The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.
― Czesław Miłosz, The Issa Valley (2000).
Sometimes it seems this business of genealogy is all about tying up loose ends. The failure to resolve an issue often turns on whether the right question is even being asked to begin with, because if the question is incorrect, the research may be flawed, too. Such is the case of our research of (first conducted in 2016) of William James Hall Ballard, who was born in 14 June 1840 in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Garland Ballard (1798-1851) and Georgianna Blair (1801-1883). Our 2016 research failed to discover what became of him after 1880, where he appeared in the census that year residing in the Burlington Hotel on West 30th Street in New York City. He is identified as a “boarder” and employed as a stockbroker (age 42), and his wife, Mary A. (age 37) appears on the following line. Ancestry’s algorithms don’t recognize them as a family in this instance because of their residence in a hotel. That census shows William and his parents were all born in Virginia, while Mary was born in Vermont, and her parents in New York (Year: 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 880; Page: 131C; Enumeration District: 281).
Garland Ballard (1798-1851), a merchant in Orange County, Virginia, was the son of James Ballard, Sr (1767-1853) and Anne Rhodes (1775-1852) of Albemarle County, Virginia. James, Sr was the son of Thomas Horace Ballard (c. 1732-1804) and Mary Elizabeth Ballard (born c. 1730, died bef. 1802), and Thomas Horace was the son of Thomas Ballard (c. 1711-1782) of Albemarle. It isn’t clear (to this researcher) which wife of the first Thomas (assuming we haven’t conflated two individuals) was the mother of which children, or even if he is indeed the Thomas Ballard active in Caroline County, Virginia in the 1740s (the Thomas present in Caroline was married to a woman named Sarah). We do know that Thomas Ballard “of Caroline County” acquired a patent in 1738 in Hanover County in a section that became Albemarle County, and sold that land in 1758, then joined by his wife Susannah, who is identified in most genealogies as Susannah Hesson (we have not verified her maiden name in any primary sources).
We started this inquiry intending to discover the source of the name “Horace” in this line (as is the case of the Susannah mentioned above, we’ve seen no primary records, only secondary sources) but got distracted by our loose ends concerning William J.H. Ballard. So what became of him?
In 1850 he appears (age 10) in the household of his parents Garland and Georgianna with his sisters Helen P. and Janette. (The National Archives in Washington D.C.; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census; Record Group Number: 29; Series Number: M432; Residence Date: 1850; Home in 1850: Orange, Virginia; Roll: 967; Page: 258b). The family’s fortunes changed dramatically in the intervening 10 years — Garland died in 1851, but the family had sufficient means to send William to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he earned his A.B. degree in 1857 (Ancestry.com. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012). By 1860 William is living in New York City in the household of his older sister, Helen (The National Archives in Washington D.C.; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census; Record Group Number: 29; Series Number: M653; Residence Date: 1860; Home in 1860: New York Ward 9 District 1, New York, New York; Roll: M653_797; Page: 948; Family History Library Film: 803797), who had married 10 January 1855 John D. Lawson (1816-1896) (Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA; Virginia Marriages, 1853-1935). John D. Lawson was a successful merchant who later served one term representing New York’s 8th District in the United States House of Representatives (Wikipedia).
John D. Lawson’s sister, Sarah Ann Lawson, had married William’s uncle James Ballard (1813-1881) who removed to New York City c. 1840.
In 1866 William married May Anna Beardsley of St. Alban’s, Vermont, the daughter of Herman and Abigail Beardsley. The marriage record gives her age as 24, which corresponds with subsequent census records showing her birth c. 1842 (New England Historic Genealogical Society; Boston, Massachusetts; State of Vermont. Vermont Vital Records through 1870). However, the 1870 census shows Wm Ballard, born c. 1842 in Maryland (no occupation listed) and Annie Ballard, also born c. 1842 in Vermont (US Federal Census, Year: 1870; Census Place: New York Ward 21 District 21, New York, New York; Roll: M593_1010; Page: 625B. The building they lived in that year shows a remarkable diversity of incomes and occupations — among them a retired cotton manufacturer from Massachusetts, a mining operator from New York, a portrait painter from New York, assorted clerks and domestics from all over, including South Carolina, Georgia and Connecticut, and a few residents from Ireland and England.
Through the 1870s the couple made near annual crossings to Liverpool; in each instance William’s occupation is listed as “merchant” (see, for example, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Year: 1872; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 47; List Number: 864). In the 1880 federal census, as already noted, William gave his occupation as “stockbroker”; from that year, we drew a blank absent discovery of his tombstone in at Greenwood Cemetery in St. Alban’s, Vermont bearing only “W.J.H. Ballard”, with no dates. His widow is also interred there, her stone of similar design reading “M. Anna Ballard”. We learn from her death certificate that she was living in Pottstown, Pennsylvania and never remarried; her parents, Herman Ruggles Beardsley (1800-1878) and Abigail S. Webb Beardsley (1808-1874) are also interred at this cemetery (Ancestry.com. U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012). William and Anna apparently had no children.
Georgianna Blair Ballard’s 1883 will named only her daughters; the omission of William suggested that he had pre-deceased her, but now we learn that is not the case. The numerous crossings to Liverpool suggested business dealings in England, and a search of English newspapers revealed notice of William’s untimely death in the city of Hull on 1 June 1895 where he served as United States Consul (“Sad Death of a Hull Consul”, Hull Express, Saturday, 8 June 1895, p. 6, col. 3). He had a distinguished career, and we’re thankful to know a little more of his story — and his end.