The Genealogy of
Richard Branscomb, the Immigrant to America
Richard Branscomb’s arrival in Virginia
book for Brunswick County's Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for
March 1750 contains this statement (Book 6, p. 46):
The order book for Brunswick County's Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for March 1750 contains this statement (Book 6, p. 46):
Other entries in the court records had similar wording for other individuals; they imply that a number of residents of Brunswick County had come to America as indentured servants. A resident of the British Isles who desired to emigrate to America but who lacked the means to pay for the voyage could sign an indenture with a ship's captain. The captain transported a group of such indentured servants to the New World and then sold their indentures at auction to pay his costs. The immigrant usually completed the servitude within three to five years. At that point the individual was eligible for clothing and tools as specified in the indenture and was also eligible for a patent of land—officially 50 acres, but the amount varied in practice. Richard Branscomb's sworn statement in court was necessary to “prove his importation” and thereby qualify him for a land patent.
(The information in this section should not be accepted
as the ancestry of Richard the immigrant until and unless it is confirmed
by further research. Information obtained from the International Genealogical
Index [IGI] is especially susceptible to error. Reminder: the dates
are in the old style, meaning that until 1752 the year in Great Britain
began on 25 March instead of 1 January.)
(Record of christenings from the parish register of Callington, Cornwall: A transcription of the parish records was made by the Genealogical Society of Utah and was published in 1993 in the International Genealogical Index. Ronald Branscombe and Lyman Stanton each provided the information to me.) In addition to these sons, John and Mary had at least one daughter; Ronald Branscombe found this grave marker in the cemetery of St. Mary's Church
The church cemetery also contained the grave marker for son Thomas:
In March 2001 Jim and Betty Lawrence visited Callington, Cornwall, and found that the aforementioned grave markers were not in the graveyard adjacent to St. Mary’s Church but were propped against the old jail nearby. The grave marker for Thomas was partly obscured by metallic scaffolding as restoration work was under way. Although the stones were badly weathered, Jim and Betty were able to confirm the inscriptions as reported and to photograph them. They found no other grave markers for Branscombs in the church graveyard. They assumed that the stones which they found beside the jail will be returned when restoration is completed.
The IGI showed the marriage of Thomas Branscombe to Jane Holyday on 10 April 1752, the burial of Elizabeth Branchcombe (another daughter?) on 25 December 1732, and the statement that John Branscombe's will was proved in the archdeaconry of Cornwall in 1760. (The reference to John Branscomb’s will comes from R. M. Glencross, editor, Archdeaconry of Cornwall, Wills and Administrations, Part 1, 1700-1799. Ronald Branscombe has ascertained that the will is no longer extant.)
Do these records pertain to the family of the Richard Branscomb who migrated to America circa 1735? The hypothesis is tenable pending the availability of additional information. Is it significant that Richard and his wife named their three (known) sons Thomas, Richard and John and that the names Mary and Elizabeth occur frequently in later generations? These names are among the most widespread given names in England and America for the period. (Caution! A hypothesis requires adequate documentation to be confirmed. No one should quote me as the source of information confirming the parentage of Richard Branscomb who was in Brunswick County, Virginia, from about the early 1740s until his death in 1775.)
The Brunswick Co., Virginia, court record which is quoted above shows that Richard reached the New World circa 1735-1736. If he was the Richard from Cornwall, as the foregoing hypothesis suggests, he came as a youth of 13-14 years of age. Although many immigrants were older, this age was not uncommon. He could have been older, depending upon his age when he was christened. He probably landed in Baltimore, which was the chief port in Maryland. It appears that he began service in Maryland and then for some reason came to “this colony” of Virginia for the remainder of his term of service. The most likely reason is that his master moved westward to Brunswick County.
Richard could have reached Brunswick County before 1740. He was almost surely married there by 1745 and possibly earlier, as indicated by the birth of his grandson Isaac circa 1765-1768 (John Perry Alderman,_Carroll 1765-1815: the Settlements. Hillsville, VA: Alderman Books, 1985. p. 100). He may have selected a site and built a house on unclaimed land well before he applied for a land patent.
