Category Archives: Genealogy

Buyer Beware of Pryor Books That Won’t Help Your Genealogy Search

Ugh, last week someone posted a tartan online that they professed was the plaid for all people by that surname (it wasn’t Pryor). Alas, if you look at the FTDNA YDNA results for that surname there are many DNA haplogroups of that name — some who never even put a toe near Scotland.

So there’s a Pryor Family Heritage Book for sale on Ebay. There’s already some people watching this auction. If you want to explore it here’s the link

Before you get too excited by the book and auction, I’d like to share a bit about these books. I’m not very excited by it because it’s just as authentic as a clan tartan without DNA or written records to back it up. Here’s a description of these books by Beatrice Bayley (is that even a real person?): “…the only difference between this book with your special surname and the thousands of others sold over the years is a printout of a dozen or more pages of names and addresses lifted from telephone directories. Phone numbers are even omitted.” The description goes on to describe buyers as “unsuspecting” and lumps the books in with “fraudulent family histories”. This description is even more stunning when you realize it’s the seller who’s describing the book in these terms!

I’ve bought my share of Genealogy junk through the years. It pays to do some homework– even just Googling the name of the author and/or title. I also like to check out Google Books because many of the book offered online are reprints of books that are out of copyright and available for free on Google Books.


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Simpson Line Shines Light on Finding Source Information

ResearcherI came across a piece of information on one of my genealogy explorations. It’s not a Pryor, but it is an interesting example of how information is manipulated, or changed over time.

There’s an 1811 will for James Simpson in Caswell County, NC. It names his wife Sarah (aka Sally), their children, and their 3 minor sons Levi, James, and William. Sally and the children left NC after James’s death, showing up in Logan County, KY and finally moving to Johnson County, MO.

I found a long article on the Simpson’s in a history book, but I was more intrigued with the story of William’s death:

Wm. Simpson a brother, was a negro slave dealer and was murdered for his money by a man named Hoe in Kentucky.
The History of Johnson County, Missouri: Including a Reliable History of the … , edited by F. A. North, Brookhaven Press, 1881

I was wondering when this happened, where it happened and if I could find other accounts of this event.

The internet isn’t the end-all of research, but it certainly helps. There’s an account in a book published in 1825 on Google Books.

GAMBLING. The Alexandria Herald contains a long account of the confessions and execution of a young man of respectable connextions by the name of Hoe, for the murder of a Mr. Simpson. Hoe murdered Simpson and robbed him to pay a debt of honor, contracted at cards. We thus see the result of false principles, when gambling debts should erroneously and ridiculously be considered more honorable than a bona fide debt contracted for value received. A few such debts payed under the gallows will soon wipe away their honorable standing.
Masonic Mirror, and Mechanic’s Intelligencer, Volume 2, published by Moore & Prowse, 1825

While this didn’t add much in the way of facts, it points to the Alexandria Herald as another source. There’s no mention of Mr. Simpson’s occupation. The University of Richmond has a short synopsis of the murder on their website:

William Simpson, a prominent slave trader who resided in Fairfax County, was murdered in Centreville, Virginia. He was brutally shot in the head with a pistol and stabbed. He was also robbed of a reported 1600. The notes were from the Bank of Virginia. His body was found dumped near a road. According to witnesses, Simpson and the man later revealed as his murderer, William F. Hoose, spent two days together in the same tavern. They did not know each other before this encounter. Simpson was in the area to conduct business. They had lunch together because Simpson took a liking to the young Hoose. After lunch, the witness reported that Simpson and Hoose left the tavern together. Soon after that, Hoose returned back to the tavern by himself and kept pacing back and forth. He asked the landlord about buying a horse from him and the price. He went to Leesburg, where he was arrested for the murder of William Simpson. He was thrown in the Leesburg Jail and held there until his execution. He stole the money for gambling purposes.

This account is taken from 2 contemporary newspapers: Boston Commercial Gazette, March 25, 1825. Rhode Island American, March 22, 1825. Again more sources to look at.

I’d love to know the source of this story that was already almost 60 years old when it was used in the 1881 book. The book (and records) says there were no Simpsons left in Johnson County in 1881.

It’s not just the Pryors that raise more questions for every fact that turns up!

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A Musician in Your Family Tree?

Civil War Musical Instruments

Civil War Drum and Instruments – Gettysburg Visitor’s Center

Got a musician in your family tree? Does music run in your Pryor gene pool? The more I’ve searched for the ancestors of trombonist Arthur Pryor, the more I’ve found musicians named Pryor. My list started with Civil War era musicians listed as drummers and buglers. As I checked census records I found more. Enjoy this list of musicians named Pryor.

Arthur W. Pryor, the trombonist, was listed in the 1887 St. Joseph city directory as a musician.

Walter D. Pryor, brother of Arthur,  was listed in the 1887 St. Joseph city directory as a musician.

Samuel D. Pryor (Arthur’s father) was in the 1888 St. Joseph directory as the leader of Pryor’s Military Band and Orchestra.

