Lineage Group II: John Ballard of Bitton, Gloucestershire, England and Nansemond County, Virginia (c.1629-c.1704).

The progenitor of Lineage Group II is at once satisfying and immensely frustrating.  Satisfying for providing clear evidence of his origin in England in the form of a ship passenger list, and frustrating for him having landed in Nansemond County, one of Virginia’s infamous burned counties.  Nansemond County dates from 1637 and is now extinct; it was orginally constitute as Upper Norfolk County, with the name changed to Nansemond in 1646.   It became the independent city of Nansemond in 1972 and merged with the independent city of Suffolk in 1974.  We will use the old name, Nansemond.

The county records actually were three times burned: in 1734, 1779, and 1866.  Many records were lost by the burning of the county clerk’s office in April 1734, again the courthouse was razed by British troops in 1779 during the American Revolution, again by a fire on 7 February 1866. Fortunately the land patents and grants survive, and one must place undue reliance upon them to sort out families and their relationships.

The Virginia-North Carolina Boundary Adjustment of 1728

When considering the lives of these families that settled in the Upper Parish of Nansemond County, we must be mindful of a boundary adjustment between Virginia and North Carolina. William Byrd’s famous survey of the boundary line in 1728 resulted in a move of the boundary 50 miles north, putting many of these families in North Carolina. They didn’t go to North Carolina; North Carolina came to them.  This adjustment ran the length of the state, so it affected families that settled further inland as well.

The coordinator of the Gates County Genealogy Project, Diane Sineard, succinctly describes how this boundary adjustment affected Gates County, North Carolina, which immediately abuts Nansemond County, Virginia.

Gates County was a part of an area originally called “Albemarle”, named for George, Duke of Albemarle. Most of the land within the present boundaries was considered to be Nansemond County, VA, until 1728, when William Byrd had surveyed the “dividing line” between Virginia and North Carolina. In 1779 the area between the Chowan River to the West and Southwest, South of the county of Nansemond, Va., West of the Dismal Swamp and North of Catherine Creek and Warwick Creek was separated into a county all it’s own. The physical land barriers of swamps or rivers made it difficult for residents of this area to travel to government seats in bad weather, and it was for this reason, among others that Gates County became an entity of it’s own. In 1780 a courthouse, prison and stocks were built in Gatesville, at that time known as Gates Court House.

The timeline below describes the evolution of North Carolina counties in the vicinity of Gates County, which is adjacent to Nansemond County:

1663 (1664) – Albemarle County was formed

1670 – Shaftesbury County was formed from Albemarle County

1670 – Pasquotank County was formed from Albemarle County.

1670 – Currituck County was formed from Albemarle County.

1670 – Berkely County formed from Albemarle County.

1681 – Perquimans County formed from name change of Berkley County

1685 – Chowan County formed from name change of Shaftesbury County

1722 – Bertie County was formed from Chowan County.

1728 – NC/VA line run by William Byrd. This shifted the North Carolina line north approximately 50 miles.

1729 – North Carolina comes under British control, becoming a royal colony, when all but one of the original eight proprietors sold their interest to King George II

1741 – Edgecombe County was formed from Bertie County.

1741 – Northampton County was formed from Bertie County.

1759 – Hertford County was formed from Bertie, Chowan, and Northampton

1777 – Camden County was formed from Pasquotank County.

1779 (1778) – Gates County was formed from Chowan, Hertford, and Perquimans Counties.  What is now Gates County is made up of land that was once parts of Chowan, Perquimans, Hertford, Bertie Counties in North Carolina and Nansemond County, Virginia.

Another John Ballard in Chowan County, North Carolina.

The genealogy that follows describes the descendants of John Ballard from Bitton, Gloucestershire, who removed to Nansemond County, Virginia in 1659.  We must point out, however, the record of another John Ballard who arrived an indentured servant in Chowan County, North Carolina in 1716.1

John Ballard, with consent of his former master, Henry Whittens of Boston, in New England, to Thos. Betterly agrees to serve him for 5 years, and one month, from this date: Jany. 3rd 1717.  Test: Henry K. Chilton, Chas. Lamanson, Chas. Hodges.

It would be interesting to know if this man and possible descendants have been confused with the subject of this chapter, or his sons.

John Ballard of Bitton, Gloucestershire, and Nansemond County, Virginia (c.1629-c.1704).

The progenitor of the family, John Ballard of Bitton, Gloucestershire, is known to have been indentured for six years to John Brian of Bitton on 15 August 1659, according to ship records preserved in England.2  The indenture was for five years, and his destination is listed as Virginia.  At the same time was also indentured a Lewes Brian of Bitton, also indentured to John Brian.  “Brian” appears in other contexts as “Bryan” and “Bryant.”

John Bryan’s activities in the Virginia colony are worth noting.