Records for Richard Branscomb in the county court order
In addition to the one court record which is cited above, in
which Richard Branscomb “proved his importation” and thereby
qualified for a land patent, a number of entries for Richard appear
in the county court order books beginning in 1746:
In addition to the one court record which is cited above, in which Richard Branscomb “proved his importation” and thereby qualified for a land patent, a number of entries for Richard appear in the county court order books beginning in 1746:
April 1746: Richard brought suit against Abraham Brown. The court record does not specify the nature of the complaint, but we may infer from one entry that it involved assault and battery: “The said Deft defends the Force and Injury when so and saith he is Not Guilty in manner and form as the Pet agst him hath ordered.” The suit continued over a twenty-month period before a jury heard the case. In January 1747/8 the jury found for the defendant Brown, and Richard was required to pay court costs for himself and for the defendant. He also had to pay two witnesses for the five days each of them spent in court. (Book 3, pp. 29, 92, 199, 239, 270, 285, 324, 325, and 340)
5 September 1746: A suit which Benjamin Harrison had brought earlier against Richard Branscomb (but I did not find earlier entries in the court minutes concerning this suit) was “discontinued agreed by both parties.” (Book 3, p. 102)
4 June 1747: “On the motion of Richard Branscomb order’d that his mark being a swallow fork in the right ear be admitted and recorded.” (Book 3, p. 187; livestock grazed on land held in common, and earmarks enabled the owners to identify their animals.)
June 1747: Richard received 300 pounds of tobacco as payment for twelve days in court as witness in a civil suit. (Book 3, p. 197)
23 June 1752: Anthony Walker &c, plaintiff, versus Richard Branscomb, defendant: “The defendant surrendered himself in discharge of John Hagood his Special Bail and thereupon John Miller Gent. came into Court and Undertook as Special Bail for the said Defendt. Whereupon he came into Court and acknowledged the Plaintifs Action for Nine pounds eight shillings and nine pence half penny Therefore it is considered by the Court that the plf recover against the said Defendt. the said Sum of Nine pounds eight shillings and nine pence half penny and their Costs by them about their Suit in this behalf expended and the said Deft. in mercy &c.” (Book 4, pp. 207-208. In the margin: “costs 110 lb tobo &15/ or 150 lb Tobo.”[= tobacco])
July 1752: “The action of Debt brought by Drury Stith Surviving Partner of Sterling Black decd against Richard Branscomb is Dismissed being agreed.” (Book 4, p. 262. Almost all transactions at the time were by credit rather than cash. It appears from the number of similar actions brought by Drury Stith that he was attempting to collect the outstanding debts owed to the partnership upon the death of the principal member. Most of the debts were smaller than five pounds.)
27 February 1753: Richard Branscomb, plaintiff, versus Nicholas Proctor, defendant, “Upon a petition for four pounds six shillings due by account. . . The Deft having been duly summoned and not appearing and the plf having made oath to his account It is considered by the Court that the Plf recover against the Defendt his Debt aforesaid in the said petition mentioned and his Cost by him in this behalf expended.” (Book 4, p. 437. In the margin: “Costs 62 lb Tobo CaSa issd 27th Feby 1753.”) Nicholas Proctor was probably the uncle of Richard's wife Sarah.
27 March 1753: “Ordered that Aaron Parkes do assist William Ezell Junr in keeping the road in repair whereof he is surveyor, and that Richard Branscomb do assist George Wallton and John Hursts Hands do assist Roger Smith in keeping the roads in repair whereof they are surveyors.” (Book 4, p. 447. The term “surveyor” applied to the person who had responsibility for maintaining an existing road in usable condition and free from brush, and in this sense he was distinct from the person who initially marked the boundaries for the road.)
28 June 1757: Richard Branscomb brought suit against John Vaughan for trespass, assault and battery. Vaughan did not appear in court, so an Alias Capias was issued commanding him to appear at the next court. (Book 7, p. 50) On 26 July 1757 the suit was dismissed, “the plf not further Prosecuting.” (p. 78)
27 December 1757: William Chapman had a suit against Richard Branscomb for £1 6d. “This day came the parties who were fully heard, & it is ordered by the Court that the petition be dismist.” (Book 7, p. 144) Chapman was required to pay 25 pounds of tobacco each to Samuel Sexton and Laxwell Sexton as witnesses on his behalf. (p. 147)
March 1759: Gray Briggs as assignee of Elizabeth Lanier, who was administrator of the estate of Sampson Lanier, had a suit against John Hunt. Hunt did not appear in court, and therefore judgment was entered against him for £4 6s plus costs. Richard Branscomb was listed as a co-defendant, which meant that he was probably the security for John Hunt.
