Of late we’ve been trying to understand the relationships among the Ballard families that settled in and around what was once Nansemond County, Virginia. In the late seventeenth century when the area was settled, the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina was indistinct, and the dividing line was not established until 1728. As a consequence, after 1728 many owners of land patented in Virginia found themselves in North Carolina. This confusion extends to the families that lived there, making tracing them difficult.
One of these Virginia counties, Nansemond (now the city of Suffolk) suffered catastrophic record losses at the county level. We can fill a few gaps with the patent books and the few parish registers that survived. The processioning records from the Parish Vestry Books are particularly interesting, because they place a person in relation to his neighbors in a specific geographic location. We are still studying the relationships revealed in these few scant resources. Meanwhile, as part of this study, we continue to gather and study North Carolina records.
The families placed in Lineage Group II of the Ballard DNA Project settled in these parts, and as part of our study of the region we are re-assessing accepted pedigrees that don’t quite mesh with the records we have found. For example, several pedigrees published on the Internet claim that the Abraham Ballard who lived in Perquimans County, North Carolina was the son of a Ralph Ballard, yet tax records from Perquimans County enumerate a “Mr. Elish. Ballard” in 1740, and in 1745 Abraham Ballard appears in his stead. This is noteworthy because the names of the surrounding landowners appear in nearly the same order, showing that the enumerator traveled the same road to visit each plantation to make his count. To our eye, this is good evidence that Abraham was the son of Elisha Ballard. This brings into question other pedigrees that assert that Elisha Lawrence Ballard of Isle of Wight County, Virginia was the son of Elisha Ballard of Perquimans, but the 1757 will of Elisha Lawrence Ballard’s maternal grandfather, John Lawrence names his son-in-law Elisha Ballard as his executor — twelve years after the likely death of Elisha Ballard of Perquimans County, North Carolina.
This leads us to the conclusion that there was another Elisha Ballard living in Isle of Wight, or thereabouts, who has been overlooked. Coincidentally, we were recently contacted by a descendant of Elisha Lawrence Ballard who has not found evidence of a connection between his family and the Ballards in North Carolina in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. His sources for Isle of Wight County are impeccable, mainly because the primary researcher behind the work is a direct descendant who resides on the family farm that has been in that family for over 200 years. And there is yDNA evidence helping us find a common thread — we just haven’t found it yet.
Another interesting record is the 1788 Last Will and Testament of Elias Ballard of Wayne County, North Carolina that was recorded in 1788 (and transcribed below). Another Elias Ballard left a will in Martin County, North Carolina in 1789. To date, no researcher has explained whether or not the Elias who lived in Wayne County had any connection to the other Ballard families in the region.
The fact is, we don’t know (yet) if there is a connection between this Elias Ballard and the families that came from Nansemond, other than the possible coincidence of the name Elias, which seemed popular in that corner of Virginia and North Carolina. Other names, some of Hebrew or Biblical origin appear with alarming frequency among many families in the region, such as Elisha, Kedar, and Jethro. It is worth noting that the John Ballard who was connected to the Boite/Boyett family that resided in this part of North Carolina, and may be a relation.
There is still much to do here, and any insights are welcome.
Last Will & Testament of Elias Ballard of Wayne County, North Carolina
State of North Carolina,
In the name of God, amen, I Elias Ballard of the same state and County of Wayne, now in the County of Craven and Town of Newbern, being in a very low state of health at present, but of sound and disposing mind and memory, thanks be given to God for the same and calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed once for all men to die, to make and ordain this instrument of writing to be my last will and testament.
Disannulling and disallowing all other former wills by me made or supend (?) to be made.
First of all I commend my body to the ground to be decently buried at the discretion of my executors hereafter named, and or touching my worldly estate herewith it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life. I give and dispose of the same in following form and manner, to wit,
I give unto my beloved wife Elizabeth Ballard during her life the plantation with the improvements thereon whereon I live, when at home, upon the south side of the swamp including the orchard and up the swamp, as far as the old field goes. I also give unto my beloved wife Elizabeth Ballard one man called Dimond, and an equal part of all the remainder of my personal estate (after paying all my just debts and funeral expenses), with my seven children Joab, Caleb, Elias, Joannah, Ester and Rachel and Levy.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my beloved sons Joab Ballard and Caleb Ballard all the land which I own on the south side of Burke Swamp that lies below the branch between my house and Thomas Scott, Joab to have the lower part of the same kind. And Caleb the upper part to them and their heirs forever and assigns.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my son Elias Ballard the lands on both sides of the said buck swamp above the land given to Joab & Caleb, to cross the said swamp at the mouth of the said branch between myself and Scott, so as not to take any part of the new survey, to him and his heirs and assigns forever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my beloved son Levy Ballard at the death of his mother, all the land, plantation and improvements which I have not given away of the old survey, and which I have given to my beloved wife Elizabeth Ballard during her life, to him his heirs & assigns forever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my beloved daughters Joannah, Rachel and Ester Ballard all my land contained in the new survey on the east side of the maple pocosin to be equally divided between them, to them, their heirs & assigns forever.
Item, and lastly my desire is that all my just debts with my funeral expenses be paid out of my personal estate and the residue (if any) to be equally divided between my beloved wife Elizabeth Ballard and my seven children Joab, Caleb, Elias, Levy, Jonannah, Rachel and Ester Ballard, to them, their heirs and assigns forever.
And lastly I appoint my beloved friend James Dod [Dodd?] my whole and soul executor to this my last will and testament, revoking, disannulling and disallowing all and all other instruments of writing and pronouncing writing and declaring this and this alone to be and contain my last will and testament, signed this twenty seventh day of May anno domini 1788.
Elias Ballard [seal]
Signed, pronounced and declared to be and confirmed my last will and testament in presence of Jas. Soblast (?), A. Pinder, J. B. Heritage [all witness names difficult to read]
On obverse: Elias Ballard, Dec’d. April Co. [Court?] 1788.
Recorded Wayne Co. N.C. Will Book A, p. 133