52 Documents in 52 Weeks #24: Missing Twigs on the Tree Turn Up in MO Digital Heritage

Missouri Digital Heritage is another of my very favorite websites. The online database of death certificates keeps churning out answers to many of the mysteries in my husband’s extended Williams family.

Philip A. Pryor is actually one of his closer Williams relatives as he married into the William Williams and Judith Saunders branch, who are my husband’s direct ancestors. William and Judith, both born in the mid 1700s married in Cumberland County, Virginia, migrated to eastern Tennessee and eventually settled in Marion County, which is a major burned county, having lost most of its records in a 1922 fire.

The Pryors are quite difficult to research because there were a zillion of them and they used the same given names over and over again.

I had sorted out the family of Philip A. Pryor who married Elizabeth Helen McCain about 1855, probably in Missouri, but possibly elsewhere. Philip was born c1835, likely in Marion County, Tennessee. He died about 1865; family lore says he was on his way home from the war, but no other details have survived. In any case, he is last found in the 1860 census in Texas County, Missouri as:

Philip Pryor, 35, born TN
Helen E., 31, born TN
John N., 5, born MO
Sarah, 3
Wm., 1

Helen was actually born in Alabama, according to other records and Philip’s age might have been reported by Helen, self conscious that her husband was about 5 years younger than her, not 4 years older.

Philip was alive as late as 9 February 1864, when he took an oath of allegiance in Texas County.

The description gives his age as 28, he was 6′ 1″ tall, his eyes were light gray and he had black hair.

I had searched numerous times to try to pick up this family’s trail, but found nothing. They were nowhere to be found in 1870.

When Missouri Digital Heritage came online, I began searching for various family members because many who left the southern coastal states ended up in Missouri. I finally took another look at this family and searched for death certificates for John N. and William Pryor, hoping that they remained in Missouri.

I found each of them:


John Neely Pryor Death Certificate


William Carroll Pryor Death Certificate

John’s informant mistakenly gave his father’s name as Neely Pryor – who was actually his grandfather – but his mother was named as Helen McCain. William’s death certificate gave his parents as “Phil” Pryor and Helen McCain.

I poked around Missouri Digital Heritage and census records some more and found their mother’s death certificate. She died in Wright County in 1910:


Elizabeth Helen McCain Pryor Young Death Certificate

Helen, or Elizabeth as she was sometimes called, remarried at least once. In her later years, she married Archibald Young. She may have remarried shortly after the Civil War, which could be why I haven’t found the family in 1870.

Another son, Robert Torney Pryor, was added to the family when Elizabeth Young was discovered living with his family in 1900. No image is added because the census record is a bit faded and the family is split on two pages.

I have not found any record of daughter Margaret E., born c1857 after the 1860 census. I don’t know whether she died young or married and died as a young adult, but Elizabeth reported having given birth to six children with three surviving in 1900. The three children would be sons John Neely, William Carroll and Robert Torney Pryor.

TIP: If you have missing leaves on your tree and the family lived in Missouri, try checking death certificates for those who may have survived past 1900. Missouri Digital Heritage is so easy to use!

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