28 May 1765: Richard Branscombe had an attachment against the estate of Thomas Allen. The case was continued at the May Court (Book 9, p. 217) and was continued again on 24 June (p. 265). It was resolved at the July court: “Upon the attachment obtained by Richard Branscombe against the estate of Thomas Allen who hath privately removed himself out of this County, or so absconds so that the Ordinary Process of Law cannot be served upon him for four Pounds seventeen Shillings and five Pence current Money, and the sheriff making return that he has attached all the Estates of the said Allen in the Hands of Benjamin Hargrove and summoned him as Garnishee and the said Defendant not appearing to replevy the same tho Solemnly called and the Plaintiff having made oath to the Justness of his Demand Amounting to Seven Pounds four Shillings Therefore it is considered by the Court that the Plaintiff recover against the said Defendant the said seven Pounds four Shillings and his Costs by him about his suit in this Behalf expended and it is Ordered that the Garnishee pay unto the Plaintiff the Money in his Hands toward Satisfaction of this Judgment.” (p. 378)
August 1765: Samuel Sexton had a suit against Richard Branscomb. It was continued (Book 9, p. 433). On 22 October 1770 this entry appeared: “Upon the petition of Richard Branscombe against Samuel Sexton [Is this a different case, or did the earlier entry confuse the plaintiff and defendant?] for four pounds two shillings (due by a former Judgment of this Court) the defendant appeared and confessed the same to be just.” The plaintiff therefore was entitled to the amount of the suit plus costs. The marginal note read, “Costs 49# tobo & 7/6.” (Book 11, p. 303)
August 1765: Richard Branscombe vs. Thomas Ross Smith. The case was continued (Book 9, p. 434). On 30 September the suit was “abated by the death of the defendant.” (Book 10, p. 30)
30 July 1767: “Richard Branscombe who stands as Special Bail for Lewis Malone at the suit of John Booth Brought the Body of said Lewis into Court and summoned him according to his undertakings. Therefore the said Richard from his undertaking and Recognizance aforesaid in this pact made is by the Court fully Discharged.” (Book 10, p. 457)
22 October 1770: Edward Freeman confessed judgment in a suit against him by Richard Branscombe for £3 19s and one farthing. In the margin: “Costs 49# tobo & 7/6.” (Book 11, p. 303)
Two entries in 1775 pertained to the administration of Richard's estate; they are cited below.
Records for Richard Branscomb in the Vestry Book for St. Andrews Parish
in the vestry book of St. Andrew's Parish in Brunswick County read remarkably
like the County's court order books; indeed, the parish clerk was also
the county clerk, and several of the church officials were justices
of the peace who sat as judges in the county court. The parish carried
out several functions of local governments, one of which was to confirm
the boundaries of lands. The one entry in the vestry book concerning
Richard Branscomb, dated 8 November, 1751, shows his appointment as
one of these processioners:
The entries in the vestry book of St. Andrew's Parish in Brunswick County read remarkably like the County's court order books; indeed, the parish clerk was also the county clerk, and several of the church officials were justices of the peace who sat as judges in the county court. The parish carried out several functions of local governments, one of which was to confirm the boundaries of lands. The one entry in the vestry book concerning Richard Branscomb, dated 8 November, 1751, shows his appointment as one of these processioners:
Shortly after this record appeared, St. Andrew's Parish was divided to form Meherrin Parish on the south side of the Meherrin River. Richard and his family were located within the new parish. The vestry book for St. Andrew's Parish contains no subsequent entries for Richard.
Richard Branscomb's land patents
On 10 September 1755 Richard Branscomb
received the patent for the land he had applied for (Virginia Land Grants,
Book 31, pp. 719-720). It was for 300 acres, and he paid 25 shillings.
Following is a transcription of the document:
On 10 September 1755 Richard Branscomb received the patent for the land he had applied for (Virginia Land Grants, Book 31, pp. 719-720). It was for 300 acres, and he paid 25 shillings. Following is a transcription of the document:
The “&c's” in the foregoing document mark the omission by the clerk of various standard phrases which were properly part of the grants. Both John Douglas’s line and the Buck Branch were on the north border of the tract. Wallis is not identified.
