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The George Washington Grandma Mystery

There is a "Montague Mystery" in regard to George Washington's maternal grandmother. Although some traditional Montague sources seem convinced this woman was not a Montague, it appears many others are convinced otherwise, including modern maternal-side Ball genealogists. A recent book by historian William Randall, who had access to Ball family records, puts it this way:

"At twenty-two she was already considered virtually a spinster--girls in Virginia usually married by eighteen. Mary Ball had gone to London to be introduced into English society. On her illiterate mother's side she was a Montague, a member of a famous landed family. George Washington's mother, Mary Ball, was only three years old when her father died. She was taken to her stepfather's farm at Yeocomico, Virginia."

Somewhat tantalizing, I believe records indicate that among Mary Lady Wortley Montagu's effects was property of George Washington...

For additional information, see George Washington: A Life, by William Sterne Randall, 1997, a John Macrae/Owl book, Henry Holt and Co., NY. This appears to be a scholarly autobiography. Randall is unequivocal about the Montague link, with George's grandmother on his mother's side being an illiterate "frontier" Montague woman:

"Few mothers of American presidents have been praised or vilified more than Mary Ball Washington...

The first Ball family came to America in 1657, the same year John Washington emigrated. The Balls, also royalists, sailed into exile with their entire household, family, and servants....

The first of William and Mary Ball's children was George Washington's mother, Mary Ball. ...

Mary Ball had had gone to London to be introduced into English society. On her illiterate mother's side she was a Montague, a member of a famous landed family..."

Randall cites a Ball family genealogy as his source and notes that at the time it was not that unusual for a woman from the frontier to be illiterate (not to mention that surely there are things like dyslexia, etc.).

The context about all this is informative. The Washingtons were from Northamptonshire, the same as a prominent branch of the Montagu/es. These events were triggered by the English Civil War (Cromwell and the Puritans against the traditional royalists). The Washington's had a royal government career similar to the Northamptonshire Montagu/es. Both families were involved with King Charles' administration and (mostly) sided with King Charles. When he lost, both families, among numerous others, fled to Virginia. Virginia had declared itself to be a royalist stronghold during the English Civil war, unlike the north (New England), which was more Puritan than the English Puritans!

Read Randall's first chapter online at:

See also:
Does anybody know anything more about the history of the Montague seal that Robert mentions in message 343?

Other Resources:

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