The 2010 U.S. Census recorded 16,168 black Americans with Branch as their last name. That represented 46% of the total of 35,225 entries.
This article tracks their numbers in the census since the Civil War. We also look at historic African American people named Branch.
We end with a review of early records of black military service in the United States.
After The Civil War
The 1870 census was the first survey after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1850 and 1860, only free African Americans were recorded in the census. The many enslaved were omitted.
From 1870 onward, all black Americans were included.
2,427 people named Branch were recorded in the 1870 census as black and 320 as mixed.
There was a total of 5,850 people with the name.
Branch In The 1900 And 1940 Census
The mixed category was dropped from the census in 1900, so we just need to look at the black numbers this time.
The 1900 census recorded 4,919 people with the last name Branch as black within a total of 10,278 that year.
By the way, the mixed category returned in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. It was dropped again in 1930, but replaced with extra categories for colored and non-white in a way that seems confusing now.
This changed again in 1940 and we can simply focus on one black category.
The 1940 census recorded 12 people named Branch as black within a total of 44.
Historic Black Figures With The Branch Surname
Here is a notable African American in history with Branch as their last name.
William McKinley Branch
- Born: 1918
- From: Forkland, Alabama
- Died: 2004
William McKinley Branch graduated with a theology degree from Selma University, a science degree from Alabama State, and a law degree from the University of Illinois.
Branch was a pastor at the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Forkland for over sixty years. A staunch civil rights activist, he was on the march from Selma to Montgomery with Dr Luther King in 1965.
Three years later, Branch drove Dr. King to Greensboro for another march for voting rights. King was assassinated three weeks later.
Branch made history when he was elected as probate judge in Greene County, the first African American to hold that position in the United States. He spent the next 18 years as probate judge.
Branch In Black Military Records
Military records are a rich resource of information for family history research. Here are examples of the Branch surname from military service.
Five regiments for black soldiers were formed during the Civil War. They were known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Their records are part of the national archive of military monthly returns. The information includes the year and place of birth, where they enlisted, their occupation, and their height.
One of the earliest military entries for Branch was in August 1870. William Branch was a Private in the U.S. Tenth Cavalry. He was stationed in August 1870 at Camp Supply.
Another entry was in April 1914. Arthur G. Branch was a Private in the U.S. Ninth Cavalry.
You have to create an account on either website, but you do not need to pay for the Buffalo Soldiers archive.
Black Civil War Sailors
The National Parks Service has a free archive of African American sailors during the Civil War.
The information includes their age, height, rank, occupation, and where and when they enlisted. It also includes every ship that they served on.
You can search the database on the National Parks website.
One of the earliest entries for Branch was for Gustavus Branch from Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He enlisted in June 1862 at James River when he was aged 26.
The record shows that Gustavus was assigned on June 1864 to the ship Shenandoah.
His occupation before enlisting was as a Farmer/Farmhand.
One of the later entries was for a sailor who enlisted at Hampton Roads in June 1862. Frank was aged 12 and was from Richmond, Virginia.
He was assigned to the ship Wyandotte on October 1865. His naval rank was 3rd Class Boy.
“3rd Class Boy” was a rank generally given to seamen in training, who performed various manual tasks and duties aboard a ship under supervision. This could prepare them for promotion to the rank of 2nd class boy and then to 1st.