Category Archives: DNA

Autosomal DNA: Separating Two Pryor Lines

The kids are back in school and it’s time to get back to Pryor research.

Sometimes mixed up family lines help to solve each other. I recently was looking at the Ancestry DNA (autosomal) results for a test kit that matches one of my own. This tester is descended from the line of Allen L Pryor of Sumner County, TN through his son William. The interesting thing about William is that he married a woman who was the grand-daughter of a Pryor: Absolem Bostic Pryor born about 1797 in NC. 

My tester matches to my kit as approximately a 5th cousin which works out correctly on paper if Allen L Pryor is our common relative.  If we were related also through the line of Absolem Bostic Pryor, then this cousin who tested would have more Pryor DNA than expected.  

Surnames and geography don’t prove out a family tree. I’ve seen some sloppy Ancestry trees where people see a surname in a geographic area and wrongly assume that everyone using the name in their family tree must be related.  Or even when someone finds their ancestor in one state and wrongly assumes that someone living in another state can’t be related.

So, if the DNA doesn’t point to a connection between these two Pryor families and Absolem has been placed in family trees that stem from “North Carolina” Pryors that haven’t converged with the line that includes Allen L Pryor, then I’d have to suggest that unless there’s a story of an adoption or other story that can explain the DNA — these two lines aren’t related.

The Generation Gap in Autosomal DNA Testing

I’ve been asked again, “How far back will DNA testing take me?” That’s a great question with kind of a complicated answer.

Autosomal testing is the kind of DNA test that both women and men can take. It’s offered as AncestryDNA and Family Finder on FTDNA.com. FTDNA is pretty clear about the possibilities (or the glass is half empty side) of testing.  FTNDA says it will match up within 5 generations (see their site).

I’ve been pretty lucky I guess because on Ancestry I’ve had some pretty good matches at 6th generation.

How does it get complicated? Well this weekend I searched an unusual surname in the Ancestry results and came up with someone by that name. The were a wishy-washy “GOOD” ranking in the results. That didn’t seem very promising, but I reached out to them anyhow. Sure enough, we pieced together we were related.

If we are related why did we have only a “GOOD” result? Genetic distance plays a role. Our shared ancestor is 3 generations from me and 7 generations from my match!

The size of the Generation Gap also plays a role. My branch of the family tree has children every 40 years (not the accepted norm of about 20 years per generation. My match’s branch has children within the 20 year generations. I drew out a chart to show how far we’re separated because of the length of our generations. My great grandfather is this person’s great-great-great-great grandfather. That’s right the “Shared” ancestor in each line of the chart is the same person.

As a child I’d spend sick days home from school with my grandpa and hear stories of the old days and he was able to tell me who was whom in family photos. I’m a link to the past for my match that they never expected when testing. It’s a match I wasn’t expecting

It helps to reach out to results to see how you may be connected.

If had known that autosomal testing was limited to perhaps 5 generations, I would have asked all of my oldest relatives to test!

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Generations Shown in Pryor AncestryDNA Testing

Another observation came out of the Ancestry DNA. The first test submitted was for one of my kids. They were a willing subject and it seemed like a keen way to find out more about BOTH sides of their family tree. After a productive telephone chat with another researcher I decided to submit my own test.

What a difference a generation can make! My results included matches that weren’t even in my daughter’s results.

FTDA’s Family Finder autosomal test projects results back to 5 generations. AncestryDNA claims results may show results back to 8 generations, but their own graph shows how little common DNA they’re working with at that point. https://www.ancestry.com/dna/learn

One of the testers who descends from William and Spicy Pryor can claim them as their 5th great grandparents. They are separated by 7 generations. The hope of shedding light on their connection to earlier generations which may include kin of Edmund Taylor, Elizabeth Garrett, or any Pryors is quite slim.

There’s a couple ways to make AncestryDNA work for research.

Not just a concept from my results (you’ll hear others online make this recommendation). Test yourself AND also test your oldest relatives.

When looking at your results zero in on matching test who are the LEAST number of generations from your most distant relative you’re searching. For example, the test I mentioned above claims William and Spicy as their 5th great grandparents. Other kits claim them as 3rd and 4th great grandparents.

Ancestry rates their matches as Extremely High, High, Good and Moderate. I found that testers who were connected to a common 3rd great grandparent were “Extremely High” but when comparing to a tester who shared the same ancestor, but at the 5th great grandparent distance, our relationship was rated as “Good”. None of the results on my now long and slightly unwieldy chart were rated as “Moderate”.

So I pass on this cheeky advice: if you’re old or have an even older relative… test ’em!

 

 

Status of FTDNA Pryor DNA Project

dna testing 2On 9/25/15 I un-volunteered as the administrator of the Family Tree DNA Pryor project. The project started as a fascinating experience — many great Pryors who were interested in their genetic genealogy and I had results that helped to define my own Pryor line. So why did I decide to leave?

There are loopholes in how the FTDNA projects are structured and secured. I was not provided the tools, assistance, and cooperation to fix these issues. Also, these issues have caused me to remove the test kits I purchased.

My understanding is that FTDNA will appoint a new administrator shortly. If you have any queries about a test kit or if you are interested in testing, please contact the project administrator (a FTDNA staff member is the temporary contact) listed on the FTDNA Pryor “website” https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/pryor/about. Please do not contact me as I have no affiliation with the project nor will I recommend testing.

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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 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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