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The Wood Family of Blue Hill | Our Prairie Nest
The Wood Family of Blue Hill, Maine

The first aspect of family history I heard about as a child was that my paternal ancestors founded the town of Blue Hill, Hancock County, Maine. As the story goes, Joseph Wood (my ancestor) and John Roundy left Massachusetts in 1762 to explore what would ultimately become Maine. They created the town of Blue Hill out of the wilderness.

A long line of my paternal grandparents lived in Blue Hill, starting with Joseph (b. 15 Feb 1720, Beverly, Essex, Massachusetts; d. 20 Jun 1813, Blue Hill) and his wife, Ruth Haskell (b. 16 Nov 1721, Beverly; d. 6 Apr 1814, Blue Hill). They had Joseph Wood (b. 27 Dec 1750, Beverly; d. 18 Dec 1811, Blue Hill), who married Eleanor Carter (b. 19 Oct 1757, Harpswell, Cumberland, Maine; d. 5 Apr 1806, Blue Hill) on 11 Sept 1776 in Blue Hill.

Joseph and Eleanor had Andrew Wood (1786-1850) who married Hannah Ober (1787-1830). Their son, Benjamin Stone (sometimes listed as Stover) Wood (1826-1881), married Susan Whitmore (1828-1861), thus adding extensively to my dozens of Mayflower lines.

Their son, Lemuel Augustus Wood (b. 1845 and pictured at the start of this post), is my great-great grandfather. Lemuel married Susan Pickering in 1867, but she passed away in 1879 in Boston, Massachusetts. Lemuel was the last of my ancestors born in Blue Hill, and he and Susan didn’t appear to have any children. If they did, none of them lived to adulthood.

Lemuel then married my great-great grandma, Georgianna Winsor in 1884 (more Mayflower through there; maybe someday I will post about how my parents, all 4 of my grandparents, and most of my 8 great-grandparents are related to one another).

Georgianna was probably considered an old maid by then at the age of 33 (she was born in 1851). They had one daughter, who was born and died the same day. And then they had my dear great-grandpa Lewis Preston Wood in 1892 in Boston. My beloved great-grandpa passed away when I was 6, but I remember him very well.

Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma Wood (her maiden name was also Wood, but no relation) had 8 children. My grandfather, Vincent Wood, was the third-born, but the first to pass away in 1995. Grandpa, of course, gave me my dad, and here I am.

Writing Genealogy Articles | Our Prairie Nest
Writing Genealogy Articles

Would you like to contribute something to your local genealogical society newsletter or a magazine? It’s easier than you think. All it takes is passion for the subject, and good grammar and punctuation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get started:

Read the submission guidelines

Is the publication looking for shorter articles or longer ones? What is their preferred word count? Are they seeking specific types of articles, such as how-to’s or information about a particular region of the U.S.? Your article must conform to the publication’s guidelines if you want them to accept it.

Write something engaging

While genealogy can be serious business, there’s no need to take everything so seriously. The pursuit of family history should be enjoyable, as should writing and reading about it. Try to connect with readers by sharing personal experiences or keeping your tone casual – if appropriate to the publication, of course. We want to feel like we’re having a conversation with another person who shares our love of family history. There are few things more compelling than being able to relate (pun intended) to someone about a topic.

Give the reader new information

In genealogy especially, we are looking to learn new ways of doing things or for research avenues we haven’t considered. Most of us understand the importance of the U.S. censuses, but do you have a unique way of looking at them? What about largely untapped resources? Can you explain the value of using land records or local directories? What about resources that are not yet digitized or often under-utilized, perhaps even completely overlooked, yet full of information? Genealogy is an immense field of study and if you wait for inspiration, odds are you will find something you really want to write about that will benefit readers.

Cite sources

If you are stating facts, this should go without saying, especially in genealogy. After all, we know to keep track of our sources when it comes to family events. The same applies to the written word. Whether they are books, documentaries, or websites, citations or a bibliography allows readers to find the original material relevant to your article. In particular, if you are refuting previous claims or lineages, do not overlook this step.

Share useful websites or resources for follow-up

As genealogists, we love to put information into action, so include any websites or resources the reader can use to follow-up on the information in your article.

