Category Archives: Brick Walls

Mrs Elizabeth Pryor Lewis – Can we match her to a family?

A few years ago I wrote about an Elizabeth Prior who became a victim of a bigamist and serial killer.


I recently came across a photo of her in a New York newspaper. The account in the the Daily News on April 30, 1919 is that Huirt was the accused killer; he had married 7 women in 10 months and 5 of them were missing. Is this the same case?– the man in San Quentin was named Watson or Lewis or something else! The account in the Daily News reported he married women also under the names of Harvey and Hilton. Perhaps his prison record sheet was too small to add all of his alias.

The story gets even wilder in other newspapers. The Akron Evening Times had more room to print the story (slow news day?), reporting Huirt married 25 women and also used the surname Gordon.

I haven’t matched Miss Pryor to her family.

Have I Solved My Pryor Genealogy Brick Wall?

Albemarle County Courthouse IMG_2603

I’m pretty excited this morning because through all the Virginia records research I have finally discovered the opening in my Pryor “brick wall.”

A Recap. I’m descended through Allen L. Pryor of Sumner County, TN. Through his Goodspeed biography I know his parents were Massa Taylor and John Pryor. I found their marriage record in Campbell County, VA and have traced them on census records in Sumner County. The Goodspeed biography says that Allen was born in White Co., TN although I’ve never found a record of his family in that county. I know too from an 1830’s lawsuit that mentions both families, that my Pryors are connected to William Pryor of Overton Co., TN who was married to Massa Taylor’s sister, Spicy Taylor.

The Starting Point. The first and most obvious link that ties John Pryor to William Pryor are their wives who were sisters. The couples were both married in Campbell Co, VA: John and Massa in 1812, and William and Spicy in 1809. Both men and their respective wives were mentioned in the 1824 will of Edmund Taylor which was also filed in Campbell County.

Ty, a distant Pryor cousin, long ago found a deed in Campbell County that mentions both John and William Pryor as the sons of a deceased John Pryor. So, as of yesterday I was certain that John and William were brothers and that one of the many John Pryors from Virginia was their father, but which one?

The Missing Link. As I went through the records I’ve added to the website, I saw numerous connections to Abraham Childers/Childres/Childress.

• 1747 – In the inventory of David Pryor filed in Goochland Co. Court, guardianship of his son also a David Pryor, given to Abraham Childres. Samuel Taylor was the security (an April 1759 deed to from Samuel Taylor to Jame Gillam states Samuel was the son of Richard Taylor)
• 1747 – Deed dated 15 Sep 1747, George Carrington deeds for 17.10 to John & David Pryor, sons of David Pryor deceased, 250 acres, land falling in Goochland and Albemarle. bounded by Phineas Glover, Isaac Bates, Abraham Childres & Richard Taylor
• 1759 – A deed in Albemarle County states that land owned by John Cannon was bounded by property owned by Abraham Childers and John Pryor.
• 1759 – Deed dated 22 Jan 1759 From Samuel Taylor of the county of Cumberland to John Meadors of the same county for 50 lbs., about 305 A. on the branches of Mill Branch in the county aforesaid, and part of a tract of land granted to Richard Taylor by patent dated August 20, 1745 containing 1200 A., and the said 305 A. of land is bounded southerly by the said Samuel Taylor, westerly by James GILLIAM, northerly by James Daniel and easterly by land belonging to the estate of James Nevel, deceased, and Philip Mayo.
• 1763/64 – Also in Albemarle County, Abraham Childers named his grandson David Pryor in his will. The will was probated in 1764.
• 1782 Will in Cumberland Co., VA for George Carrington Jr. mentions land he purchased from John Pryor and Samuel Taylor (Samuel was married to Sophia Childers, Abraham’s daughter)

The links from Abraham Childers to John and David Pryor, sons of David Pryor are pretty clear, and even their connection to Samuel Taylor, son of a Richard Taylor but what connects them to the John Pryor and Edmund Taylor who appear later in Campbell County records?

The Bow Who Ties Them All Together. My conclusion is that the John Pryor in Cumberland and Albemarle counties is the same John Pryor who was in Campbell County in the 1780’s. I think Sarah Woodson is the person who ties these families together. Sarah was married to Judge Creed Taylor, a son of Samuel Taylor of Albemarle County. Sarah was the niece of John Woodson and the cousin of Anderson Woodson. Samuel Taylor left a paper trail—Edmund Taylor didn’t leave a lot of records, but my “ah-ha” moment was when I realized that Anderson Woodson Jr. was the executor of Edmund Taylor’s estate in Campbell County.

Estimating Ages and Births. I played the age game from records trying to figure out relationships.

John Pryor and David Pryor. The wills and land records indicate that John and David Pryor were the sons of a David Pryor who married one of Abraham Childres’ daughters (her name is lost to history so far). The younger David Pryor must have still been in his minority in 1747 when Abraham Childers was appointed his guardian, making David born somewhere around 1740, plus or minus a few years. I think it’s safe to assume that John was the oldest of the sons and that he was born around 1725 as he was probably an adult in 1747. That would mean David Pryor Sr. was born about 1700 or at the end of the 1600’s. Wow! I don’t have a David Pryor in my database that originates that far back!

