The 7 Children of John and Massey Pryor – Another Look

Allen L Pryor

I’ve been going back and forth to the History of Tennessee From the Earliest Time to The Present, Goodspeed Publishing Co. The Sumner County book has a bio of Allen L. Pryor (photograph above), published while he was alive in 1887. He states that he was one of 7 children of John Pryor and Massey Taylor. With recent records and revelations from DNA testing, we need to revisit the list of children attributed to this union (see bio).

William Pryor b. 1820 (tester #1 in previous posts) married in Sumner County, divorced in Sumner County, and was reported as a Sumner County resident who died en route to the California Gold Rush. His family stayed in close proximity to Allen L. Pryor. When Allen L. Pryor’s daughter, Betty Pryor Gregory, died– William’s grand-daughter became the second wife of Betty’s widower, Thomas Gregory.

William has long been included in our family tree and counted as the 8th child of John and Massey– assuming that Allen had not counted himself when counting siblings for his biography. It’s  beginning to look like there was no problem in Allen’s counting and that William was not a sibling, at least by birth. The following are the 7 children who through paper evidence DO tie directly to John and Massey Pryor.

1. Allen L. Pryor born Mar 1816. Allen states in his Goodspeed “vanity” bio that he was the son of John and Massey Pryor. When Massey died in 1867 he acted as the executor of her estate. John Pryor did not leave a will and no deeds have been found. If there was a namesake for Allen, he is not yet known.

2. Elizabeth Louisa Pryor born abt. 1822. Louisa married David McCulley/McCullough in 1850. Louisa purchased items from the estate of Massey Pryor in 1867. The children of Louisa Pryor McCulley were named in a deed which was part of the estate of Samuel Pryor b. 1835 [Sumner County, TN, Deed Book Volume 88, Page 63. Dated 28 October 1907, registered 12 February 1921]**, AS WELL AS the children of Allen L Pryor. Elizabeth may have been named for Massey’s mother Elizabeth Garrett who was daughter of Louisa Bernard.

3. Edward Pryor who died 1846 in the Mexican War and memorialized on the monument in Gallatin City Cemetery. Edward was unmarried at the time of his death, no record of land ownership exists, and he was never named on a census record. The best evidence of his relationship to Allen L. is that his name and the monument inscription was recorded in a very old diary that belonged to Allen L. Pryor. Edward’s possible namesake was Edmund/Edward Taylor, the father of Massey Taylor Pryor.

4. Jonathan Pryor born 1822-1824. He was living in Massey Pryor’s household on the 1850 Census. This is NOT the Jonathan Pryor who married Eliza Beasley and was in Nashville Prison. I suspect that Johnathan and his possible wife Elizabeth were the parents of the Joseph Pryor who was living with Massey in 1860. This Joseph D. Pryor lived with Allen L. Pryor after Massey’s death and was in his household on the 1870 and 1880 Census.

5. George W. Pryor born 1826-1828. James Wesley and Monroe Pryor, sons of George were also named in the 1907 deed mentioned in #2 above.

6. Alfred Pryor b. 1828. Alfred died at age 22 of typhus. His death is recorded on the 1850 Mortality Schedule. Alfred left a small estate and Allen L. Pryor was appointed administrator of the estate.

7. Samuel D. Pryor b. Feb 1835. In 1850 and 1860 he was counted in the household of Massey Pryor. After his death, the deed for his land mentioned in #2 above names his heirs.

** It should be noted that in the estate deed for Samuel D. Pryor names of children are referenced for all his siblings (these are Samuel’s nieces and nephews): Allen L., Louisa, George W. However, the children of Jonathan were not named (were they deceased?) nor were the children of William Pryor b. 1820. All of William’s children were very much alive in 1907, and one was still living in 1921 when the deed was filed. All of William’s children lived and died in Sumner County. The exclusion of William’s children may be the best evidence that he was not one of Allen L. Pryor’s siblings.

