End of the Line for Francis Ballard

Of late we’ve been researching maternal lines, but recently turned our attention to some long-neglected unfinished business.  While reviewing notes concerning descendants of Thomas Ballard of James City County, Virginia (1630-1690), I noticed an unresolved entry for one Francis Ballard, who died after 1804, the son of Thomas Ballard of Charles City County, Virginia (c.1730-1791)— what became of him, and did he marry and have children?

Most family historians studying the Ballard family are well acquainted with Thomas Ballard, a formidable figure who was member of the Governor’s Council and Speaker of the House of Burgesses.  There are differing opinions on which lines do (or do not) descend from him; this compiler presents his evidence in this blog, and as always, invites evidence that proves contrary conclusions. The lacunae created by record losses compel creative solutions and the ferreting out of bits and bobs of information from the slimmest of evidence.  Sometimes that is all we’ve got.  One such bit of evidence is the recurrence of distinctive names, like Francis, or patterns of names recurring in each generation. Consequently, naming patterns are important in threading this needle.

Thomas Ballard had three sons who produced issue: Thomas, Francis and William.  

We’ve previously written in detail about Francis (c. 1675-1719/20), after taking a deep dive into the Records of Elizabeth City County (see this link). The last of his line bearing the name was a great-grandson who died without issue, leaving a will in Elizabeth City County, Virginia dated 1802 in which he freed his six slaves and devised his real property to Jane Lattimore, the daughter of James and Priscilla Lattimore.  See William Ballard Sr of Hampton, Virginia (c. 1721-1782).

Sons Thomas (c. 1655-1710) and Francis (c. 1675-1719/20) are fairly well documented, and it is this writer’s opinion that Thomas’ middle son William (c. 1668-c.1725) settled in Charles City County, Virginia, that his descendants lived there and eventually dispersed west into Southside Virginia and North Carolina.  This is contrary to many researcher’s conclusion that he settled in the Northern Neck and was the progenitor of the Spotsylvania and Albemarle County lines, but I believe the evidence weighs in favor of his settlement in Charles City County. We wrote at length on this previously — see this link.

Our conclusion in that report is that the Elizabeth Ballard who left a will dated 22 May 1726 in Charles City County was the widow of William Ballard, son of Thomas of James City. That will names her children Martha, Thomas, Francis, Rebecca, Anna, John, Elizabeth and William.  

Elizabeth’s son Francis appears three times in the records of Charles City County — one entry concerns a lawsuit, and the other two concern the estate of Mr. Francis Ballard — the inventory presented by administrator Thomas Ballard dated 7 June 1727, and an accounting presented 3 April 1728; Francis presumably died unmarried.  Elizabeth’s son Thomas (c.1690-1754) married Mary Dancy, and their children were Elizabeth, Mary and Thomas; this son Thomas (1730-1791) married Sarah (possibly Talbot) and the marriage produced Elizabeth, Sarah, Lucy, John, Thomas, William Talbot, and Francis Dancy.  

We were seeking additional information on Francis Dancy Ballard. The records indicate that he was born c. 1771, and was living 13 August 1804 when he was named a devisee in his brother Thomas’ will. After that — nothing. Prior to 1804 there were several conveyances of land in the Charles City County records, but Thomas’ will was the last mention of him we’ve found anywhere.  Incidentally, brothers John, Thomas and William left no issue, as shown by their wills that survive in the Charles City County records (please note that we have not seen John’s will, but are relying on a notation by James Branch Cabell in The Majors and Their Marriages (1914) that the will indicates he died without issue).  For transcriptions of the wills of Thomas and William see this page).

Elizabeth’s son John (c. 1715-1787) married Faitha Edmunds removed to Mecklenburg County, Virginia; his children were named Rebecca, Martha, Betty, John, Robert and William. His son John (c. 1744-1803) married Mary Garland and had five daughters — Mary, Martha, Elizabeth, Rebecca and Lucy. 

The elder John’s youngest son William (c. 1738-1812) left a will in Mecklenburg County naming his children Faitha, Mary, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Francis and Martha. The name of his wife is not known.

There are scant records of this latter Francis, but our recent research shed some light on him.  He was mentioned in his grandfather’s will dated 1783, which directed that he was to receive slaves devised to his father William following William’s death. Francis died in 1808, leaving a nuncupative will, devising 175 acres in Lunenburg county to his niece, Faithy Ballard Overton, the daughter of John Overton (his sister Martha married John Overton on 10 November 1806).

This is the only nuncupative will this researcher has encountered in the Ballard family.  A nuncupative will is one given orally by a person too ill or sick to execute a written will — essentially, deathbed instructions.  So apparently whatever befell him, he did not die immediately.  But what happened?  While searching newspapers.com for information on Francis Dancy Ballard, we found nothing on him, but discovered this proclamation:

Virginia Argus, 9 September 1808, p. 4

This explains the reason for the nuncupative will — Francis must have survived his assault long enough to dictate a will. We have not, however, been able to ascertain whether John Dawes, the suspected murderer, was ever brought to justice.

So it appears that for want of issue, the name Francis died out in each Ballard line in the early 1800s.


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