Samuel Taylor and Edmund Taylor. I don’t believe they were brothers. Samuel married Sofia Childers in 1744. If Samuel was 20 when he married he may have been born around 1725. Edmund Taylor was on the 1820 Census in Campbell County. The census reflects that he born before 1775, yet from subsequent census and other records we know his first child, Hezekiah, was born about 1793, so it’s likely that Edmund wasn’t born too long before 1775. If Edmund was born about 1770, it’s likely that Samuel who was about 40 to 45 years old was his father or perhaps an uncle.

Associated Lines? I don’t believe our ancestors dropped out of the sky. I know that skillful sleuthing and measured calculations can help to link people to the correct branches of a family line. My gut tells me that Nicholas Pryor of Amherst County is closely connected to David Pryor and his sons David and John.

Nicholas Pryor served in the militia and his brother William stated on his Revolutionary War affidavit that he was born in Albemarle County. Nicholas received payment for time served in the Militia in Abemarle County in 1756 while John Pryor (son of David Pryor) was recorded on a deed in the same county in 1759.
Nicholas Pryor was counted in Amherst County in 1784. John Pryor and David Pryor were also in Amherst County in 1784.
• The Granite Monthly, Vol 42 stated that Capt. Daniel Pryor built a palatial residence in Amherst Co. in 1798 yet I can find no other records of a Daniel Pryor in that county. Yet, there is a David Pryor on the 1800 Tax list for Amherst County. Was ancient handwriting misread, substituting Daniel for David?

Did John Pryor Move On? I’m intrigued by the will filed by George Carrington in Fayette County , KY in 1782 mentioning land he purchased from John Pryor and Samuel Taylor in Cumberland County, VA. In 1783 there was a John Pryor in Fayette Co. who owned 6000 acres. Was this the same man who was Amherst County, Cumberland County, and was in Campbell Co., VA from 1785 to at least 1790?

Where did David Sr. and Nicholas Pryor Come From? I’ve seen many unsourced trees that state Nicholas Pryor immigrated from Scotland or was the son of a Scottish immigrant. I’m not ready to commit to that yet. The guardianship papers for David Pryor Jr. were filed in Goochland County, which makes me lean to Goochland County as a place that David Sr. lived and perhaps David Jr and his brother John were born. I haven’t been able to find any stray David Pryors in Goochland records, however there is a Daniel Pryor born 1703 (son of Robert Pryor and Betty Virginia Green). Again I’m wondering if there’s a transcription issue with the names David and Daniel.

While this may feel like a beautiful ending, I sense this is the beginning of a lot more research!

Lost Ancestors II – Solving Genealogy Mysteries by Finding Americans in Unexpected Places

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When we think of American migration in the mid-1800’s, the imagination often wanders to images of wagon trains and pioneer families trudging westward across the plains.  “Westward, Ho” was a reality, a great migration spurred by the opening of new territories and the California Gold Rush. Our “one-way” vision of migration toward only the west has been perpetuated by Hollywood movies.  The reality was not so tidy.

Our ancestors actually the ability to travel in all directions! The first steamboat on the Mississippi, the major North-South waterway, was launched in 1811. The first transcontinental -railroad was completed in 1869 and connected the east to the west.  From the 16th century onward ships crossed the Atlantic bringing new immigrants to the US and American visitors to the Old World.  Sure people migrated to isolated homesteads on the Great Plains, however others flocked to the small towns that grew on rivers and rail lines. With various modes of transport in place, our ancestors were more mobile than their film stereotypes.

For almost ten years I’ve been engaged in a surname research project (Tennessee Pryors). I continue to be amazed at how far people traveled and where they went causing them to disappear from the census and other public records for years at a time.  When you can’t find an ancestor in an expected location, then, try searching records for the unexpected places I’ve discovered.

Eastward, Ho! For some pioneers life in the frontier was just too unforgiving. When crops failed and homesickness set in, some of our ancestors went back to their eastern homes. Some cautious folks when faced with the uncertainty of what was in store for them in the Wild West, never sold their eastern land. So, just because an ancestor was found in the west and then disappears from records, don’t discount their possible return to their original community or nearby areas.  Pay attention to birthplaces on the census: while investigating a family in Virginia I found one of their children was born in Missouri. That opened the door to finding them on Missouri census records.

Washington, DC. When you know a family was educated and held social prominence you may find them in Washington, DC or surrounding areas. Like today, successful families gave back to their community by running for political office.  If in doubt, Wikipedia has numerous lists of political offices and who has held them.

France, Mexico, and Indian Territory: Before Louis and Clark, St. Louis was a pioneer town in the part of France (and for a time Spain) that would become the State of Missouri. More than 20 years before the Mexican War and the annexation of Texas, Stephen Austin took a group of American pioneers into an area of Mexico that wouldn’t become Texas until after the fall of the Alamo. Other pioneers headed into Indian Territory to establish homesteads or trading posts.  Sites like the Missouri Secretary of State Digital Heritage have some territorial records.  Often records are in the form of letters to territorial governors or land grants that have yet to be translated from Spanish or French, nor have they been transcribed into digital documents, so a meticulous search is needed to find reference to these pioneer families.