John Bryan patented 168 acres on Indian Creeke, a branch of Nansemum river, joining to patent of Mr. John Garrett, running for length north butting on line of William Storey & c. 15 October 1652,3  Transfer of 4 persons: William Scott, Grace Harris, John Merr, Anne Stonewall.4   He renewed this patent on 17 August 1664.5

Jon Bryan was named a headlight in a patent taken by Robert Saven for 150 acres in “Nanzemond County” on 11 June 1653,6

John Bryan patented 200 acres in Upper Norfolk County on 18 March 1662,7 , at south side of the west branch of Nancimond River, lying at south side of Indian Creek, running by Mr. Wm. Denizens &c.  Renewal of patent dated 20 March 1659.8

Jno. Bryan patented 200 acres in Upper Norfolk County, 18 March 1662,9 south side of the west branch of Nancimum River on both sides of the Indian Creek, running by Mr. William Densons line &c.  Renewal of patent dated 20 March 1659.10  He sold this tract to John Moore, who renewed a patent for it on 11 March 1664.11

John Bryan renewed a patent dated 15 October 1652 for 168 acres on the Nansemond River at Indian Creek.12  Seven years later, on 15 August 1659, we see that John Ballard and Lewis Brian, both of Bitton in Glocestershire, were bound to “John Brian, planter, to serve in Virginia: Lewes [Lewis] Brian of Bitton, Glos, yeoman, for 4 years; John Ballard of Bitton, Glos for 6 years.”  On 24 August 1659, “Jon Boulton of Bitton, Glos, bound to John Brian, planter, to serve 4 years in Virginia.” Wilson, p. 433.

We do not find John Bryan claiming John Ballard as a headright.

Fourteen years after arriving in Virginia, John Ballard obtained his own land grant dated 2 June 1673, for 300 acres in Nansemond County.13    Available to read online on the website the Library of Virginia, this grant is extremely difficult to decipher; perhaps it is easier if one were to examine the original.  The abstract in Cavaliers and Pioneers 14  notes that he obtained the grant for the transport of six persons: “His owne person, & Besheba his wife, Jno. and Joseph, his sons, Wm. Freeman & Jno. Napp.”  

The fact that he paid his own transport indicates that he returned to England at least once and perhaps retrieved his wife and children to join him in the New World after securing his place there.  Some researchers claim that Besheba was born in Nansemond County; we have found no evidence of this; nor does it make much sense for his wife and children to make the voyage from Virginia to England and back, given the trouble and expense of it.

John Ballard’s patent is mentioned in another granted to John Taylor, for 200 acres int he Upper Parish of Nansemond county, “adjacent Thomas Cowting; & John Ballard, 21 September 1674.”15    It is  mentioned again in a patent of William Speight on 24 February 1675/6, who acquired 137 acres in “Nanzemond Co., joining on N. side of his father’s land, in the upper parish, now called Tho. Spright’s land; beg. by a muddy br. deviding this &c; and of Jno. Ballard; to his father’s als. Brother’s line; to line of John Battle, Junr; &c … Trans. of: Osman Crabb, 3 times.”16  Curiously (and incidentally), this Wm. Speight claimed an additional 117 acres adjacent to his own land on 24 February 1675/6 for the transfer of Osman Babb, twice.17

An interesting aside: These two Speight patents appear suspect, but, according to the Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography,18 Osman Crabb (and his brother Thomas Crabb) were the sons of John Crabb, who settled in Westmoreland county in the Northern Neck.  the elder Crabb was a successful merchant who married about 1673 Temperance Gerrard, the daughter of Dr. Thomas Gerrard, and widow of Daniel Hutt of Westmoreland.  John had a brother named Osman, of Bridlington, Somerset, England, who died c. 1695 and left the bulk of his estate to his brother John of Virginia.  Being the son of a merchant it makes sense that Osman would traverse the Atlantic multiple times.  We mention this to make the point that while a merchant would make the journey several times, it does not make sense that John, a planter, and his family would travel to England then return to Virginia, as some researchers assume; we have seen mention on several pages (without proof or documentation) that Besheba and their sons were born in Nansemond County, yet there is the single patent naming them as headrights.  It makes the most sense to this observer that they were all born in England and made the journey once.

Other researchers assign John Ballard a second wife, Margaret, who appears in a deed dated 30 December 1702, when Jon Ballard and wife Margaret conveyed 100 acres to Thomas Hicks on “Chowan Crick,” adjoining land of Edward Williams.  Test, Edward Williams (Chowan River).19    The year before Jon Ballard acquired 200 acres of land from George White on 6 October 1701, Test, Jon Jones, Nat’l Chevin.20  

Note that this latter John Ballard who married Margaret consistently used the spelling “Jon”, probably to distinguish himself from the former.

There may have been additional children, and there are competing theories about them — some state that John and Besheba (or Margaret) had additional sons, such as Peter, who appeared in Isle of Wight; others claim that John Ballard, son of Thomas Ballard of James City County who is commonly believed to have died in 1694 actually removed to Nansemond and left issue; some assign Peter and Ralph to him, others include additional names: Jarvis and Humphrey, about whom little is known.  Fortunately for genealogists, after the boundary adjustment of 1728, many of their descendants found themselves in North Carolina, and can be traced there.

John Ballard and Bethsheba ____________ had issue:

JOHN, born before 1673.

JOSEPH, born before 1673.



