The name Brannen is the anglicized version of six different Irish septs (similar to Scottish clans). Four were “O Braonain,” one was “O Branain,” and one “Mac Branain.” The O’Braonains ruled northeastern County Kilkenny, while Mac Branains ruled eastern County Roscommon. While some families spell their name Brynan, Brynnan, Brenan, Brannan, and Brannion, most used Brannen.
These Irish came to the Deep South as Catholics who converted to Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian faiths upon arriving in the New World. In addition, the majority of these Irish immigrants married families of like heritage (Scotch, Irish, English, and Welsh) giving early Southern Culture a very strong Celtic flavor.
In the Belfast News Issue of Nov. 13, 1772, a passenger wrote about conditions aboard the ship the “Elizabeth,” which was preparing to leave for America: “There are now a number of poor people on board the passenger ships in this harbor … (who) must be in a very miserable condition … some magistrates ought to go on board these ships, and set at liberty such as choose it and cause (their) money to be returned which was taken for their passage?”
This letter continued “It would certainly be doing a piece of great humanity and justice…us the Passengers on board the Ship Elizabeth, Capt. Johnson, now Commander, and bound for Savannah in the province of Georgia, and now riding at Anchor in Belfast Lough…(for we have) been inhumanly treated on board of said Ship concerning Provisions and Room.” This brave man’s name was none other than Hugh Brannion.
There are at least four versions of how the Brannen families came to Bulloch County. Genealogists Brannen and Brinson had the first. They stated the Brannens “are descended from three Brannens, William, Hugh and Henry who emigrated together from Ireland to America." In her 1967 Kenan genealogy, Alvaretta Kenan Register stated "William, Hughey and John Brannen came from Ireland when boys … coming to Screven Co. Georgia.”
Mrs. Julian Lane proposed the second version. She found records in Screven County that showed a Major Thomas Alexander Brannen, who fought against the Spanish in the Colonial Wars, married Susanna Terrell (recent research says her name may be Ferrell), and then settled near Blitch on the Ogeechee River. Their sons were: Hugh, Thomas, Alexander, William and John.
The third version is that espoused in a 1950 pamphlet entitled "A Short History of the Brannen and The Donaldson Families” which stated that "It is probable that the first Brannen came to the Scotch-Irish stronghold of Pennsylvania, and from there traveled through Virginia, and then to Georgia."
The fourth version raises the possibility of a Bulloch County connection to a Thomas Brannen that lived in Craven County, South Carolina in 1771. Rather curiously, the neighbor’s granddaughter married a Bulloch County Lanier. This Thomas Brannen’s ancestors lived in Maryland between 1690 and 1710. Thus, the Brannen's of Screven County might have settled first in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or even Maryland before coming to Georgia.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger email@example.com