52 Ancestors James Pray #25

Alternate title: “How many James Prays were there in Maine?” This week’s theme is “Same Name” and many genealogists are faced with untangling which James Pray (or Robert Smith or Patrick O’Brien) belong to which generation. If you do a search for James Pray in Maine on FamilySearch you will see many many James Prays. Many of them might have been descendants of Quinton Pray who arrived in New England sometime between 1643 and 1648.

According to Vital Records of Topsham, Maine To The Year 1892, my 3rd great-grandfather James Pray was born February 17, 1789 in Berwick, Maine in York County. The FamilySearch database “Maine Births and Christenings” lists his birthplace as Topsham, Maine near Brunswick. Unfortunately neither source lists his parents’ names. Most of what we know about him is connected to his life after marriage to Almira Ellis in 1826.

According to the 1850 census, his profession was house carpenter and he was living then in Topsham, Maine with his wife Almira Ellis Pray and nine children. There is a James Pray house on the historical register for that town and confirming that was his house is on my genealogy to-do list. In 1855, his wife Almira died of consumption, the disease we now call tuberculosis. Out of the ten Pray children (one died very young), five were recorded as having died from consumption, four before their 30th birthday.

James and at least five of his living children – Samuel, James W., William, Clarissa and Harriet –  left Topsham and moved to Palmyra, Maine sometime before 1860. I do not know yet why they moved. Perhaps they hoped that a more rural area would be healthier. There are other people with the Pray surname listed in Somerset county cemeteries, so he may have followed family members to the area. James Pray died in 1873 at the age of 84 and was buried next to his daughter Mary Elizabeth and his son George Lewis in Smith Cemetery.

His son James Wingate Pray went on to have a son with Georgiana Sawyer and named him James Willis Pray.

ADDENDUM: Now that I’m poking around the Berwick and Kittery records, I see that Samuel Pray is an even more common name than James!


“Maine, Births and Christenings, 1739-1900,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F4WK-B8Y : accessed 25 Aug 2014) Publication: <Unknown>, 17 Feb 1789; citing TOPSHAM,SAGADAHOC,MAINE; FHL microfilm 928294.

Mary Pelham Hill, editor, Vital Records of Topsham, Maine, to the year 1892, Vol. 1. Births, (Maine, Maine Historical Society, 1929). Available online at  https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE98426

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