The histories that are written about the ancestor of "William Ball of Millenback" beginning with Joseph Ball, Jr. in the late 1700's up through 1999 have made the case for the father to have been William Ball of Lincoln's Inn of London, England. He was one of "four Sworn Attorneys of the Court of the Exchequer of Pleas in London." Peter Walne in "The English Ancestory of Colonnel William Ball of Millenbeck", published in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography in 1981 proposes a different lineage. [Walne 399-405]

Peter Walne investigated the parish records of Salisbury, and the court records of Wiltshire with an unbroken record of Bishop Transcripts from 1600 - 1640. These records proved conclusively that William Ball of Lincoln's Inn could not have been the immigrant of the Ball family because he had died in England. The William Ball that was to have been the father of "William Ball of Millenback" married Alice, daughter of "Richard Waltham of London, merchant...." In the will and probate records that Mr. Walne discovered "William's death occurred in November or early December 1647... His wife Alice was named executor, to whom probate was granted on December 14." "His will [Leaves legacies ] to his daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Susan, and Sarah and to his sons Richard and Samuel. These records were proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and registered among the records of the Court in the Principle Probate Registry, Somerset house (P.C.C. Fines 244). Not mentioning a William would not be conclusive proof since it frequently occurs that inheritance arrangements may have been met while the decease was living and certainly before 1647. The dates conflict with known facts about "William Ball of Millenback" who is supposed to have married by 1638 to Hannah Atherold, who would have only been ten years old and he probably no older than 19 according the marriage dates of "William Ball of Lincoln's Inn." The likely hood that he would have immigrated, and married a ten years old seem most improbable.

Walne proposes that a more likely ancestor would be Dr. Richard Ball, of Northamptonshire. I include the entire article here with his footnotes.



The English Ancestry of Colonel William Ball of Millenbeck

By Peter Walne*

On few families can so much ink have been spilt to so inconclusive a result as is the case with the Ball family. From the time of Joseph Ball II of Lancaster County, many attempts have been made to establish the English pedigree of Colonel William Ball of Millenbeck, first Virginia ancestor of George Washington's mother. As a result of the evidence and information record in Joseph Ball II's letter book, now in the Library of Congress, most writers from Horace Edwin Hayden to Douglas Southall Freeman have tended to accept what has become virtually the traditional descent of Colonel William Ball from the family of Ball of Barkham and Wokingham in Berkshire, England. Perhaps the principal dissident voice was that the Earl L. W. Heck, whose privately printed Colonel William Ball of Virginia, the Great-grandfather of Washington (London, 1928) suggests another possible line of descent. Few if any of these accounts have, however, been based on a close perusal of the original record sources from whence the facts on which they should have been based could have come. A recent close examination of local documentary sources and of the evidence generally deduce in support of the accepted English ancestry of the Ball family of Virginia suggests that a reexamination and reassessment of the story would not be out of place.

It was perhaps unfortunate that by the time Joseph Ball II began to conduct his won researches into his ancestry in the 1740's, during his long residence in England, passage of time appears to have dimmed to the point of extinction the clear light of true knowledge of his family's origins. For instance, Joseph was not certain of grandmother Hannah's surname, as letter to Joseph Chinn of July 17, 1745, and May 23, 1747, and to his cousin Mrs. Ellen Ball Chichester in 1745 in his letter book show. Had precise family knowledge and documentary evidence for it been available to Joseph, the later uncertainties and controversies might have been avoided. As it is , the confusion remains.

Traditionally, Colonel William is said to have been the son of William Ball of Lincoln's Inn, one of the four Sworn Attorneys of the court of The Exchequer of Pleas in London. (1) In recording his pedigree and arms before the Hearlds, William gave a line of descent back to the late fifteenth century in the parish of Barkham in Berskshire. His first ancestor was himself a William said to have died I 1480,(2) leaving a son, Robert, said to have died in 1543 but most probably the Robert whose burial is recorded on may 30, 1546, in the Barkham parish register. (3) Robert by his wife Margaret, who was buried on June 13, 1542, left two sons, William "to whom his father gave all his personal estate, died 1550. Lived at Wokingham," and Edward "to whom his father gave all his lands." Edward died in 1558, was buried on August 21 leaving a will proved in October 1558 from which it appears he left a wife, Agnes, and two daughters. William, the elder son, married Margaret Moody and had by her a son, Jon and three daughters. John succeeded to his father's lands in Wokingham and took to himself two wives, one of whom Agnes, daughter of Richard Holloway of Barkham, died with issue, and the other Alice Haynes of Finchampstead bore him four sons and thee daughters. John died in 1599 and, according to the wish expressed in his will, was buried in the churchyard at Wokingham. (4) The eldest survivor of the children of John and Alice Ball was another John, tenant of the manor of Evendons in Wokingham, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Webb of Ruscombe near Wokingham,(5) by whom he had five sons and six daughters before her burial at Wokingham on September 12, 1616..(6) John himself is reputed to have died in 1628, but no trace of his will or of his burial at Wokingham have been found.

