I make with my gransonne Christopher Branch my full and sole Exetrs of this my last will and testament, and I desire them to see my will performed.
My debts and legacies being paid and burial discharged, all the rest of my estate I give unto my gransonne Christopher Branch, and Benjamin and Sarah and Mary Branch, the Wife of Thomas Jefferson to be equally divided among them.
Witnesse my hand and seale the year above written.
Signed, Christopher Branch
Sealed with red wax.
Tying Christopher Branch to an exact date of birth and to parents is very problematic. Assuming the Branch family lived in London for an extended time and worshiped at St. Peter Westcheap, this church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666. The church was not rebuilt, but was combined with St. Matthew Friday Street and, while records go back to 1538, there are significant gaps. One affects the Branch family, as the first gap dates from 1598 to 1629. That span of years would include the reputed birth of Christopher, his marriage, and the deaths of Lionel and Valentia.
The William and Mary Quarterly article cites information that Lionel was the son of William Branch, born after 1524 and died in 1602, and the grandson of Richard Branch of Abingdon, Berkshire, who married before 1500 and died in 1544.
However, this article does NOT cite the sources for the missing vital links tying together Christopher and Valentia. Sorry, but I don’t believe that Christopher married in 1619, when he was only seventeen years old. He might have married in 1619, but I would bet anything that he was then born no later than 1598 and possibly several years earlier.
Another issue for me is that Christopher’s wife, Mary Addie, was supposedly the daughter of Francis Addie or Ady, from Darton, Yorkshire, England. Not impossible, but we are talking the early 1600s and Darton is almost 200 miles from London. That is a very long way to travel before 1619. I’d feel much better about this if a source was cited.
Digging a bit deeper, Find My Past does have a 1596 entry in Boyd’s Marriage Index for Leonall Branch at St. Martin Ludgate, London, England.
That does leave room for Christopher Branch to have been born in 1598, which is much more likely than 1602 if he really married in 1619.
There is also a baptismal record for an Elizabeth Branch, daughter of Lionel, on 31 December 1599 at St. Margaret Westminster, London, England.
Baptism of Elizabeth Branch, Daughter of Lionel
4th Entry in Column on the Far Right
Although I find death years of 1605 and 1600, respectively, for Lionel and Valentia Branch, I haven’t found any documentation for those dates.
At this point, I believe Christopher Branch was likely the son of Lionel and Valentia Branch because his mother’s given name was so unique and it has been passed down through the family for generations. However, there doesn’t appear to be any primary documentation to prove this, so it is just an assumption.
The remainder of the Branch family tree – the collateral lines – is junk, as far as I can determine, at least in how it ties to James Branch’s wife, Mary. She was born c1670 or a bit later. However, her supposed father, Caleb, was born c1691.
Most of the female connections in this Branch tree are tenuous at best or downright incorrect and/or impossible.
Thomas Branch and his wife, Elizabeth, left wills recorded in Henrico County, Virginia, in 1694 and 1697 respectively:
In the name of God, Amen I Thomas Branch Lord being
in a Sickly Craisy? Condition but of Sound & perfect memory
doo make & ordaine this my last Will & Testamt in
manner & fforme following
first I will & bequeath my Soul to Almighty God who gave it
hoping in his mercy to receive full & (free?) pardon and
absolution & Remission of all my Sins & my Body to
Return to the dust from where it came & to be buried
at the discretion of my Excrs hereafter named
Imp. I give to my three sons Thomas Matthew & James five
Shillings a peice & all the rest of my Goods & chattells
I give to my Loving Wife Elizabeth but if my Wife
should depart this Life before me Then all my goods &
Chattells to be Equally divided between my Three Sons
(also?. . . .?) I give to my two Daughters Elizabeth
Richardson & Martha Ward five Shillings to Each of
them to buy Each of them a Ring, I doe hereby Ordaine
& (con?) my Loving Wife Elizabeth whole & Sole
Exer of this my last will & Testament revoking all
(of? the?) Wills & Testaments formerly made by me In
Wittness whereof I the sd Thomas Branch Senr. have
hereunto Set my hand & Seal this 25 day of 8br
Anno Regni Regis Jacobi 2: quarto Anno Domini 1688
Signed sealed and
(?) in presence of
Proved in Court by the oaths of Christopher Branch& Ann Branchy two of
the Subscribed wittnesses to be the last
will and Testament of (?) Thos
Branch and that he was at the time of the
making (?) of his Sound & perfect mind (?)
to the best of their Knowledge Teste James (?)
November the 26th 1694.
Will of Elizabeth Branch, 1697
August the 2 1694
In the name of God amen.
I Elisabeth Branch of Henrico County in this parrish
of varina being Sick and weak in body but memory
Thanks be to Almighty GodDoe hereby make
and appoint this my Last will and Testament
First I give my Soul to God who gave it
and my body to be buried according to (?)
of my Exors hereafter mentioned
Secondly I give and bequeath to my son Thomas Branch . .
Thirdly I give & bequeath to my son Matthew Branch . . .
Ffourthly I give and Bequeath to my Son James Branch . .
fifthly I give unto my Daughter Elizabeth Richardson. . .
Sixthly I bequeath to my son in law (?) Richardson. . .
7ly I bequeath to my Son in Law Richard Ward . . .
8ly I give and bequeath to my grand Daughter Martha Branch . . .
9ly I give and bequeath to my three sons Thomas Matthew and James above mentioned . . .
I started to transcribe the whole will, but it is really difficult to ready with ink bleeding through and the black around the words. The heirs are the important parts of it in this case.
I wasn’t able to locate images of the wills of James Branch, who wrote his will on 19 August 1726 in Henrico County, Virginia, but was proved in Chesterfield County, Virginia in the fall of 1749, or of his wife, Elizabeth, whose will is dated 28 November 1750.
James named daughters Frances, Elizabeth, Verlinche, Mary and Phoebe and son John. Henrico County WB 1: 55, 57 is cited, although, as mentioned, I couldn’t find it.
Elizabeth Branch named only three daughters – Verlinche and Mary Branch and Phoebe Hill, along with son John. She also mentioned grandchild Elizabeth Wooldridge.
The wills help fill in documentation on these early Branch families, but I wish I could find more.