When I read an article relevant to my areas of research, I often go from there to the internet or the library to build on what I’ve learned. Anything you can offer as additional guidance for readers – whether it’s templates for forms or charts, free ebooks, a specific blog or website, or an interesting social media account – will help them take the information from your article several steps further.

Part of genealogy is ongoing education and discovery. I believe all of us have something of interest to share that can help others in their research endeavors.

The Importance of Radical Empathy with DNA Matches | Our Prairie Nest
The Importance of Radical Empathy with DNA Matches

You log in to your various DNA tests to see what’s shaking, and see something exciting: a new close relative match! It’s not a name you recognize, but that makes the new match that much more exciting, yes? So you send out the message you have used time and again with new or particularly intriguing matches:

Hi there,

We are a DNA match through my mother’s (or father’s) side. It looks like we share many cousins I’ve been able to identify as sharing my ancestors, (great-grandfather) and (great-grandmother), from (town), Massachusetts. Are those names familiar to you?

I am also from Massachusetts, but now reside in Nebraska. I love connecting with new cousins and sharing family history. You can reach me via Ancestry or email at (email address). I hope to hear from you!

Sincerely,
Wendy Callahan

A sample of the short, but informative message I like to send new matches.

You wait eagerly for a response but, when you receive it, find it’s not nearly as enthusiastic as the ones you normally receive.

“I’m confused,” they may say. “I thought I knew everyone in my family. I took this test and the results aren’t at all what I expected.”

Many of us have been there and a little bit of detective work has led us to what happened, as far as this person’s test: a person they thought of as their biological parent or grandparent wasn’t.

In particularly sensitive situations, it’s a matter of non-paternity being “outed” by the test. What’s a genealogist to do in this situation?

Based on my experience and what I’ve seen with others, I recommend radical empathy. This is the process of striving to understand and share another person’s feelings.

And while this is all well and good, your mileage may vary. Not everyone responds well and part of radical empathy is accepting whatever response you receive, with the understanding that this new cousin is going through something difficult and unexpected.

In my case, it turns out my father has a first cousin whose paternity was not what they expected. This match was confused by the relationship to my father, my sister, and I, as well as a lack of a particular ethnicity in their results. Based on the information made available about the person they believed was their father and compared to our ethnicity results, it was easy to see why they were confused.

I reached out to certain family members and did some other legwork to solve the mystery of how this person was a first cousin to my dad. It quickly became obvious who among my known paternal family was this person’s parent.

However, the match did not ask for this information, so I did not supply it to them.

In fact, the match stopped talking to me and I accepted this as that person not wanting any information, and furthermore put my energy into understanding why they would feel this way, instead of focusing on my disappointment that they didn’t want contact. The one thing I provided without being asked was medical information about a potentially hereditary disease. That in and of itself confirmed the paternal connection between us both, based on their last response to me.

Accepting that this person didn’t want to continue communication was difficult, but important. This wasn’t about me, but about them. I had to put my feelings aside and put theirs first. I made sure to also let them know that if and when they were ready to talk, I would be here waiting for them. I gave them my phone number and email address and left it at that.

When a DNA match doesn’t want to continue contact, it might be difficult, but try to prioritize their feelings over yours. Even if both of you are processing an unexpected revelation in biological relationships, your way of dealing with it might be different than theirs. As genealogists, we are generally open to these kinds of discoveries. We know – or ought to know! – what we’re possibly getting into with a DNA test.

But not everyone does. So, I believe it is our duty to guide them through those potential hereditary minefields with patience and sensitivity. Let’s be not just genealogists who get excited about new relatives, but also people who care about what our fellow humans are going through in their own discovery process.

Life With Birds or Our Feathered Family | Our Prairie Nes
Our Feathered Family

“I want a bird,” you might say. Or think. Or you might go out and get one. And, for the most part, people imagine a pet bird as a tiny yellow canary, sitting in a cage, chirping quietly or not at all. Or maybe a parakeet that’s just cute and sweet, and the perfect accessory. However, the reality of owning a bird is very different than the imagined dream.

