Thursday, February 4, 2016

Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson goes Back to His Roots and Discovers He's of Indian Descent

Finding my roots

 Richard Branson Finding Your Roots

My father’s family left a paper trail that traced back to Madras, India in the 1700s. In 1793, my third great-grandfather, John Edward Branson set sail from Britain to India. After a gruelling six-month journey, in which his boat circled the Cape of Good Hope and crossed the Indian Ocean, he reached South East India – a trading hub of the fast-growing British Empire. He was eventually joined by his father, my fourth great-grandfather, Harry Wilkins Branson; and by 1808 three generations of my ancestors were living in Madras (or Chennai, as the city is known today).
When I heard this, I hoped that they had made the move for the love of adventure and in the spirit of entrepreneurship; and it turns out I was right. The paper trail showed that they moved in search of fortune, and within 10 years became successful businessmen – my great-great-great-grandfather, John, a shopkeeper and my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Harry, an auctioneer. I was terribly excited to discover that the entrepreneur gene runs deep in the Branson blood line.

What’s more exciting is that the Madras archives combined with analysis of my DNA uncovered a very surprising family secret. The baptismal record of my second great-grandmother Eliza Reddy strangely didn’t list her mother. Analysis of my DNA revealed that the reason for this was because my third great-grandmother was Indian. Yes, it turns out I’m part Indian. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I found this out. I’m honored. I wish that my father had got to see these records; he would have been fascinated too.
Like my paternal ancestors, it appears that my maternal side also embraced the spirit of adventure. While probing into my mother’s family lineage something odd happened: my mother’s great-grandparents, Henry and Fanny Flindt, disappeared from English census records. They appeared to completely vanish after 1861, but luckily showed up in Australia!
Baptismal records from Prahran, Melbourne show that some time after 1861, Henry and Fanny moved their entire family to Australia. Again, I had no idea about this part of my family’s history. No wonder I have always loved Australia – it’s in the blood!

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