The English ancestry of George Washington's mother, Mary Ball - a history of the Balls of Berkshire, Northamptonshire and Virginia

There is a long-standing tradition that Colonel William Ball of Millenbeck (c.1615-1680), the first Virginian ancestor and grandfather of George Washington's mother, Mary Ball, was descended from the Ball family which lived in the parish of Barkham, near Wokingham in Berkshire, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This has never been substantiated, however, by reference to documentary evidence. 'Colonel' William emigrated from England to Virginia with his family at some time during the later 1650s and the early 1660s.

Various historians have tried to trace the English ancestry of George Washington's mother, but without much success in identifying the genealogical 'missing link'. A major contributory factor is that families bearing the name 'Ball' were numerous and widespread in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, rather like 'Smith' today. The net result, unfortunately, has been the dissemination of a considerable body of misinformation.

The Ball family tradition has now been revisited by reference to surviving original source documents in England and Virginia. The results of this research are presented on this website in the form of a monograph. It may be viewed either as a whole document or in sections (see links below). Extracts may be reproduced if the source is acknowledged.

If you would like to make any comments on the Ball family history, the website email address is

A. Introduction

B. Authorities

Rev.d H.E. Hayden
Rev.d William Ball Wright
Rev.d P.H. Ditchfield
Leonard Abram Bradley
Earl L.W. Heck
Burke's 'American Families with British Ancestry'
Peter Walne

C. Joseph Ball II's Letter Book

D. Downman Family Bible

E. Balls of Berkshire

F. Balls of Northamptonshire

Rev.d Richard Ball (1570-1631)
Lawrence Ball of Northampton (died 1607)
John Ball and Baylie Ball
Nicholas Ball (1592-1638)
Richard Ball of Balsall
Rev.d Robert Ball (1551-1613)
Balls of Scottow
Interpretation of evidence

G. Balls of Virginia

Primary sources
Emigration to Virginia
Coat of arms
English ancestry
Interpretation of evidence

H. Maryland connection

I. Pedigree of Hannah Atherold/Atherall/Athereth

J. Manor of Barkham

Barkham Manor
Standen family/William Ball 'of Barkham'

K. Conclusions

Appendix I. Endnotes

Appendix II. Internet links

Appendix III. Transcript of Downman Family Bible

Appendix IV. Ball entries in the Barkham parish registers 1539-1579 and 1667-1691

Appendix V. Some wills and probate inventories of the Balls of Berkshire

Probate inventory of Robert Ball of Barkham 1546
Will of William Ball of Wokingham, husbandman 1550
Will and probate inventory of Edward Ball of Barkham 1558
Will and probate inventory of Agnes Ball of Barkham, widow 1572
Will of John Ball I of Wokingham, yeoman 1591 (proved 1599)
Will of John Ball of Knights, Wokingham, yeoman 1592
Will of Robert Ball of Holshot, gentleman 1639
Will of William Ball of Lincoln's Inn, esquire 1647

Appendix VI. Barkham Assessment (Subsidy) Rolls 1524 and 1525

Appendix VII. Rev.d Richard Ball (1570-1631)

Part A - Transcript of grant of crest in 1613
Part B - Tomb in St. Michael's Church, Chalton, Hampshire

Appendix VIII. Ball entries in the Northampton, All Saints' parish registers 1559-1624

Appendix IX. Some wills of the Balls of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire

Will of the Rev.d Robert Ball of Eastington 1613
Will of Nicholas Ball of London, fishmonger 1638
Will of Lawrence Ball of Northampton, mercer 1642

Appendix X. Northamptonshire Ball family wills (and administrations) 1510-1700

Appendix XI. Family trees

Part A - Conjectural family tree of the Balls of Warwickshire and Northamptonshire
Part B - Conjectural family tree of the Balls of Lichfield and Warwickshire
Part C - Conjectural family tree of the Balls of Lichfield

Appendix XII. Ball wills proved in the Consistory Court of Lichfield (and administrations) 1516-1652

Part A - Phillimore index 1516-1652
Part B - Wills/administrations 1520-1600 held by the Lichfield Record Office

Appendix XIII. Escutcheon and armorial glass of Rev.d Robert Ball, New College, Oxford

Appendix XIV. Balls of Staffordshire

Part A - List of Ball families living in the Archdeaconry of Stafford c.1532-33
Part B - Ball entries in the Lichfield, St. Mary's parish registers 1566-1589

Appendix XV. Maryland State Archives land records

Part A - Warrants and Patents
Part B - Land transactions

Appendix XVI. Notes on Atherold family pedigree

A. Antiquarian sources
B. Primary sources
C. Endnotes to Appendix XVI

Appendix XVII. Some Atherold family wills

Will of Thomas Atherold II of Burgh 1614
Will of Nathaniel Atherold of Hasketon, gentleman 1653
Will of Thomas Atherold III of Gray's Inn, esquire 1655
Will of John Atherold of Freston, gentleman 1657
Will of Thomas Atherold IV of Burgh, gentleman 1665

Appendix XVIII. Atherold entries in the Burgh and Hasketon parish registers 1538-1666

N.B. The endnotes in Appendix I are extensive and include a considerable amount of editorial comment. Readers may therefore find it convenient to open a second window at the endnotes for ease of reference.

D. J. French 2013