Branson Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Branson Surname Meaning
The Branson surname is derived from a place-name Branston, of which at one time there were many – mainly in the Midlands.   Branston means a farm (tun) cleared by burning (brandr).  Branston pickle originated from the Branston community of Burton-on-Trent in Derbyshire.  Other Branstons were in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, and Suffolk.  Branson is the main surname spelling.  But there are some Branstons.

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Branson Surname Ancestry

England.  The first surname sightings appear to have been in Suffolk.  A Gilbert de Branteston can be found in the Suffolk pipe rolls of 1200.  The will of Edmund Branston was recorded at Capel St. Mary in 1465 and these Branstons were there a century or so later. Then there were Bransons in Berkshire and Leicestershire.

The largest number of Bransons have come from Leicestershire.  The death of Elizabeth Branson was recorded in Husbands Bosworth in 1601. William Branson was born in Whitwick near Loughborough in the 1740’s and married Elizabeth Jesson there in 1762.  Later Bransons were to be found in Whitwick during the 19th century.  There were Bransons also by the early 1800’s in Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Buckinghamshire.

One Branson line started in India in the early 1800’s, but returned to England and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk later on in the century. Sir George Branson, born there in 1871, was a judge and Privy Councillor.  His grandson is the entrepreneur Richard Branson.

America.  Various Bransons came to America in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. One branch were Quakers and came to Chester, Pennsylvania.  Other Bransons settled in Springfield, New Jersey.  Later Bransons moved to Virginia and to Missouri where there is a Branson township in the Ozark mountains today.

“Ruben Branson, a storekeeper and schoolmaster in his late 20’s, started a general store near the mouth of the Roark creek and the White river in 1882.  The general store had a post office called ‘the Branson Post Office.'”

Ruben Branson died in 1907 and was buried nearby.  Five years later the town was called Branson.  It is known today as a venue for country music.  There are not many Bransons in America, but the largest number of them are in Missouri.

Another Ruben Branson, one covered by his nephew Ivan Branson in his 1982 book Bones of the Bransons, was to be found in California gold mining country and had roots going back to Tennessee.

India.  The name Branson in Madras dates back to the 18th century.  Harry Wilkins Branson, born there in 1802, was via his son James the forebear of the entrepreneur Richard Branson.  Another of his sons Charles emigrated to New Zealand and ran Branson’s Hotel in Dunedin.  Gerald Branson, also in Dunedin, was the son of William Branson, a Madras QC.


Australia
.  Bransons were farm laborers from Titchmarsh in Huntingdonshire in the early 19th century and found the going hard.  They decided to emigrate and they left for South Australia in stages between 1848 and 1853. Their descendants are numerous there today.

William Branson, convicted of sheep stealing in Leicester at this time, was transported on the Scindian to Western Australia. He was able to receive an early pardon because of his rescue of a warder.  He married Margaret Mottram from Ireland in Perth and they raised ten children.

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Branson Surname Miscellany

Branson and Branston.  Bransons outnumber Branstons in England today.  The following are the approximate numbers:

Surname Numbers
Branson    1,830
Branston      800

There are more Bransons to be found in America.  But no Branstons.

Early Branstons in Suffolk.  The earliest Branston recorded in Suffolk was Edmund Branston of Capel St. Mary, whose will was dated November 19, 1465.  It mentions his wife Christian, sons Stephen and Nicholas Bramston.

The will of Edmund’s brother Robert was recorded in 1473, as was the will of Nicholas Bramstone in 1491. The line from Nicholas went to his son William who married Agnes and died in 1514; their son John who married Katherine and died in 1558; and their son Charles Branston.  Later Branstons were to be found in East Bergholt, Suffolk.

Quaker Bransons in America.  The Branson name appears in Quaker records in Berkshire from the 1680’s.

William Branson, the son of a Quaker, left Berkshire for Pennsylvania in 1708 on the Golden Hind.  He established himself in Philadelphia, being listed first as a joiner, then as a shopkeeper, and in 1726 as a merchant.  Sometime soon afterward he acquired land in Chester county and started an iron foundry with Samuel Nutt near the present site of Hopewell village.  William Branson left a large estate on his death in 1760.
But, although he married twice, he had no son or heir.  His descendants were all daughters.

Other Quaker Bransons, the children of Thomas and Elizabeth Branson from Berkshire, were to be found in Burlington county, New Jersey.  Two sons John Day and William, born in 1704 and 1714, later settled in Frederick county, Virginia where they were tobacco planters.

And there were also Quaker Bransons, although some later became Baptists, in Loudoun, Virginia and Guilford, North Carolina.

Bransons in Whitwick, Leicestershire.  William Branson and Frances Woodward were married in Whitwick in 1802. They were living at Church Gate in Loughborough by the early 1820’s and possibly earlier.  He was listed at various times as a beer seller in Whitwick and a shopkeeper in Loughborough.   In 1847 there were reports of his bankruptcy in the London Gazette. The same year, however, he became the landlord of the Bow Bridge Inn in Leicester.  His wife Frances took over the inn after his death four years later.

Ruben Branson in Branson, Missouri.  From 1882 to 1886 Ruben Branson ran a general store and post office in a town that now bears his name. Each day hundreds of people, most unknowingly, drive past his grave as they travel through historic
downtown Branson via Oklahoma Street.  The grave site may be conveniently viewed, without actually entering the cemetery, from the northwest corner of Oklahoma and Commercial.   Just look for the large grey rectangular headstone with the name of “Branson.”  It marks the graves of Ruben and his wife Mary.

The Bransons – From Lawyer to Entrepreneur.  The Bransons were lawyers in India and George Branson, born back in England, rose to become a judge of the High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor. He proved to be a demanding father.  Never an academic child, his son Ted’s principal interest at school was natural history.  When he expressed a wish to become an archaeologist, his father insisted that he prepare for a career in Law.

Ted Branson married in 1949, returning from his honeymoon to discover that he had failed his Bar exams and that his father had reduced his allowance because he had married before he had qualified.  He finally was able to qualify, was called to the Bar in 1950, and spent the rest of his life working as a lawyer.

His son Richard might have followed in his father’s footsteps.  His father recalled:

“There was a time when I felt Richard ought to get a qualification, so I walked him up and down our lawn at home and said I would like him to qualify as a barrister. Later, I felt awful because I had said to him just what my father had said to me.  So, the next weekend, I walked him up and down the lawn once again and told him to forget everything I’d said.”

Richard had been enrolled at Stowe boarding school in Buckingham, but found the environment too restrictive.  He dropped out of school and moved to London where he made his living as a publisher and later opened a retail record business.

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Branson Names
  • Clive Branson was an English artist and poet who fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of the communists.
  • William Branson of Princeton University was a pioneer in the field of international economics.  
  • Richard Branson is the entrepreneur and media figure who founded the Virgin Group.
Branson Numbers Today
  • 3,000 in the UK (most numerous in Leicestershire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Missouri)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

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