Tag Archives: England

Pryor Line in Devon and Cornwall, England

I came upon a Richard Pryor who immigrated from England and lived in the US. His biography includes a photograph– cool! (see bio in Google books). Richard H Pryor gave a pretty nice… and complete… account of where he came from and who he was related to. He states he was from Devon, yet I found an Ancestry family tree for him that uses Cornwall census records as sources. We all have some red-faced mistakes in our family trees. I only found this Richard Pryor in Devon– very close to Cornwall, but definitely not in Cornwall.

richard h pryor

The beauty of genealogy blogging is that it’s a journey where ideas evolve over time. As new information is developed it can be pieced together and change how we view a family line. Cool beans!

1861 Census Devon, England
Tavistock, Devon, Brook St., 53, John PRYOR married 35 bonnet and fancy draper, born Tavistock. Kezia wife 27 bonnet maker born Inwardleigh. Mary C Pryor daughter 12 scholar born Tavistock. Richard Pryor son 7 scholar born Tavistock. Francis Pryor son 3 born Tavistock.

1851 Census, Devon, England
Tavistock, Pepper Street John PRYOR married 25 miner and straw dealer born Tavistock. Ann L. Pryor wife 24 milliner born Tavistock. Mary G. Pryor daughter 1 born Tavistock. William A son month born Tavistock. Keziah Pryor sister in law unmarried 17 (this is Keziah Hawking who was in William Hawking’s household in 1841) assistant milliner born Ingwardleigh.
Next household…
Tavistock, Pepper Street #120 Anthony PRYOR married 47 miner grocer and tea dealer born Helston Cornwall, Grace Pryor wife 43 born Laneast. Thomas Pryor son 6 scholar born Tavistock. Elizabeth Pryor daughter 1 month born Tavistock.

1841 Census, Devon, England
Page 20 Pepper St., Anthony Pryor 35 minor tin and copper not born in county, John Pryor 15 miner born in county. Thomas Pryor 13 born in county. Richard Pryor 11 born in county. Grace Easter 65 housekeeper born in county. Mary Ann Hunting 15 not born in county.

The bio of Richard H Pryor states his grandfather was William Hawkins an accomplished wheelwright. I found his grandfather on the 1841 and 1871 Census — on both records he is a Hawking not a Hawkins. Ooops.

1841 Census, Devon
Inwardleigh, The Field Cottage, William Hawking 40 wheelwright born in county, Grace Hawking 35 born in county, Elizabeth Hawking 12 born in county,
Mary Hawking 10 born in county, Kezia Hawking 7 born in county, Sarah Hawking 4 born in county, John Hawking 2 born in county

1871 Census, Devon
Inwardleigh, #23, Elmead, William Hawking 75 married 75 farming 270 acres employing 1 man Devon Buckland, Grace Hawking 65 wife b. devon Hasherleigh, Richard PRYOR grandson 17 born Tavistock, Francis PRYOR grandson 13 born Tavistock

 

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Prior Family Acting Their Way Through the 19th Century

actorI started off looking at a Prior below the Mason-Dixon line and when I “pulled the thread” I ended up following a long string of leads to a noted acting family in New York.

Between 1844 – 1849 there are several theater notices in New Orleans newspapers for plays starring an actor named Mr. PRIOR. I was hooked once I saw he performed at the American Theater in a play titled Brutus, Or The Fall of Tarquis with a Mr. Booth (relative of John Wilkes Booth?) who played Burtus.

There was also a Mrs. J Prior who performed in plays in New Orleans. A Mr. J Prior of the St. Charles and Mobile Theaters was touted as a writer or scene designer (not sure because of the flowery language).

By 1849 there are notices of performances in May and June of a Mr. J PRIOR in Pittsburgh, PA. Later notices in northern papers refer to an actor and actress named Mr. J J Prior and Mrs. J J. Prior. I’m convinced that all of these notices refer to the same husband and wife acting team.

Mrs. Prior died at age 53 in 1883 and several obituaries were published. The New-York Times reported she was the widow of an actor, the mother of actress Lulu Prior, and that she had acted in Barnum’s old museum. These bits of information assisted me in locating her photograph. (see photo).  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that although she died in Boston, she was buried at Greenwood cemetery (a very large cemetery in Brooklyn with 376,000 burials on Find A Grave). The same article also noted that Walter Prior attended the funeral.

Walter became the clue to lead to finding Mr. and Mrs. Prior– and their first names, on the 1870 Census.

1870 Census
Brooklyn Ward 11, Kings Co., NY
James J PRIOR 47 actor b. England, Louise 38 actress b. NJ. Walter R. 22 photographer NY, Alfred J 18 clerk in store MA, Anna L. 15 actress NY.

And then earlier

1850 Census
Boston Ward 3, Suffolk Co., MA
J. J. PRIOR 28 theatre Eng., “ditto” female 27 Eng., Walter 3 MA.

Such typical hard-to-track-down Priors! Did anyone really know where they were born or where their children were born? I found a birth record for Walter Richard Prior which nicely ties his parents to the theater listings in New Orleans. Born in New Orleans or New York— guess either of them start with “new” so just tell the census worker anything!