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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PRYOR DNA: part 3 – The DNA Wish List

wishlistMy wish list of testers has changed and it’s also now prioritized.

1. John and Massey of Sumner Co., TN. If you are a male descended from this line we need you to test! Allen L. Pryor is a “proven” son of John and Massa with male descendants.
Who should test? Allen L. Pryor (a proven son of John and Massey) had several sons—John Edward Pryor stayed in Sumner County, TN and I’ve communicated through the years with several Pryors in the Gallatin area. Lycurgus Pryor and his brother William Thomas Pryor went to Texas and settled near Farmersville. Please contact me through the website link if you are interested in testing

2. A male Pryor from the line of James Calvin Pryor of Graves County, KY. James is the only proven son of Richard and Mourning Pryor (at least they’re listed as his parents on his death record). It would be a boon to all TN Pryors to  have a tester from this line in the Pryor Project on FTDNA– it would help to rule in and rule out relationships to Richard Pryor. If a male Pryor from this line has already done a Y-DNA test, can you let us know so we can figure out a way to compare tests results?

3. James and Nancy of Overton County, TN.  I’ll be doing a separate post on this line. There are numerous female descendants of this line who would very much like to know who James Pryor was related to. James may very well be related to William/Spicy of the same county or he may from a completely different line all together. The point is that the paper trail has dried up and Y-DNA testing is needed to crack this riddle.
Who should test? We’ve ID’d men who descend from James’ son Pleasant Pryor. Pleas, as he was known, migrated to Texas. Descendants from this line have been located in Texas and California.

4. David Pryor and Susannah Ballow – Testing from this line would help unravel some of the mystery of the Pryor relationships in VA and TN. Plus, how cool would it be to find out you’re related to President Thomas Jefferson by marriage?
Who should test? Descendents of this line lived in Maxwell and Grimes in Colusa County, CA since the time just after the Gold Rush. I know of a descendant who recently passed away on the East Coast.

5Harris from Knox Co., TN – Recent posts have elaborated on the Knox County line or lines of Pryors. There may have been two or more Pryor families in Knox Co., some descending from the line of Joseph Pryor of Botetourt County, VA and others from Harris Pryor of Bedford County and Prince Edward County in VA.
Who should test? I think the line we are looking at for testing were in Blount County, TN. There’s a memorial for Millard Pryor who’s buried in Maryville, TN. Can we get a descendant to test?

Y-DNA testing from these lines would not only sort out my family tree (hopefully!), but the testing could  help to untangle the spaghetti of Pryor families in TN.

About Pryor Y-DNA Testing

There are more than 60 male Pryors who have tested on Family Tree DNA ( The results can be viewed online. Testing is anonymous, painless, and simple– they are identified only by the test number.  If you purchase a test through this link (it’s not an affiliate link, I don’t make any referral fees) you’ll be part of the Pryor project and save $20 on testing. The 111 marker test is the highest level of testing, however 67 markers is enough to show kinship.

I know there are many ladies like myself who are interested in our Pryor genealogy and disappointed that we can’t test (it must be a male with the surname Pryor, not through a known adoption).  We can reach out to our brothers, cousins, nephews, uncles, fathers and grand-children.  Don’t put off testing  because of the confusing science of DNA — there are many really nice Pryors who are part of the Pryor DNA project at who are willing to share their genealogy and share their knowledge of DNA results.

If you are interesting in learning more about the Pryor surname project or DNA testing, please feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to answer questions.

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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PRYOR DNA RESULTS: Part 2 William Pryor and Spicy Taylor of Overton County, TN

from the book "The Orphan," published in Edinburgh, Scotland 1841

It’s been so hard to find testers I feel blessed that we actually had two male Pryors test for the line of William Pryor and wife Spicy Taylor at the same time. Two testers and two very different results.

The first tester is who I’ve referred to in my prior post (no pun intended) as Tester #3. He is descended through the line of Overton Pryor, the first born son of William and Spicy.