First of all, there’s a lot of information out there about which birds are “best for beginners” or most affectionate or least noisy or less likely to make a huge mess. The truth is, these ideas aren’t applicable in every situation. In fact, the most you can generalize about owning a bird is as follows:

  • They are messy.
  • They are noisy.
  • They aren’t cuddly.
  • They are also expensive.
  • They’re probably going to outlive you, especially if they’re a larger parrot.
  • Their care takes more research and education than a dog or cat ever will, so you’re better off with a dog or cat. Really.

And these generalizations are going to vary from bird to bird and person to person. If I’m starting off sounding negative, it’s because the cold, hard truth about birds is that they aren’t easy to have in your home. It’s like having a 3 to 7-year-old that never grows up, never leaves, never goes off to start their own life without relying on you (and even some humans don’t do that!). However, if you want one, here’s a glimpse into our feathered family and how we got here.

“Hold birb gentle like hamburger.”

Our First Bird

We started off with bird ownership because they’re, like, soooo cute! Okay, that wasn’t the only reason my husband practically begged me to go to a bird breeder when we lived in England. But what were the reasons for bird ownership, really, and were we ready? My husband knew more about birds than me. Just as some people are dog lovers or cat lovers or horse lovers or snake lovers, or whatever, he was a bird lover. I wasn’t sure about having a bird in a house with cats… or at all. So I did the same thing I did when I was expecting my first child: I researched the heck out of having a parrot. Especially because our first bird was going to be one that was considered not a beginner’s bird – a black-headed caique.

Here’s what I learned from countless books, websites, and forums – as with children, nothing will be the way you expect. This bird is going to come to you with pretty high-level intelligence, and the ability to both melt your heart and surprise you every single day.

We picked up Avery in a small English town right before Daniel had to go TDY at the time. That meant I was left all alone to care for a new bird with only recently-acquired knowledge, while the bird-lover who’d been into the idea of owning a parrot for at least several years was gone!

Avery and I became the absolute best of friends. He melted my heart from the moment he first fell asleep on me. Black-headed caiques are, as we would say back home in Massachusetts, wicked smaht, and he caught on fast with potty training. He was also a snugglebug (something I didn’t expect), talked to me while I showered if I let him come in the bathroom with me, and basically turned me into the bird mom I’ve become today.

Caique love.

He is now 9 years old, a sweetheart some days, a holy terror other days. If his hormones are surging, he thinks I’m his girlfriend and my husband is the enemy. If he’s feeling content, he’ll fall asleep nestled down on my chest or in the crook of my neck. He says his own name and “Step up.” He growls if he spots danger… or if he thinks you’re coming too close while he’s nibbling on a walnut. He’s smart enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong, but just as his intelligence is on par with a 3-year-old toddler’s, so is his self-control!

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, birds are superior to dogs (though I’m still a cat person, as my head-butting, scritch-demanding, terrified-of-the-parrots felines can attest). I don’t have to go outside to clean up the birds’ poop. In fact, we don’t have to set foot outside on cold days for any of their needs. Warm days are another matter, in which case they get to spend the majority of the day outside, soaking up the sun!

Also, unlike dogs, birds don’t smell bad. Avery smells like wet cardboard, which is the telltale sign of a healthy caique who eats a good diet. They fly around the house freely, but trust me – there’s no pooping on your head mid-flight. Or at all if you’ve potty-trained your parrots.

A case of the zoomies…

Our Second Bird

In the summer of 2019, a friend reached out and let us know she was looking to downsize her flock. This is how Apollo, an approximately 12-year-old Congo African Grey came to us. I had no intention of buying another bird in the near future, but maybe to foster or adopt one after we finished renovating our home. I also had no intention if that bird being larger than Avery. Daniel said time and again that he wanted an African Grey, but I thought they were immense, like larger Macaw breeds.

However, just as Avery turned me into a bird mom, Apollo has me saying, “Hey, how about a Macaw in a few years?” Because this new addition to our family has also brought many lovely surprises.

Here’s another thing: if you aren’t ready to stand still and be calm when you hear the sound of flapping wings, you aren’t ready for a bird. Avery’s flight is more of a rapid flutter and he can almost hover like a hummingbird, but Apollo sounds like a helicopter! His body size is roughly equivalent to some of the smaller hawks out there.