Walter Richard PRIOR born 13 Dc 1846 in New Orleans, LA to James Junius Prior and Louisa Young.

There’s a christening record from England that appears to be for James

James Junius Prior b. 20 May 1820, christened at St. James Westminster London on 21 Jan 1821. Father James Prior, mother Violetta (nee Roberts).

James Junius Prior was already performing in England before immigrating to the US and showing up in New Orleans theaters

1841 Census
Swansea, Wales, UK
Wind Street
James Prior 43 artist born out of county. James Prior 20 comedian born out of county. Violetta Prior 37 born out of county.

A funny thing though, I don’t know who is the Walter Prior who attended Mrs. Prior’s funeral because their son, Walter, had died long before Mrs. Prior. The Evening Star in Washington DC carried a story on 20 July, 1871 (12 years before Mrs. Prior’s death– “Mrs Prior, the actress, and mother of the deceased, and many theatrical people attended.” Walter, her son, was shot during a riot.

Francis Prior of Hertfordshire, England

uk-flagI’m diverting from our US Pryors to UK Pryors for this post… If you’re interested in the Pryor/Prior name from Herfordshire, England I stumbled across an interesting tidbit of information. I’m passing it also because I suspect someone will find it useful.

From The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle, Volume 82, Part 1, Published 1812.

pryor-flamstead-hertfordshire

Over one of the arches a framed board, with arms, and the following inscription: “At the upper ende of this midle ile lyeth intered body of GEORGE CORDELL, esquire, who served QUEEN ELIZABETH, and was sergeant of the Ewry to KING JAMES and the late KING CHARLES, in all sixty yeeres, who married DOROTHY, the only daughter and heyre of FRANCIS PRIOR, of this parish, with whom she lived 52 yeares, and deceased the 26th May, 1653, being aged 84 yeeres.”

One ANN PRIOR lived in this parish to the age of 120.

Such a short inscription but such remarkable lives. Cordell served 3 monarchs in such turbulent times — Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII and she beheaded her cousin Mary Queen of Scots, James was Mary’s son, and Charles I (James’ son) ascended the throne only to be beheaded in 1649. From 1649 to 1660 England was without a king and functioned as a Republic. I found a definition of his court position:

The ewry was responsible for the provision and storage of linen for the royal tables `and serve up water in the silver ewers after dinner, whence the office has its name.
— from British History Online

Oh, what Mr. Cordell and his Prior wife must have lived through. What he must have heard at queen’s tables and the successive kings. The historical characters he may have seen. It’s remarkable that he kept his position through such turmoil.

Perhaps this inscription may help to take a Prior line into the 16th century.

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Mary Bray Pryor

British Pryor LineI became curious about Mary Bray Pryor who I’d seen mentioned in a book published in 1888. She was a British Quaker who traveled to America shortly after the Revolutionary War. I thought it was interesting that a woman traveled to America on her own in those times, perhaps because it showed that people were traveling for reasons beyond immigration. I’m posting the bits I gathered about her life in case someone is interested in this line of Pryors.

1760 Quaker Marriage – Recorded in London Middlesex. John PRIOR of Hertford, son of William PRIOR, married Mary Bray. The record is signed by witnesses including Andrew Bray, William Pryor, Sarah Pryor, Sarah Bray, Nathaniel Bray, Mary Prior.

25 Jan 1799, Philadelphia, PA, USA Quaker Record. A certificate for our endeared friend Mary PRYOR directed to the board by meeting of Hertford and the Quarterly meeting of Hertfordshire in Great Britain produced from the Mins meeting was read and signed by this being expression of our near sympathy and unity with her and setting for her diligent circumspection in visiting the several meetings in this City the families of diverse friends– her religious labours under the uniting in -ence of diverse love having been truly acceptable and edifying and we hope may prove as bread cast on the waters to be found often (after?) mo- days.

1815 Death Notice in The Times, London. Mary PRYOR aged 77, wife John Pryor of Hertford, “an eminent preacher in the Society of Friends.” Published 18 Feb 1815.

This is likely Mary Bray Pryor the subject of “Mary Pryor; A life story of a hundred years ago“, published in 1888. The short story recounts that Mary Bray married John Pryor of Hertfordshire and became a Quaker evangelist in later life, traveling to America and back.

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Another Prior from Cornwall, England

Falmouth Cornwall I stumbled upon another Prior (or Pryor) from Cornwall. William Prior’s reads that he in North Carolina and his children Ann and Christiana were in the UK.  He named his brother Simon their guardian, yet I haven’t been able to confirm the existence of these Priors in UK records. Hope this helps someone ID the whereabouts of their missing kin.

1829 Will – Mecklenberg Co., NC
The last will and testament of William Prior of the county Cornwall G. Britain witnesseth–
I appoint Capt J P Fell and J L —- at present residents in Mecklenburg Co. No Car’a my true and lawful executors.
I request them to — from — Griffiths A— Co my mark of — appoint and to sell the same to the but advantage.

I give and bequest to my two daughters Ann and Christiana Prior in equal portions all my property.

I appoint my brother Simon Prior now and recently of Parish Waldron County Cornwall G. Britain the guardian of my two daughters.

Witness my hand this fourth day of May in the year of our Lord 1829

Signed by William Prior

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