This family history website is devoted to sharing information about the family of John Sevier Branson (1826-1905) and Martha Jane Ousley (1828-1908). The site is maintained by Dave Smeds, a great-great-grandson of the couple. To read more about them, proceed to the matching pages containing their biographies and brief summaries of their ancestries. To examine the lineages of each of their ten children, click on the pertinent name.
What you will and will not find here:
Distant cousins have already created websites dedicated to describing the families of John and Martha’s parents and other ancestors, and the families of some of their many siblings. This site is meant to supplement, not attempt to compete with, those efforts. It is only with John and Martha and their progeny that I feel confident my records can serve as a prime source of information. As with any genealogy, what I offer here may contain errors, but the odds are high that those errors will be minor, such as slightly misspelled names, slightly mistaken dates, and missing “optional” information such as full names of in-laws. Updates and corrections are made regularly.
This site includes standard data such as names, birthdates, birthplaces, deathdates, marriages, offspring, burials, of John and Martha and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This information is rendered in biographical format, as full paragraphs. If you’re looking for charts, family group sheets, systematic listings of sources, etc., as is common on genealogical websites, my apologies. I don’t favor the raw and dry approach, and I prefer not to slavishly refer to public documents because to do so sometimes requires propagating the mistakes found in those sources. The pages are devoted to people, not to statistics. I hope you will find this approach refreshing and more interesting than the run-of-the-mill family history site.
The list of John and Martha’s children shown here is complete at ten. The list of grandchildren is complete at forty-five. This tally omits a rumored and unnamed stillborn son of John Sevier Branson, Jr., but includes all offspring who survived past birth, including Michael Harrington, who lived only three days. Sixty-four great-grandchildren are shown, which includes one adoptee. This number seems low. However, over a third of John and Martha’s grandchildren chose not to, or did not have the opportunity to, become parents. Also, with the turn of the 20th Century, the clan’s nuclear families shrank dramatically. Sixty-four great-grandchildren is judged to be the full count, except that a lingering question remains as to whether Harold Harrington may have had one to two half-siblings.
With rare exceptions, you will not find great-great-grandchildren or more recent generations described here. The majority of those individuals are still alive and I don’t want to broadcast their personal information over the web. Also missing for now are most of the specifics about the six surviving great-grandchildren. However, I maintain an extensive archive that includes all descendants I have been able to identify, and will share the complete version with other members of the group. At present, said archive contains the names of 145 great-great-grandchildren, 259 of their children, and 177 of the next generation. In addition, at least twenty great great great great great grandchildren of John and Martha have been born. This is a grand total of over seven hundred descendants. This figure includes several individuals adopted as young infants, but does not include family members adopted later in life, nor does it include the clan’s plethora of stepchildren, except that one of the adoptees is a stepchild who joined the family as a small infant. (Step-children and older adoptees are included in the archive, just not in the count.) Yet this is by no means the actual total, which must by now exceed eight hundred. The figure of 145 great-greats (which omits one late miscarriage/stillbirth) is undoubtedly the absolute total of that generation. (It took quite a bit of research to be able to say that.) However, the younger levels are sure to be incomplete. To request access to the archive, email me, Dave Smeds. So as to thwart the spammers’ webcrawling address harvesters, there is no handy link to click on. Instead, you’ll have to assemble my address like so: Put “dave” and “smeds” together as one phrase, add an @ symbol, and follow that with the server name, which is comcast dot net.
Regarding photos: If possible, each page contains a photo. Some have multiple photos. This really helps liven up the website, and is much more compelling than plain text. You are free to download these jpgs. However, be aware that they are relatively low-resolution, small file-size versions of the images. I am happy to provide versions at high resolution suitable for top-quality print-outs, and sometimes I can supply additional images of the person or persons you are interested in, above and beyond the ones I have posted. I would love to have been able to simply upload all photos in their highest quality form, but that would have made the webpage slow to load, and I would have quickly exceeded my allotted space on my server (Comcast). I would like to express my deep appreciation to Linn, Alex, Bruce, Dona, Alice, Joyce, Sharon, Walter, Brad, Cookie, Eileen, Lowell, Kathy, Frankie, Bill, Sarah, and Jo for the loan of, or the scanning of, the originals in their possession. If any others out there have photos to contribute, I would love to hear from you. There are still some pages that have none at all.