Travel Abroad: One family I research appeared to be lost from the census records. They were in the South up to the 1860 census and then they were gone. It wasn’t until I playfully searched the UK Census that I found them. Business had caused the family to move abroad. The UK Census provided the clue and subsequent searches of ships’ manifests and passenger lists gave the details of their return to the US—landing and setting in the North after the Civil War. The Canadian Border Crossing records on Ancestry are also helpful to the researcher.

Lost ancestors? All are not lost! With some diligent detective work in the unexpected places, you may find ancestors who you thought were missing.

Melungeon Pryors and DNA Testing

Ooops. I scheduled the wrong article to be sent today. Appologies if you received the incomplete article. The correct article on the Pryors is below……

Recently I was curious to see if there has been DNA developments in tracing the Melungeons. If you haven’t encountered the Melungeons yet in your genealogy quest there are some good websites to introduce the topic ( is the place to start and provides other websites to explore).  I wondered, “Hmmm, are there any Pryors who were Melungeons?” So I Googled.

I found on a list of a 1786 Tax List of Botetourt County. It’s described as West Virginia, however 1786 was more than a half century before West Virginia became a state.  While there are no Pryors on the list, several families lived in the Pryor District.

Also came up with a 1755 list of people of color in Granville Co., NC. On the list is Joe, Robin, and Tener Pryor. I’m assuming these were Free Blacks. Where did they go? Did their name carry on into future generations?

There are lists of inherited Melungeon traits (some correct, some not so correct) that people use as indicators of Melungeon heritage. I like the article on that explains the traits and concludes that DNA testing is even inconclusive because of mixed racial and ethnic heritage.


I’ve realized that to get to the root of my Pryor line I need to do genetic testing. It’s a male line, so I won’t be able to take the test (the only downside of being a girl). I’m offering to pay for male genetic testing through for a male descendant of ALLEN L. PRYOR of Sumner County, TN. You need to be a male from the male line of Allen L. Pryor. Contact me and I’ll order the test and have it sent to you. Let’s finally connect our line to other Pryors!

If you have a similar offer for to resolve your Pryor line feel free to click on the title of this article and then list your offer in the COMMENT area on this page.

Joseph D. Pryor of Sumner Co., TN

It’s been a while since my last post and quite a bit longer since posting on my own Pryor line.

My line are the Pryors of Sumner County, TN. My great-great-grandfather was Allen L. Pryor who was the son of John and Massy Pryor and kin to the Pryors in Overton Co., TN. In 1870 Jospeph Pryor aged 15 shows up in the household of Allen L. Joseph was counted after the younger Pryor children, indicating he may have been a relative staying in the household.

On the 1860 Census I found a Joseph Pryor aged 5 living in the household of Massy Pryor in District 11, while Allen L. Pryor was living in District 12. Other Pryors living in District 11 were the children of William Pryor and Margaret Curry in house 17, Phereba Pryor of Overton County in house 104, Eliza or Louisa Pryor who was married to David McCullough in house 108 next door to her mother Massy in house 107.

Massy’s household in 1860:
House 107 Massy PRIAR 60, Betsy 40, Samuel 26, Joseph 5, Samuel 8

I’ve suspected that Betsy aged 40 was a daughter in law. In 1850 Massy was again counted as a head of household in Sumner Co.
House 96 Massa PRYOR 50 VA, Jonathan 25, Elizabeth 28, Samuel 15
The older Elizabeth counted after Jonathan seems in keeping with children recorded by census takers most frequently in chronological order and spouses, and non-related individuals added after family members on the census record. Samuel Pryor is a known son of Massy and John Pryor. Jonathan is probably a son named after his father.

In 1850 and 1860 he was recorded in Massey Pryor’s household. On December 14, 1865 Samuel married Susan F. Cardwell. This marriage appears short-lived; in 1870 he was living on his own. I have not yet found a marriage record, but the census records state he married a woman named “Ann Kate” in about 1870. Their marriage lasted more than 30 years. At the time of Samuel’s death after 1900, he had no children, naming in his will his McCulley and Pryor nieces and nephews as his heirs. Therefore, I’m fairly certain that neither Joseph nor Samuel on th 1860 Census are children of Samuel Pryor.

I think the best bet is that Jonathan and Elizabeth were the parents parents of Joseph and Samuel. The young Samuel (born 1852) seems to disappear after the 1860 Census. In 1870 Jospeh was living with his probably uncle Allen L. Pryor. Elizabeth was living in District 11 in 1870, surrounded by kin George Pryor, Eliza Pryor McCullough, Pleasant Taylor.

In 1880 Joseph Pryor aged 25 was counted as J. D. Pryor living in Dist 10 of Sumner County, working in the Albright family as a farm laborer. Joseph has not been found on the 1900.

And that’s where the trail ends. Has anyone stumbled upon Joseph and more information about him?