Alice Pryor (aunt of trombonist Arthur Pryor).  1880 recorded as a musician living in a rooming house in St. Joseph, MO with an operatic company.

A. Prior (probably an uncle of Arthur Pryor) 1880 recorded as a musician living in St. Joseph, MO

J. B. Pryor b. 1840 in OH, living in Mono Co., CA in 1880. Recorded on the census as a musician.

Emsley R. Pryor (uncle of trombonist Arthur Pryor). 1890 Veteran’s Schedule states he was a bugler during the Civil War.

Milas Pryor was stationed in Norfolk, VA with the US Marine Corps in 1867. His rank was “musician

David E. Pryor served in the Civil War from the State of Indiana as a musician.

John W. Pryor served in the Civil War from the State of Ohio as a musician.

Horace Prior of OH served in the Civil War as a bugler.

Richard Pryor served in the 61st Colored Infantry during the Civil War as a musician.

Theodore Prior born in NY in 1860 was recorded as a musician on the 1880 census.

Civil War Coronet and Saxohorns – Gettysburg Visitor’s Center

James Prior who immigrated from Ireland in 1833 was a musician.

Frisby Prior served in the 81st Colored Infantry during the Civil War as a musician.

Charles Prior – In 1862 he enlisted in the Civil War in NY as a musician.

Miss Theresa Prior of Evanston, IL was in the 1890 directory as a musician in Prior’s Orchestra.

C. M. Prior of Evanston, IL was also listed as a member of Prior’s Orchestra. As was Miss Emelia Prior and Frank A. Prior.

Hershal D. Pryor served in the Marine Corps from 1917 as a drummer.

George Pryor of Helena, MT recorded on 1890 Veteran’s Schedule as a drummer during the Civil War.

[This summer I visited Gettysburg and took photos of Civil War era instruments that were on display]

James Pryor in Jefferson County, KY

Everyone seems to be connected. Even when looking at James Pryor and other pryors from Jefferson County, Kentucky.

A Jefferson Co., KY will extract:

“Will of John M OFFAND Nov 23 1818, probated March 11 1822 gives to wife Henrietta Offand and after her death to his children; executor Henrietta Offand, wife, JAMES PRYOR, Fortunatus COSBY, and William MCKEEVER Jefferson CO.”

Forts. (sic) Cosby is on the 1820 Census in Jefferson County (Louisville). I looked around the Internet for some information on him and found that Fortunatus Cosby married Mary Ann Fontaine in Louisa Co., VA. 1 Nov 1785. From the Register of St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County. Ah ha! looks like he’s connected to St. James Northam Parish like the Pryors descended from Col. William Pryor and Sarah Wood.

The Cosbys look like they were well connected. The History of Kentucky: From Its Earliest Discovery and Settlement…, by Zachariah Frederick Smith. Fortunatus Cosby, probably the son of the Fortunatus named in the above) was the Consul General to Switzerland (Geneva) 1862).

I see researchers have James Pryor, brother of Nathaniel Pryor, died in Louisville around 1822. I haven’t found him on the 1820 Census, so can’t confirm if he’s the James Pryor mentioned in this extract.

It is interesting how these names get so tangled.

On the Kentucky Frontier – Meriwether and Pryor Connections

Daniel Boone, Kentucky FrontierRevisiting the Pryors on the Kentucky frontier. Back to the Meriwethers again! I found this extraction of a document filed in Shelby County, KY. It names some Samuel Pryor, Daniel Farley

Shelby County, Book A, 1795-1804.  Daniel, Robert, August 8, 1792. August 1797. Legatees Thomas, Coleman and Martin Daniel (bros.), John Daniel (father), Sukey Morris, Besty Merriweather, Martin, Reuben (last 3 children of sis. Clark). Ex. Martin Daniel, Nicholas Merriweather. Wit. Daniel Farley, Sam’l Pryor.

“The Encyclopedia of Louisville” by John E. Kleber states that Nicholas Meriwether was born 1749 in VA and died 1828 in Shelby Co., KY.  He is purported to be the son of Frances Morton Merriwether (who later married Dr. Samuel Pryor of Goochland Co., VA). The same article purports Nicholas was the cousin of Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Betsy Meriwether in this extract is probably Elizabeth Daniel, Nicholas’ wife. So the Daniels in this extract were his wife’s family.

Samuel Pryor in this extract is likely the son of Samuel and Frances, and the half brother of Nicholas Meriwether.

Daniel Farley married Marietta Pryor on 28 Sept. 1786 in Amelia Co., VA. It’s believed that she migrated to KY with her  husband and was living in Henry Co., KY at the time of the 1810 Census. I haven’t seen any documentation, but Marrietta is often included in family trees as the daughter of Samuel and Frances Pryor.

So, is there a connection between Samuel Pryor who married Frances Morton Meriwether and John Pryor the father of Nathaniel Pryor who was part of Lewis and Clark’s expedition and also resided in the Kentucky frontier?