The first-born and eldest surviving child of John Ball at the time of his death was William. The exact date of his birth is not known, but it was probably 1603.(7) This is the William traditionally asserted to have been father to Colonel William of Millenbeck. (8)

On September 1, 1623, William Ball, son and heir of John Ball of Wokingham, gentleman, was admitted to Lincoln's Inn to commence his studies as an embryo lawyer.(9) in due course, he must have successfully completed his studies and probably, thanks to his uncle Robert, (10) himself a practitioner in the Exchequer of pleas (if not a sworn attorney), was practicing in that court as early as the beginning of 1630.(11) The date of his appointment of one of the four attorney ships in the court is not certain but it must lie between 1630 and 1634, when his won statement in the recorded pedigree attests the fact. On July 16, 1627, at the parish church of St Gregory by St. Paul in the City of London, William married Alice, daughter of Richard Waltham of London, merchant. Of heir children more will be said later. Though practicing law in London, William nevertheless maintained close ties with his native town in Berkshire. In 1633 for £685 he purchased Lock's Farm in Wokingham from the executors of Henry Albery and continued to use this as his country residence until his death. (12) Though not a member of the corporation of the town, he must have been a leading citizen. In or about 1636, he presented "A Parish Booke for Wokingham ex Dono Willelmi Ball," still fortunately extant in the borough muniments, (13) into which he himself in a fine Italic had copied many documents relating to th town's finances and possessions and into which other later copied many charity deeds, of which tow are bital ot this particular problem and wil be mentioned later. Precisely where William lived in London is not certain. Under the terms of his uncle Robert's will already alluded to, William inherited a house in Fetter Lane close by Lincoln's Inn and another in Holborn. Probably for some years, he lived I the former. Not merely was William a lawyer but, like so many lawyers, he became a Member of Parliament, representing the Bershire borough of Abingdon from 1645 until his death. He appears to have been an extremely active supporter of the Parliamentary cause sitting on no less than thirty-four committees of the House during his membership.(14) William's death occurred in November or early December 1647, the last reference to his parliamentary activities occurring in October. On November 17, 1647, William drew up his last will and testament in which his wife Alice was named executor, to whom probate was granted on December 14. (15) In it he is described as "of Chancery Lane, London, Exquire," presumably no longer inhabiting the house in Fetter lane. No burial registers for the Chancery Lane District survived nor do registers or transcripts for Wokingham for this period so that it is no possible to be precise about either the date or place of burial.

His will states the Lock's Farm, Wokingham, and Colmer Farm in the parish of Colmer, Hampshire, which he inherited under the terms of a codicil to his uncle Robert's will, were to be sold to meet legacies of £500 each to his daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, Susan, and Sarah and to his sons Richard and Samuel.(16) No mention is made in the will of a son, William, who might have been Colonel William of Millenbeck.

But a son and heir William there was, and his omission from the will could be read as indicating that other provision for him had been made prior to his father's death or alternatively that he was the black sheep of the family, though no certain evidence for this has come to light. The omission of specific legacy to the widow Alice would seem to support the probability that arrangements had been made before November 1647 for the future fortunes of widow and eldest son. An argument could be put forward that William had already gone to Virginia before his father's death, but it would antedate Hayden's date of 1650(17) or the date 1657 in the Ball letter book and Downman Bible. In any case, the younger William could have been no more than nineteen years old in 1647, since his parents were only married in 1627, and could certainly not have married a Hannah Atherold in 1638. Nor, as Hayden asserts, is he likely to have been born in 1615 when his father was a mere child of twelve years.

The first evidence of a William Ball, son of William Ball, attorney of the Exchequer of Pleas, who could have become colonel William of Millenbeck is found in the "Parish Booke for Wokingham" previously referred to. A deed of September 28, 1641, appointing new trustees for the management of almshouses in Wokingham names amongst the new trusties William Ball of Wokingham, gentlemen, and William Ball, son and heir of William Ball.(18) Unless the first of these two Williams is an entirely different person of another branch of this numerous family, then he must be equated with William of Lincoln's Inn and Fetter lane and his son must be the person traditionally said to be the first Ball in Virginia. A further deed of October 1, 1641, in another register of charity deeds in Wokingham parish records again mentions the two Williams. (19) Whatever vies may be held about the legality of appointing a boy of twelve or thirteen years of age as a charity trustee, the fact remains that the reputed immediate English ancestor of the Balls of Virginia did have a son of the name of William, but, unless the father had married in London or Wokingham before 1627 (and there is no evidence that this did happen) , this son could Harley have married at the age of ten a girl from Suffolk nor even in 1650 been described as of mature years. On the Berkshire evidence already quoted, the weight of probability is weighed heavily to the point of certainly against William Ball the younger being Colonel William Millenbeck.