When Apollo first came to us, he was an uncertain flyer. Now, he gets the zoomies on a regular basis. And when you have an almost 1-pound feathered missile darting around your home, you might want to duck for cover! But that’s something you absolutely cannot do, because a parrot is smart enough to look for the safest perch. That just might be you, so this is your second reminder that being able to stay calm when something is flying around or at you is important. If the very idea of a bird flying toward you terrifies you, you are probably better off with four-legged family members.

Parrots pick up many of their emotional cues from their environment. A calm, stable environment, with a steady routine of feeding, play time, flying time, and alone time (yes, even parrots need quiet and time to themselves) is important.

As with human toddlers, a bored parrot is often a loud and/or destructive parrot. An unsocialized parrot can become a sad or even spiteful one. And while you might think flighting a parrot (clipping their wings) is going to help them “behave,” it’s no more humane than declawing a cat. I’m going to put this bluntly: If you have to physically alter an animal to fit your personal preferences, you shouldn’t own an animal.

Having parrots is a lot like having children. They’re unique. They’re individuals. They have distinct personalities, likes and dislikes. They need to have some control or they’re going to give you a hard time. They need choices and options, and also the ability and freedom to refuse you. If they don’t want to be with you, they should be able to fly away from you. If they won’t eat their broccoli, you need to be open to trying different greens with them, because a well-balanced diet includes fruits, veggies, and pellets, with fatty treats like nuts and seeds kept to a minimum, and used for training or as special rewards.

Keep in mind these birds have cognitive ability ranging from that of a human toddler (a parakeet or caique, or other small parrot) to that of a kindergartner or first grader (an African Grey). Yes, a first grader. And that’s only based on what little we know about bird and parrot behavior.

You’ll clean up after me, won’t you, human?

Oh, and let’s not forget about those long life spans. When we get a dog or a cat, we figure on about twelve to twenty years with them. Even now, I joke that my eldest cat is an “old man” because he’s thirteen. But Apollo is also roughly thirteen or so… and this is barely a quarter of his life. Since I’m forty-five and he’s thirteen or maybe fourteen, a calculation of “possible years left” basically shows that either of us could outlive the other. And that’s not taking into consideration something happening to me or my husband sooner. Who gets the bird(s) if you die?

That isn’t a fun question to answer, but it’s something to have in mind before you commit to a parrot. Even worse is the fact that social media will be happy to remind you of that. “We welcomed an African Grey to our family!” I shared one day on Twitter. Someone decided it was then their duty to scold me about the fact that said African Grey will probably live to be sixty, and that I needed to think about that. My response was that my parrots are written into my Will and there is a home waiting for them, should something happen to me in the foreseeable future. I will also change my Will accordingly, as necessary (i.e. if my daughter still expresses a desire to have our birds when she reaches adulthood).

More Birds?

So after being a bird mom for nearly ten years (which isn’t a lot, but sometimes it feels like we’ve been a family forever), what’s in my future? More birds. My daughter wants a bird. We’ve told her that we know they look like a lot of fun to her and we realize she’s had birds in her home her entire life, since she just turned seven. However, we want her to be absolutely sure. If she still wants a bird when she’s twelve, we’ve agreed on a cockatiel (not to be confused with a cockatoo).

She is also taking an active part in training our caique. She works with him on step up, step down, and his continued potty training, as well as treating him for good behavior.

I also want to add a medium to large macaw to the mix but, again, not just yet. Our home renovation needs to be completed first and then we would like to build an outdoor aviary. But I might be about fifty-years-old by then, and I’m not sure I feel comfortable committing to a bird at that point in my life. It won’t be fair to a bird, unless we go for a much older rescue, which we’re open to. Knowing what I know about parrots, I wouldn’t get a baby again, simply on principle. But I’m glad we had Avery from his early days and wouldn’t change a thing!

Having parrots is a lot like getting a tattoo. The first one is exciting and you feel a little rebellious for doing it. It’s like a gateway into getting more and more. But, it’s more like a cross between getting a tattoo and having children, because it’s a living creature with needs and feelings. It’s something you have to really think about, because meeting their needs is so important. Give yourself time to consider what it would be like, because your life will change once you enter parronthood.