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Emma Read Ball Genealogical Research Files

Identifier: A-ERB

Scope and Contents

At the time of her death, Mrs. Ball was preparing to publish a book on the life and ancestry of Mary Ball Washington. She struggled during her later years, however, and never completed the project. A portion of the research files she used for this project are represented in this collection. Mount Vernon received this material from Alison Burdick, Vice Regent for Delaware, sometime around March 1965 after she sorted through the collection and weeded some of its content. A report written by Mrs. Burdick (now copied and filed with this collection) explains how the papers were organized when she received them, what type of information was contained in them, and why she disposed of “80-85% of the material.” The majority of the collection consists of notes, transcriptions, and genealogical tables or charts drafted by Mrs. Ball while researching. Several letters and clippings are also interspersed throughout. Most of the notes and compilation of the collection probably occurred circa 1911-1912 when she visited England, however, the letters and clippings have varied dates.


  • compiled ca. 1911-1912


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research during scheduled appointments. Researchers must complete the Washington Library’s Special Collections and Archives Registration Form before access is provided. The library reserves the right to restrict access to certain items for preservation purposes.

Biographical / Historical

Emma Read was born in February 1838 in New York, the only daughter of the Rev. Dr. Charles Henry Read and his wife Tryphena Walker. Her father was a Connecticut native and ordained for the Presbyterian ministry in New York in 1843. In 1849 he became the pastor of a church in Richmond, Virginia where he would serve for nearly 50 years. Emma Read was married to Charles Burgess Ball, a young attorney, in 1862. Ball was the great-grandson of Frances Washington, the daughter of the first President’s brother, Charles Washington. This connection made Emma Read Ball the great-great-grandniece of George Washington by marriage. The young couple made their home near Leesburg, Virginia, the seat of the Ball family, and became the parents of five sons. Mr. Ball served in the Virginia Legislature throughout the 1850s and in the Commonwealth’s Senate during the Civil War years. He was elected Loudon County judge in 1870, serving with distinction until 1880 when he moved his family to Richmond. In 1874 Emma Read Ball was appointed Vice Regent for Virginia by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, filling the seat left vacant by the sudden death of Mrs. Thomas Francis Mason. Along with Mrs. Lawrence William Washington, the Vice Regent for West Virginia, she provided important family ties to Mount Vernon’s original owners. Mrs. Ball was instrumental in the MVLA’s pursuit to bring original Washington furnishings back to Mount Vernon, helping to negotiate the return of the Washington bedstead, his surveyor’s compass and staff, and his shaving stand. Mrs. Ball also defended the MVLA against the “Anti-Fee Association” which argued against fees to visit Mount Vernon. She penned a rebuttal to a Richmond Times editorial explaining how fees for entry paid for the maintenance and care of the estate. When a Virginia Legislative bill was drafted attempting to make the fees illegal, Mrs. Ball went to the Senate chamber and addressed the assembly in defense of the MVLA. After expressing a strong interest in the Ball family history and genealogy, Mrs. Ball prepared a report on the subject for the MVLA’s Council session in 1911. The Association voted to send Mrs. Ball to England to conduct further research. She made the journey and successfully gathered considerable information, particularly in the collections of Somerset House in London. She wrote the popular booklet Washington’s Home and the Story of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, which first appeared in 1912. It was printed and sold to visitors on the estate for a nickel. Mrs. Ball continued to remain active at Mount Vernon and attended Spring Council just months before her death. She passed away on October 7, 1918 at the home of a relative in Waynesboro, Virginia. At the time of her passing, she had served Mount Vernon for a remarkable 44 years and had also served for many years as a vice president for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. She is buried in Richmond’s historic Hollywood Cemetery. The flag at Mount Vernon was flown at half-mast on the day of her funeral. (


1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is arranged alphabetically by family name, with miscellaneous and general information filed at the end by subject.

Related Materials

General collection: - Ball Family Tree CS71.B2 1900 - Virginia Ball Family immigrants, with key allied and collateral families CS71.B2 2009 - Ball Family of Virginia’s Northern Neck CS71.B2 1990 - Colonel William Ball of Virginia, the great-grandfather of Washington CS71.B2 1928 - Washington’s Home and the Story of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union by Emma Read Ball, 1912, 1915 - Papers of the MVLA

Emma Read Ball Genealogical Research Files
Rebecca Baird
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Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Repository

PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121 USA