This very interesting and unusual surname may be either of English or French origin, and has a number of possible sources, all deriving from the Middle English and Old French "branche", portion or limb of a tree, branch. Firstly, the name may be locational from Branch, a hundred or ancient land division in Wiltshire, or from Branches (Park), a former country mansion in West Suffolk. Branche, a minor place in Normandy, may also have given rise to the surname. Locational names were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their place of origin to settle elsewhere. One Joanna de Braunche was noted in the 1273 Hundred Rolls of Somerset. Branch may also have originated as a nickname for someone who was born on Palm Sunday, known as the "day of the branches", or who had some other connection with the festival, such as being designated to collect palm branches for church celebrations. On November 27th 1561, Thomas Branch and Emma Johnson were married in London, and in 1641, the birth of Rene, son of Jean Branche, was recorded in Fontenay, Poitiers, Vienne, France. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Benjamin Branche, which was dated 1273, in the "Hundred Rolls of Suffolk", during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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