The award of the patent by the Governor was generally a formality. Richard and his family probably lived on the land even before making application for the patent, and he was probably considered to be the owner as soon as he made application, had the land surveyed, and paid the cost. Land immediately to the west of these 300 acres appears to have remained unclaimed. Richard and his family prospered on his land at least to the extent that precisely twelve years later he could obtain a second grant of an adjoining 400 acres. By then George III was the British monarch and Francis Fauquier was the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Following are excerpts from the patent (Book 37, pp. 139-140):
After six more years Richard paid another fifteen shillings and acquired an adjoining tract. By then John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, was Governor of the Virginia colony. The patent was for 845 acres, but it included the two earlier patents of 300 and 400 acres, and only 145 acres were being added. The patent as it appears in Virginia Land Grants, Book 41, page 303, is reproduced below, and following is a transcription for the portion for the description of the property:
This trapezoidal area of 145 new acres bordered the 1755 tract on the southwest and the 1767 tract on the southeast, and it provided Richard with a considerably greater frontage on the north side of Old Fort Road.
Even before he received this inclusive patent which described also his earlier patents, Richard sold on 21 February 1771 a tract from one of the earlier patents to Robert Williamson (Deed Book 10, p. 122), receiving £30. Perhaps something went awry with the transaction, for in his will Richard devised to his son Richard II “Two Hundred acres of land more or less on the south side of the upper spring run it being part of that Tract of land I sold to Robert Williamson.”
Richard lived only two years after acquiring the patent of June 1773. He made his will on 20 March 1775, and it was proven in court on 24 July 1775. Following is a transcription of the will as it was copied by the county clerk into the Brunswick County Will Book (Book 4, part 2, pp.439-441):
IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN, March the twentieth, one thousand seven hundred seventy five, I Richard Branscom of Brunswick County and parish of Meherrin, being sick and weak of body but of perfect mind and memory do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner and form following that is to say:
IMPRIMIS I given and bequeath to my son Thomas Branscom
one hundred acres of land more or less from the narrow branch to the
haw Branch not Touching the low grounds of Duglass Run it being the
place whereon he now lives to him and his heirs forever.
In witness whereof I have hereunto Set my hand and affixed my Seal the day and year within written.
Signed, Sealed, published and
(The earliest court records are fairly uniform in showing Richard's surname as “Branscomb” and the later court records show “Branscombe,” but in this one document Peter Pelham, the court clerk, wrote “Branscom.” The handwritten copy of the will was difficult to read, and CEB made several errors in his transcription, principally in the property descriptions but also in the date. At least two later writers copied CEB's erroneous rendition.)
One possible reason that Thomas’s inheritance was smaller than that of his two younger brothers could be that Richard may have assisted Thomas with livestock and farm implements when he married. At least by 1775 Thomas was already well established with a wife and home and several children; his eldest known son was born ca. 1765. Richard’s two other sons were not yet married.
William Richardson did pay for the 145 acres which are mentioned in the penultimate item in Richard's will: in 1778 Richard’s widow Sarah and his son Richard II as executors of the estate executed a deed to William Richardson (Deed Book 13, pp. 148-149). The day and month on the deed were left blank, and parts of the deed were too faint to be read. The property description was legible to a large extent. This tract appears to be the 145 acres of new land which Richard acquired in the patent dated 15 June 1773. The purchaser paid 20 pounds in 1778 for land which Richard the patentee acquired in 1773 for 15 shillings.
John Branscombe and Sarah Branchombe made their marks as witnesses. (County Clerk Peter Pelham managed to spell the surname six different ways when transcribing the deed into the deed book.)
Court Order Book #13, p. 85, for 24 July, 1775, contained an entry concerning the appraisal of Richard's estate:
The inventory of Richard's estate was recorded in Will Book 4, pp. 482-484, and the notation that the inventory was returned into court appeared in the court minutes for 26 February 1776 (Book 13, p. 105). In the transcription of the inventory below, “Do”stands for “Ditto.” The “slays” were probably sleys: movable frames used in weaving.
(Note: although some estates were far larger, an estate of £102+ was considerably above average in 1775, and especially so in the absence of any slaves. Appraisals did not usually include the value of real estate.)
Permission is granted to make copies of information on this Web site for personal (non-commercial) use only, and only with the provision that you include all the caveats expressed by the author.
I have relied upon competent and dedicated colleagues who provided census data, information from county records, correspondence, and other sources. We have worked closely to assure that the content on this Web site is as free from error as we can make it.
We will be glad to hear from anyone who can provide firm evidence to correct any error. Please see the contacts page for a list of individuals responsible for maintaining accurate information on the various family branches.