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 Pryor DNA 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 FTDNA.com, 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 Ancestry.com (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 FTDNA.com. He could also post his test results on Ysearch.org 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)

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