Unfortunately for the present tradition further Berkshire evidence exists which merely adds to the improbability of William the younger's claim for it tends to prove the man, who is repute to founded the family in Virginia, in fact never left England or Berkshire. In the same "Parish Booke" of Wokingham already quoted is entered the next deed in the series of appointments of trustees of the Almashouses. (20) this is dated April 13, 1670, and in it the four surviving trustees appointed by the deed of 1641 appoint further new trustees. One other the survivors is William Ball "of Bracknell, Esquire," who can only be the younger William of 1641. he was living in Standridge tithing in the parish of Warfiled(21) in 1663 and 1664 when his house was assessed for hearth tax. (22) On June 10, 1687, at Trinity college, Oxford, Samuel Ball, son of William Ball of Bracknell, esquire, aged fifteen, matriculated by never appears to have taken a degree.(23) The clear indication of these facts is that William who was supposed to founding a dynasty in Virginia was still resident in England, founding a family there.

A search in Suffolk records, even disregarding William's tender years at the time of his reputed marriage to Hannah Atherold (24) is singularly unhelpful in solving the problems posed by the Ball genealogy. (25) the uncertainly as to Hannah's surname dating back to Joseph Ball II's day in no way helps resolve the confusion. Whilst it is clear that there was an Atherold family of Burgh, Suffolk, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, (26) and that there was a Thomas who could have been father to the wife of the first Virginian Ball, the evidence of the Burgh registers shows no daughter of this Thomas and his wife Mary Harvey. The had three children, according to the registers, born between 1628 ( when Thomas was thirty-eight by which time he could have had other children, although Hannah would have to have been born in 1622 or earlier to marry in 1638) and 1635, none of the Hannah. Nor does the theory of an earlier marriage or earlier children gain any support from Thomas' Will proved in 1664, which mentions no children other that those born between 1628 and 1635.(27)

All the evidence quoted goes to show that, whatever is inscribed in the Downman Bible (now at the Virginia Historical Society), in Joseph Ball's letter book and generally accepted as correct since then, the case for descent of Ball of Virginia fro9m Ball of Barkham the Wokingham is at the very least east, not proven. And thus it must remain until some satisfactory explanation as to how and why the Ball pedigree, recorded in the records of the College of Arms as a result of the declaration of William Ball at the 1634/6 Visitation of London, came to be accepted as the true ancestral line of the Virginia family. Whether in Joseph Ball's or Raleigh Downman's times some positive evidence of the connection exited we are now unlikely to find out; whether this present enquiry has omitted some vital fact or source which would vitiate its whole line of argument only time will show. At the present time, however on the evidence seen and quoted here, the verdict of not proven must be returned.

It is only fair and right that in controverting tradition, wherever possible some indication of the truth should be given in the hope that others approach most likely to lead to a solution is a reconsideration of the heraldic When William Ball recorded his pedigree he recorded his arms Azure on a cross pierced of the field or four galtraps of the first with a crest, A galtrap azure the upward point bloody. Had there been a close connection between the Balls of Berkshire and Virginia, one would have expected to find these arms or some close approximation to them used in the Virginia to and claimed by the family in Virginia were identical or very similar to those granted in 1613 to Dr. Richard Ball, son of Lawrence Ball of Northamptonshire. If heck's statement is correct and Colonel William Ball did indeed bring "an illuminated parchment: when he emigrated from England, then the origins of the family must be sought in the Northamptonshire line. On the Heraldic evidence, there is nothing inherently improbable in the descent to he postulates for the Balls of Lancaster County, though admittedly the pedigree which results from this is by no means as tidy as the one at present traditionally favoured. It is impossible, however, heraldically to claim one descent, as in the case in Burke's Landed Gentry, from a family entitled to bears arms and to append to the descent the arms of an entirely different family, albeit of the same name. One is wrong, descent or arms. If Colonel William did bring a representation of the Northamptonshire arms with him, then his evidence and lines which it suggests should be followed. I may well be that closer perusal of original records in both England and Virginia, which will doubtless have become available since the days of Hayden and Heck, laying the traditional descent to one side, may produce a truer and more correct account of the English ancestry of Colonel William Ball of Millenbeck.

