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.
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.