1. An abstract appears in the North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. I, No. 4 (October 1900) p. 618.

2. See Bristol to America: A Record of the first Settlers of the Colonies of North America, 1654-1685 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2010, p. 61).

3. Patent Book No. 3, p. 115.

4. Nell Marion Nugent, Cavaliers & Pioneers, Vol. I (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983), p. 262.

5. Patent Book No. 5, p. 380 (423); C&P Vol. I, p. 518.

6. Patent Book No. 3, p. 19;  C&P Vol. I, p. 237.

7. Patent Book No. 5, p. 217 (123).

8. C&P Vol. I, p. 464.

9. Patent Book No. 5, p. 244 (170).

10.  C&P Vol. I, p. 473.

11. Patent Book No. 5, p. 267 (210); C&P, Vol. I, p. 480.

12. C&P, Vol. I, p. 518.

13. Virginia Land Office Patents No. 6, 1666-1679 (pt 1 & 2 p.1-692), p. 469 (Reel 6).

14. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1977, p. 130.

15. C&P, Vol. II, p. 151.

16. C&P, Vol. II, p. 172.

17.  C&P, Vol. II, p. 172.

18. , Lyon Gardiner Tyler, ed., Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915).

19. North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. I, No. 1 (January 1900), p. 89.

20. North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. I, No. 1 (January 1900), p. 86.


9 thoughts on “Lineage Group II: John Ballard of Bitton, Gloucestershire, England and Nansemond County, Virginia (c.1629-c.1704).

  1. I am a descendent of John Ballard, Gp 11 of Bitton/Nansemond connection. He and Elisha are also related as father/son/brother. I was shocked to find my ancestors were originally from NC and not VA. Makes sense since the line ends up in Martin Co, NC which was birthplace of my grandfather and father (Joseph L and Larry K). In fact near Hamilton, NC, there is a spot called Ballard. Nothing there now, just on the map. There is a family cemetery hidden in a farm field where my GF Joseph R and GGF Martin B. are buried.
    Not sure where the dates other than 1659 come from since that date was in the VA Land record and I never saw any other record. I spent years separating the Thomas line from my line. All records I could find of Ballards in the area were overshadowed by the Thomas line. Years ago I ran into relatives that lived in Suffolk, VA who were descended from Elisha and still owned the family farm located in Isle of Wight Co. So I presume some of the family did in fact go to VA and others go to what became NC. Nice work on this site.

    • Lloyd, one of your cousins pointed out to me how indistinct the border was between Virginia and North Carolina, and that a boundary adjustment in 1728 put a lot of people who obtained Virginia patents in North Carolina.

  2. Forgot to add that Bitton, Gloustershire, England is near Keynsham. There are lots of Ballards in that area so I presume I am related to them. Just so happens my mother, Beryl Atkins Ballard was born there!

  3. I am intrigued by this paragraph:

    John Bryan renewed a patent dated 15 October 1652 for 168 acres on the Nansemond River at Indian Creek.12 Seven years later, on 15 August 1659, we see that John Ballard and Lewis Brian, both of Bitton in Glocestershire, were bound to “John Brian, planter, to serve in Virginia: Lewes [Lewis] Brian of Bitton, Glos, yeoman, for 4 years; John Ballard of Bitton, Glos for 6 years.” On 24 August 1659, “Jon Boulton of Bitton, Glos, bound to John Brian, planter, to serve 4 years in Virginia.” Wilson, p. 433.

    Can you point me in the direction where I can find the source of these indentured servants?

    What is the reference to “Wilson. p. 433”?
    marc anderson

    • I’ll have to do some digging. I thought I caught all those open references. However, my first inclination is to think its a mis-identified reference to Peter Wilson Coldham’s The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1660 (Genealogical Publishing Co.), in which case “Wilson” is incorrect and should be Coldham. But I need to check. See also here:

      • Cool… David Boyett and I have worked a bit together. I am newly researching the John Bryan of Nansemond and he seems (so far) to be a simple “planter” same for Henry Gay his neighbor. I just would be surprised to find he had the resources to arrange an indentured servant or two. Also my presumption so far is that the Lewis Bryan associated with him is likely his son (but your source seems to indicate he is imported). I would really like to get into the nuts and bolts of finding any actual importation records in England (probably wishful thinking on my part). Thanks again for your quick response.

    • I am a descendent of John Ballard 1659. I got that from Virginia Land Records found in the Book Cavaliers and Pioneers Book 1 (1659) also from an obscure book called Ballard/Ballord Bits found in the VA State library. I did my research over 30 years ago on floppy disks that have long since been retired. I have now discovered the references I quoted to not line up with where I know they should be. I am positive it was in the record under John Bryan dtd 1659. I have torn that book apart and cannot find that entry, but I know it was there. Dog did not eat it. The Wilson entry is beyond me. The index to the C&P books is not totally accurate so perhaps those books are now on line and you could do a search to find that entry.

    • It came from immigration record by Peter Coldham Complete Book of Immigration 1607-1660. Baltimore GPC 1987. Shipped out of Bristol. The record is quoted in the previous email, so I may be missing something.

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