Origins of the Ballards of Virginia: A Source Book.

Tracing the origin of the Founder of the family, Thomas Ballard of James City County (1630-1690) is, at best, speculative. As of this writing (in 2011), no researcher has successfully proven his connection with any of the Ballard families active in the Atlantic trade in the 17th Century.  Nevertheless, there are a number of tantalizing clues; appreciating them requires a fairly comprehensive understanding of the familial relationships among the ruling families in the colonies, the merchants active between the colonies and England, and the families they left behind.

There is little doubt that the family was part of that vast interrelated group of cousins that participated in the Virginia Company of London.  The difficulty is in sorting out the degree of relationship and the descent of the families.  For example, some actions by Thomas Ballard reported in the literature suggest family relationships, such as his arranging the sale of Curles Neck plantation to Nathaniel Bacon the younger, the infamous Rebel; this Nathaniel Bacon the younger (1647-1676) was the cousin of Ann Bacon Townshend, wife of Sir Roger Townshend and the nephew of the Honorable Nathaniel Bacon who was a Governor of Virginia, and who was her second cousin (Nathaniel Bacon was Governor before Sir William Berkeley, and the Berkeleys were also related by marriage to the Bacons); further, “the Rebel” was nephew of Nathaniel Bacon.  This Ann Bacon Townshend was probably a relation of the Elizabeth Townshend who married Henry Ballard of Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1599.  Was this Henry Ballard a relation of Thomas Ballard of James City County, Virginia, or Jarvis Ballard of of Massachusetts and Maryland?  We simply do not know.

The Townsend who intermarried with the Ballards may have been a relation of the Capt. Richard Townsend who patented land in Virginia adjoining William Pryor in 1637 and 1642; Pryor’s plantation was later devised by Robert Baldrey to Thomas Ballard, Jr, as previously noted.1  Capt. Richard Townsend arrived in the colony in 1620 at age 19, and at 29 was recommended to the Governor’s Council.2  Thomas Ballard’s appointments took a similar trajectory, and most likely benefitted from his connections and relations. Documentary proof is lacking, so we look into the darkest corners of these documents and events for confirmation.  Proof may never be found, but the journey is an interesting one.  Perhaps DNA analysis can finally solve the puzzle of the ancestry of Thomas Ballard of James City County, should proven descendants — of him and of his ancestors — ultimately present themselves on both sides of the Atlantic.

This section will not repeat the work of others.  In 1999 and 2000 a researcher named John M. Weisner of Richmond, Virginia appeared on a genealogy message board, posted a number of well-researched articles bearing the title The Ballards of Colonial Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina: A Source Book, Compilation and Comments by John M. Weisner.  The articles discussed the possible origins of the Ballards of America, and after providing a wealth of information, just as mysteriously disappeared without a subsequent message.  He successfully proved a link between several members of the Ballard family that originated in Nottinghamshire, demonstrating relations among families living in Maryland and Massachusetts — namely Jarvis Ballard of Massachusetts and his brother Charles Ballard of Maryland.3

Mr Weisner provided previously unpublished information on the early years of Thomas Ballard of James City County that appeared in the surviving Warwick county records that are only mentioned in passing by James Branch Cabell in his The Majors and Their Marriages (Richmond: C.H. Hill Publishing Co., 1915), and he masterfully connected the Ballards to a number of allied families whose history help tell the story of this illustrious family.  He also found information suggesting a link between other branches of the family that had ties to America.  His work has been published on several other websites, and is included here for the convenience of the researcher. It makes fascinating reading, and appears in its entirety below.  Here’s hoping he takes up the work again.


Endnotes

1. Please see Thomas Ballard, Jr of York County, Virginia (c.1655-1710). A description of neighboring landowners in York county appears in “Pedigree of a Representative Virginia Planter,” The William and Mary College Quarterly, Lyon G. Tyler, ed., Vol. 1, No. 2 (October 1892) pp. 80-88.

2. Ibid, p. 82, note 8.

4. Paul Ballard, the authority on the Ballard families of the United Kingdom (and the ever-present and relentless guardian of English pedigrees on message boards, who never allows a specious connection to English families to go unchallenged), has repeatedly stated that he can identify several candidate families besides those from Nottinghamshire. Links to his website appear on the right under “Helpful Links.” His exhaustive, meticulously documented research and his generosity in sharing it is the inspiration for this website.