The second tester is descended through Chesley Pryor, named presumably for Chesley Taylor a brother of Spicy Taylor. Chesley Pryor was the last known son of William and Spicy. Chesley was living at home at the time of the 1850 census and was counted in the household of Spicy Taylor.

It was surprising, but not stunning, when this second tester didn’t match to the other tester for William Pryor’s line. The second tester didn’t have any Pryor surnames in his results on, so that casts strong doubt on whether he’s descended from a Pryor line.

Some time ago a female Pryor, descended from Chesley, did the autosomal DNA test on (aka the “Ancestry DNA” test).  One of my kids took take the same test. While I  had several hits on Taylors and Garretts (the line of Spicy Taylor and her sister Massey Taylor), my test didn’t match to this female tester. Regardless of our Pryor ancestry, if we were related, we should match on our common Taylor ancestors: Spicy Taylor and Massey Taylor.

The male Y-DNA tester for William/Chesely’s line ALSO took the same autosomal test. His only Pryor match was to the female tester mentioned above.

So we  have a male Y-DNA test and a autosomal test from the line of Chesley Pryor who doesn’t match the other Y-DNA test for William and Spicy, nor does he match known autosomal testers for  John and Massey. One of the first questions we asked was where the break in the Pryor DNA line occurred — Did Spicy have a child with another man? If Spicy was Chesley’s mother then despite who his father was, Spicy’s DNA would be passed down through Chesley.  The autosomal tests indicates Spicy’s DNA is not likely passed down through this line.

So that means there are at least two intriguing scenarios of who Chesley was and who his children were. The first scenario is that William and Spicy took in a foundling or orphan. The autosomal tests would indicate that this child was not related to either adoptive parent. The child was integrated into the family and given a family name: Chesley.

It would be odd if the break came during the time of Chesley. The male Y-DNA tester is from the line of Chesley’s 1st son Parker while the female autosomal tester was from the line of Chesley’s 3rd son John. These sons were 6 years apart in ages with another son in between (Charles Lavander). John was not on the 1860 census, but was in Chesley’s household on the 1870 census. That would mean that children were adopted from the same parents over time. That can happen, but it seems to be of a lower probability than the first scenario.

If Chesley’s children were not fathered by Chesley, there are several possibilities and some work would need to be done to figure things out.

  • The female autosomal tester could find someone descended from Chesley’s son John to take a Y-DNA test. That test may show if Parker and John were fathered by the same person.
  • They could find a Y-DNA tester from the line of Chesley’s other son, Charles Lavander Pryor. This is a “wild card”. Perhaps that tester would match the tester for William and Spicey’s line. Perhaps this tester would match the Y-DNA tester for Parker Pryor.
  • The tester for Parker Pryor could upgrade his Y-DNA test to see if he matches at a higher level to a different surname on He could also post his test results on to see if he matches other testers who’ve tested through other companies.

The Overton County Pryors are not alone in the tales of orphans in Pryor households. Families shrunk in size due to a cholera epidemic and a generally high mortality. Census records seem to show young Pryor males living and doing farm work in other households. The Pryors in Overton County didn’t own slaves, so perhaps taking in children helped with getting the farm work done. William and Spicy’s marriage was recorded in the Quaker Marriages in Virginia, so perhaps taking in children was part of their Quaker beliefs. The scenario of taking in orphans may also explain William Pryor b. 1820 who was recorded among the Pryors, Taylors, and Talleys in Sumner County. Were William and Chesley boys that the Pryors took in and raised as their own?

Regardless what is done with further DNA testing, Pryors  who descende from Chesley Pryor will want to dig deeper into the paper trail. Gather together your family birth records, death records, and wills to see who is named and how they are named.  It’s time to re-check court records for adoptions or guardianship agreements. There’s an explanation out there!

(Top of page: illustration from the book “The Orphan,” published in Edinburgh, Scotland 1841)

Vanessa Wood © 2005 - 2014
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