Making a House a Home

Read more

Breaking Down a 26-Year Brick Wall

Read more

Happiness: A Witch's Perspective

Read more
<
>
Home & Garden
DIY, Cooking & More
Goddess Path
Witchy Things
My Lifelong Research Project

In 2016 when I attended the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference, featured speaker Joshua Taylor made mention of those ancestors who become our lifelong research projects. Mine is my great-great grandmother, Emma Anna Murphy.

I wrote about Emma constantly in the previous iteration of my genealogy blog, known simply as “New England Genealogy,” but she bears readdressing here, since I’m starting fresh.

Like many mysterious ancestors, Emma has kept me up at night. I’ve even dreamed about her, despite not knowing what she looks like. Then I’ve woken up, hoping there would be answers waiting. Of course, there haven’t been…

My dear great-great grandmother passed away in 1945 after what seemed like a fairly normal, occasionally eventful, life.  If you consult any vital or census records pertaining to her, they’ll let you know she was born in Maine. Or Massachusetts. Or, perhaps, Nova Scotia. So there’s that.

She seemed to be feisty, considering the family story that she’d walk a mile and a half to give her son a piece of her mind. And then there’s the newspaper article about how she ended up in court on charges of assault in 1910.

Sometime during the 1890s, she ran a little “dining room” and “variety store” out of the home she and her husband, my great-great grandfather Erastus Bartlett Shaw, had in Middleborough, Plymouth County, Massachusetts. Prior to that, she married Erastus in Middleborough in 1888.

And prior to that? Nothing. We have nothing but odd clues to go on – various places of birth reported – her age (born maybe about 1861), and her previous married name (Reagan or any variation thereof), but not her first husband’s name.

In future posts, I’ll share more about the steps I’ve taken to work through this particular genealogical problem, as well as how access to a wider range of records and DNA has changed my approach to Emma.

Happiness | Our Prairie Nest
Happiness

I was planting seedlings in our garden today and wondering, Am I happy?

It’s a normal question for anyone to ask from time to time in their lives. And today, probably stemmed from the fact that I was lamenting the need to work versus get our garden ready. But the fact remained that the garden did need t0 get planted, and I started pondering the flexibility of my life these days.

I’m grateful that what I do allows me to live this way. The joke I make to my husband is, “I’m a magician. I turn words into money.” Of course, writing is much more than that. But I know how incredibly fortunate I am right now.

In my previous job, I was so stressed out, that I couldn’t wait to escape it. Oh, the money was good! And I suppose if you like to market a luxury item geared toward a high-end market, it’s fine. However, I breathed a sigh of relief every time I crossed the bridge that signified the change from city to country. I didn’t enjoy having a fast-paced job or being in the city, no matter what the pay and benefits were.

My former boss didn’t understand my feelings. He thought someone intelligent and capable couldn’t possibly want something less than all of that.

But I didn’t want less.

I wanted more. More time for me, more time for what I love, more time for my family and friends, and more time where I could just genuinely be me, instead of the version of me the company demanded.

Maybe I don’t get a steady paycheck anymore. Yes, now I’m paying 30% taxes instead of 15%, because I no longer have an employer to pick up the other half. True, I pay taxes instead of receiving a refund. Also true that I am not rich. At least, not financially.

I am, however, immeasurably happy when I can do something like this: sit on a tree stump in my backyard, watch my daughter flit through the sprinkler, and write. My time doesn’t belong to anyone but myself these days.

Charles Bukowski was onto something.

If you dream of the same thing, work on it now, rather than waiting. It took me a long time to get here and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Making a House a Home | Our Prairie Nest
Making a House a Home

We’ve been working on home improvements every since we bought our home in 2013. This wasn’t a place we bought as a dream home. No, no, no. This was a place we bought with the idea of making it a place we would want to live. Location and size were the biggest factors in our purchasing decision. That and the fact that we could buy the house for cash and close in 2 weeks, since we had just returned from living overseas and didn’t want to put family out by staying with them a long time.

The idea of home is rather nebulous, really. We have a lot of sayings about it, though, right? “Home is where the heart is” and “There’s no place like home.” Some people even feel that home has nothing to do with physical location, but where certain people live.

For me, home is very much a physical place entwined with a sense of comfort, security, nostalgia, and other things too nebulous to name. I’m a person who likes to set down roots in a place that I can call my own. That’s also one of the reasons I like quiet neighborhoods, country settings, and ownership instead of renting. I’m also one of those people who can be happy pretty much anywhere. Just tell me where I need to be and I’ll set about making my own cozy little nook there.

Of course, what we’re doing is physical – tearing out walls and old wiring, ceilings and insulation, carpets and floors, windows and doors – and replacing tangible aspects. In essence, we’re rebuilding our house from the ground up. And what we’re doing is infusing it with the things that take it beyond just being a physical space.

Every decision made is something deeper than just “What color should the walls be?” The physical location we’ve chosen to live in means something to my husband. The palette we’ve chosen means something to me.  For us, these tangible aspects connect with memories and emotions, and blend together seamlessly to make us feel like we’re home.

Okay, maybe my color palette shows that the home that will always be in my heart is back where I grew up. But I think we can have more than one home, don’t you?

Blake Family Picnic | Our Prairie Nest
How DNA Changed My Family History

With the availability of DNA testing, I’ve seen quite a shift in what I always thought I knew about my family.

It started in 1989. I saw a photo my grandmother had of her family and wanted to learn more about it. I found out that the little girl in the picture was my great-grandmother, Nina Gertrude Blake. Prior to that, I’d already been hooked on genealogy, but had no idea how to go about researching or figuring out who was who. My grandmother then showed me something even more precious – a crumbling leather wallet full of more photos, typed family histories, Civil War documents, and more.

Since then, I’ve been proud to be the keeper of these documents and photographs, and researched my family history almost exhaustively.

But I don’t think I was counting on any of it to change, even when I took my first DNA test in 2006. Or subsequent DNA tests.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I realized DNA testing had changed everything I knew about my family history. The first discovery was of a first cousin I didn’t realize existed. The second was the realization that my grandfather’s father wasn’t who we thought it was.

Judy Russell often reminds us that if we aren’t ready to face such potential news, then we shouldn’t test. And, like Judy, I haven’t met a DNA test I don’t like. I’ve had my DNA tested with Family Tree DNA, Ancestry DNA, and 23andMe. I’ve posted my results to GEDMatch and MyHeritage, and someday I will test with Living DNA to break down my significant British heritage.

For me, DNA is a powerful tool and one of many we can and should utilize in the pursuit of understanding family history. It’s made me rethink how I look at certain people in my family. Not in a negative way, but rather in an attempt to understand them, to put their lives in context. They are no longer here, so I can’t ask why they made the decisions they did. But maybe by studying time and place and circumstances, I can get a little closer to some insight about why they were the way they were.