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4 thoughts on “Origins of the Ballards of Virginia: A Source Book.

  1. Stephen,
    I am flattered. I think some of the people to whom I throw up what, in a generous mood, one might describe as “forthright” challenges might now see me as the curmudgeonly bulldog of the English pedigrees 😉 Thirty five years of research and I still feel as if I have just scratched the surface. Still, I can now say with some certainty who the parents of Gregory Ballard, Chief Butler to King Richard II, were and it isn’t some fictional “Sir George”. Watch my website for details in due course. Just coming to the end of trabscribing all of the Ballard Wills probated at the PCC. Expect to see about 200 additions in due course. Then I can get back to the Chancery and Exchequer records etc and make more of them available. So much to do and 35 years less time to do it in – c’est la vie.
    Nice to make your acquaintence once again.
    Paul
    Paul Ballard
    UK Ballard Genealogy & Heraldry Bulldog

    • Paul, the pleasure is mine. I’m flattered that you remember me. The volume and quality of your research is stunning, and you are to be praised and congratulated for an exceptional job. I’m looking forward to the additions. While I have your attention, I wonder if you could shed light on the will fragment of Thomas Ballard of Stafford County, Virginia, who left a bequest to Thomas Kendall, son of Benjamin Kendall of Saint Mary Magdalen in Bermondsey? The will was written between 1708 (when the town of Marlborough was created) and 1730, of which only a fragment was preserved. See this page for more information.

  2. Well now, I can shed a little light but regretfully not enough. It would seem likely that the Benjamin Kendall referred to is the one that married a Mary Ballard at St Mary Magdalen Bermondsey [Benjamin Kendall Batch: in Jacob Street a Waterman & Mary Ballard Spinst: both of this parish were married by banns on the 20th October 1698]. Mary died and was buried at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey [Mary the wife of Benjamin Kendall in Water Lane Waterman buried at St Mary Magdalen, 4th October 1705] and she was followed by her son Thomas who was buried on 8 Sep 1715 at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey [Thomas son of Benjamin Kendal]. It looks as if Benjamin Kendall remarried as there are subsequent baptisms of children of Benjamin Kendall a Waterman of Water Lane. No sign of the second marriage though.
    This would explain the failure to claim the lands etc since Thomas died in 1715 and may also indicate that Thomas Ballard did not get much correspondence from family members as he likely made his will after Thomas Kendall had died. All very interesting but who was Mary Ballard and how is she related to Thomas? I would say a sister and probably born around 1675 +/- 5 years. There is a cluster of three baptisms all with a father Thomas but no guarantee that they are all the same Thomas! They are:-
    Mary the daughter of Thomas Ballard christened 9 March 1670/1 at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey
    Sarah the daughter of Thomas Ballard christened 10 May 1673 at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey
    Thomas son of Thomas & Sarah Ballard, Brewer’s Clerk, baptised 29 April 1679 at St Olave, Bermondsey

    The Thomas baptism looks like a potential fit and would give Thomas jnr the social standing for literacy & numeracy along with capability to travel to “the Colonies” where he no doubt went to seek his fortune.
    No obvious Thomas Ballard & Sarah marriage so the trail goes cold there.

    • Finding a connection, however slight is progress in my book. It certainly makes sense that the bequest would be for a nephew. I’m curious about the use of the term “spinster” in that time and place. Presumably she was of advanced “years,” but how advanced? Late 20s or older? I concur with your conclusion that the Mary Ballard who married Benjamin Kendall was probably the sister of Thomas Ballard of Stafford County, Virginia.

      We don’t really know the date of Thomas Ballard’s will, given the loss of the document. If we assume that he did know his nephew was living at the time of the bequest, it allows us to narrow the date of its writing to the time Marlborough was established and he acquired the lots about 1708, and Thomas Kendall’s death in 1715.

      I do suspect a connection with the Ballards of Maryland, given the association with Thomas Ellzey, and Stafford’s proximity to Somerset County, Maryland, where Charles Ballard of Maryland settled.

      I greatly, greatly appreciate the information, and I hope that it leads to some other bit of information that advances the cause of solving the problem of determining the origins of the Ballards in America. I plan on spending some time studying the Kendall family in hopes of learning more.

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