Some members of the modern generations are unknown to me and have yet to be included in the master archive. After more than five years of outreach I have touched base with members of every major branch and the overall record is robust, but there are specific lines that grow murky after the 1930s and 1940s. In particular, it would be highly valuable to have more input from descendants of Thomas Henry Ousley Branson. If you can supply information and/or corrections, please contact me.
Assembling this trove of family lore took a great deal of effort, most recently on my part, and earlier by other family genealogists, in particular Ivan Branson, a grandson of John and Martha through Alvin, and Bruce Branson, a great-great grandson through Reuben. I would also like to acknowledge the labors of Margaret Read, a genealogist who helped me greatly in the late summer of 2005 to firm up my documentation on the 20th Century members of the Branson clan. Margaret devoted many hours to the task even though she is not a descendant. (Though she is a relative. Margaret descends from a Hornitos family, the Bauers, who lived beside the Bransons during the Gold Rush days and intermarried with them, and all descendants of Thomas Henry Ousley Branson are her cousins through Thomas’s wife Frances Bauer.) Thanks to the efficacies of the web, information is now easy to distribute and update. This site exists to help ensure that others can obtain the information I have collected without going through a research ordeal. Please help make this record as good and as comprehensive as possible.
I began the project because I realized I wanted to know what sort of people I had sprung from, and I felt that at the very least I needed to become aware of my grandparents’ grandparents -- John Sevier Branson and Martha Jane Ousley being one of the eight pairs of my ancestors at that level. And to really know what kind of people they were, I found I needed to know what sort of people had sprung from them. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the greater family. (And I’ve been obliged to get to know them fairly thoroughly -- even the ones I still have not met -- in order to be able to write their biographies.) It is quite a clan. We are a classic slice of the American population. The group includes authors, politicians, doctors, teachers, professors, museum directors, nurses, policemen, firemen, rodeo stars, lawyers, musicians, fine artists, soldiers, scientists, and naturally a whole bunch of (particularly in the olden days) farmers, cattle ranchers, and miners. On the bleaker side, there are alcoholics, felons (including murderers), drug addicts, unwed mothers and deadbeat dads, and various other “black sheep.” Also on the distressing side are those who, through no fault of their own, have struggled with their lives, for example as invalids, victims of crime, or as people who have suffered health impairments from the physical to the mental and emotional. There are men who fought in Vietnam, others who served at the Pentagon -- and by contrast, at least two who marched in San Francisco peace protests during the Summer of Love. There are those who stepped up and shaped their communities and others who did nothing of consequence with their entire lives. There were some who died at birth, and some who lived in good health to just shy of one hundred years old. There are many who had no children at all, and others who became parents many times over. Most of us lived or are living our lives in California, but some have ranged far, including two who resided in mainland China and another who spent sojourns in -- I kid you not -- outer Mongolia. Democrats and Republicans, country folk and urbanites, illiterates and academics, you name it. But we are all family. We are all family. We are all family.
If You Want to Copy What I’ve Written to Other Places -- DON’T!!! The material here is all copyrighted by me. That means you have to obtain my specific written permission to publish it. You can copy and paste the biographies and so forth to your own computers, or print them out to tuck away in your own files, but only for your own personal use. You do not have the right to reproduce the material in any public way. In particular, do NOT put it on Ancestry.com. I have my own Ancestry.com account. If I wanted the material there, I WOULD PUT IT THERE MYSELF!. Let me make it as clear as I can. If you put it there without asking, you have committed theft. Writing is property. By creating this website, I’ve invited you to a picnic on my land. I haven’t sold you the land. Don’t seize it as your own. I didn’t create this website and do all of this writing in order to keep it hidden or be some kind of control freak about this family group, but I do still own the words. I want people to enjoy them in their best form. As soon as something gets put on Ancestry.com, it’s a cut-and-paste from a particular point in the website’s history, and will no longer include the latest updates and corrections. Many people will find that material on Ancestry.com and not realize there is better and newer stuff here, and so the inferior versions will propagate. This really makes me angry. I’m not trying to keep people from reading the stuff, I just want them to read it here. So if you want to call attention to my words, then good gracious, post a link to the URL, don’t cut and paste the text itself! I have kept this website going for many years and expect it to be here for at least a couple more decades. Respect me. Respect the law.