Notes to Peter Walne's report:
· Mr Walne is Bershire County Archivist, Reading, England.
1. The pedigree of Ball of Barkham and Wokingham recorded by this William Ball at the hearld's Visitation of London in 1634/5, and now amongst the records of the College of Armes, volume C.24 seems to have been the starting point of almost all past Ball researches. This pedigree is printed in Visitations of Berkshire, I, 62 (Artesian Society, vol. LVII, London, 1908). 2. Not, as in the Downman family Bible and the account in the 1939 edition of Burke's Landed Gentry, lord of the manor of Barkham, but merely an inhabitant of the parish possibly of yemon status. 3. I am indebted to the vicar, the Reverend C. C. Roycroft, for permission to inspect the first parish register, still in his custody, from which the entries relating to Balls in Barkham are quoted.
4. His will was proved in the Court of the Dean of Salisbury as the parish was pa part of that shire, for a photostat of this will now in his custody with the other probate records of this Court.
5. This Elizabeth was not, as the pedigree in Burke's Landed Gentry, 1939 edition, says the wife of John Ball, who died in 1599. Two generations have been conflated in that account.
6. The parish registers of Wokingham do not begin before 1674. An almost complete series of "Bishop's Transcripts," 16000-1640, exists in the records of the Dean of Salisbury, now housed at Salisbury, and I am indebted to Mr. And Mrs. A. J. Collins for making it possible for me to inspect these.
7. In March 1639 Robert Ball of Holshot, Hampshire, gentleman died. This Robert was brother to John Ball who died in 1599 and uncle of William. He held certain lands in Wiltshire and Hampshire by feudal tenure and his death necessitate an Inquisition Post Mortem into these lands. This ends with a statement of the relationship between Robert and William and also says that William's age in 1639 was about 36, I. E., he was born about 1603. The Bishop's Transcripts of the Wokingham registers are deficient for the years 1602 and 1606. The inquisition on Robert's death is P. R. O., Chancery I. P. M.,15 Chas I, pt. I no. 99.
8. The preceding brief account, as modified by reference to original sources, is based on the pedigree as recorded in 1634/5. From local Berkshire records in the Berks Record Office, Reading, in could be amplified.
9. Lincoln's Inn Admission Register, f. 85. I am indebted to the Librarian of the Inn for this reference.
10. Robert's will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1639 (P. C. C. Harvey 133) speaks of his "friends of the Exchequer" and his law books.
11. P. R. O. E 12/14. I am indebted to H. C. Johnson N. J. Williams of the P. R. O. for this reference.
12. Berks R. O. D/ER T141A: deed of bargain and sale, June 25, 1633, in which William is described as "of Lincoln's Inn, gent."
13. Berks R. O. Wo/RZ 1.
14. I am indebted to Dr. F. Taylor, Keeper of Manuscripts, John Rylands. Library Manchester, for full details of Ball's parliamentary career taken from Ryl. English MS., 297, f. 60.
15. This will, surprisingly enough never discovered before, was proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and is registered amongst the records of the Court now in the Principal Probate Registry, Somerset house (P.C.C. Fines 244)
16. This disproves the statement in Burke's Landed Gentry, 1939 edition, that he had five other sons besides Colonel William.
17. Horace Edwin Hayden, Virginia Genealogies (Wilkes-Barre, 1891), p. 51.
18. Berks R. O. Wo/RZ I, f.109.
19. Berks R. O. D/P 154 25/2, p. 19.
20. Berks r. O. Wo/RZ I, f.110.
21. The township of Bracknell was, administratively and ecclesiastically, until very recent years split between four adjoining parishes of which Warfield was one. Hence William could be described as "of Bracknell," which was a geographical and identifiable unit, in deeds but had to be located in Warfield parish for taxation purposes. The Warfield registers, which only begin in 1682, throw no light on his burial nor on what happened to Samuel, his son.
22. P. R. O. E 179/243/25 and 26.
23. Alumni Oxonensis, ed. J. Foster (Oxford, 1891) sub nom.
24. No trace of a license for the Ball-Atherold marriage has been found in the various extant series of London marriage licenses.
25. I am greatly indebted to my colleague, D. Charman, County Archivist, East Suffolk, for these remarks about the Atherold family.
26. See the pedigree in Visitations of Suffolk, 1664-8, 117 (Harleian Society, vol. LXI, London, 1910).
27. P.C. C. Bruce 49.
28. Colonel William Ball of Virginia,pp.16 ff. The arms are Argent a lion passant sable on a chief of the second three mullets of the first with a crest Out of clouds proper a demi lion rampant sable holding a globe or.


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