Tag Archives: orphans

Butler County, AL: Tracking The Children of Francis Pryor Born in GA

I found a 1907 Obituary for a Pryor in Florida and ended up following a line of Pryors through the South. These Pryors are a bit of a mystery (well, aren’t they all?!)– name variations, missing from census records, traveling salesmen who were counted in multiple locations on census records. The best place to start is where everyone seems to be stumped: The 1860 Census.

1860 Butler Co., AL
Pct 15, House 2 Francis PRYOR 30 farmer GA, Caroline 25 GA, M. Pryor (f) 5 AL, Geo. Pryor 3 AL, Francis Pryor 1 AL.
Pct 15, House 3 Geo. Mayes 37 GA, Susan 31 GA, N. A. (f) 14 GA, J. T. (m) 9 GA, W. G. (m) 7 GA, Martha 5 GA, G. W. (m) 1 GA
Pct 15, House 7 J. M. PRYOR 33 GA, S. Pryor (f) 26 GA, J. T. (male) 8 GA, J. R. (f) 7 AL, T. J. (male) 6 AL, W. G. PRYOR 6/12 (m) AL.

The obituary of George Pryor in 1907 helped to match up George with his brother Frank/Francis.

THE FUNERAL OF GEORGE W. PRYOR
Will Occur This Afternoon at 3 O’Clock, Services Being at the Home. The funeral of Geo. W. Pryor who expired at his home in New City on Friday afternoon, after an illness covering two weeks…friends of the deceased will act as pall bearers: Capt. R. M. Bushnell, J. J. Sullivan, Joe Roth, R. S. Mitchell, Lamar Howard, and W. T. Reager….Frank Pryor a brother of the deceased who resides in Nashville, reached the city yesterday afternoon.
The Pensacola Journal., February 03, 1907

I found brother Frank in 1900 in TN, 1910 in Kansas City, MO, and in 1920 in Mobile AL. On the 1860 Census he is ID’d as Francis and on all subsequent census as Frank, however the name on his death record (filed in Montgomery, AL) is Franklin Cornelius Pryor.

1900 Census, Davidson County, TN
Nashville, 6th ward, page 241, house 439 Frank C. PRYOR 8/1858 41 md 7 yrs. AL VA AL ind. life insurance agent, Sarah? R. wife 9/1862 37 no children TN TN TN

A tidbit in the same newspaper contained the ID of another brother: O. M. Pryor had come to town for George’s funeral.

… He also leaves a brother, O. M. Pryor, formerly of this city, who reached here last night acompanied by his daughter.
The Pensacola Journal, February 02, 1907, Page 7, Image 7

Obed M. Pryor is buried in the same cemetery as his brother George (see http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25097089), so we know his full name too. You gotta love these newspaper articles because another article identifies Obed as residing in Mobile, AL and gives the name of a sister:

Mr. and Mrs. O. M. Pryor, who came over from Mobile to attend the funeral of the late Geo. W. Pryor, spent yesterday in the city. Mr. Pryor returned to Mobile last night, but Mrs. Pryor will remain here for several days. Mrs. Melissa Owen and daughter, Miss Queenie, the former being a sister of Mr. Pryor, are also in the city.
The Pensacola Journal, February 05, 1907, Page 3

However, and there always seems to be a “however” with the Pryors, I located a Melissa who was recorded as Celissa on the 1900 Census in Mobile, AL. She was born in 1855 in AL, so I suspect she’s the 5 year old female whose initial was “M” on the 1860 Census.  She appears on the 1920 Census also as Celisa/Celissa. Perhaps the 1907 newspaper was incorrect (just like they hadn’t picked up that she was then a Morris). Perhaps Melissa was an error that combined Celisa/Celissa with another name that begins with M, after all it looks like she was a “M” on the 1860 census. I wonder if “M” was for Morris… that it was a given name and the 1900 Census is incorrect.

1900 Census Mobile co., AL
Mobile, ward 5, page 308a, house 351 Monroe St., Celissa Morris  Feb 1855 45 divorced AL AL AL 4 children/4 living, Robert P. Owen son Sept 1878 21 AL AL AL, Truman C. dau married Dec 1880 19 2 children/2 living AL AL AL, Lula Owen dau Jul 1883 13 AL AL AL, Queenie V Owen dau Mar 1885 15 AL AL AL.

The name raises a lot of questions– like am I sure this is the woman referred to in the 1907 news article. Yes, because in 1920 she is recorded on the same page of the census with Sallie Pryor, widow of Obed Pryor.  Celisa/Celissa also had a grandson named Pryor Huggins living in her household.

The one thing that seems to have people stumped who are searching for this line — where is this family of Pryors in 1870? An online family tree suggests there’s a family story of Francis and Caroline killed in a buggy accident. I think I have a partial answer — I found Celisa/Celissa and her brother Francis/Frank/Franklin on the 1870 Census. They were living with Patrick Drake and his wife Martha Gellbrath Drake (they were married in Greene Co., GA in 1826):

1870 Census Butler Co., AL
Greenville, Twp. 8, page 341b, house 199 Pat’k Drake 70 farmer VA, Martha 70 GA, Celisa 15 AL, Frank 12 AL

Were the Drakes related? I don’t know. Where were George and Obed? I don’t know. Where was Francis and Caroline Pryor in 1850? I don’t know. There’s more research needed on this line of Pryors. I’d like to figure out where Francis Pryor was in 1850. Maybe someone from this line will step forward for a Y-DNA test and we’ll at least know which line of Pryors these folks connect to.

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 descend 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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