Ethnicity Estimates and Britishness – 2017 Edition

Lets face it, “Ethnicity Estimates”, analysing your DNA to break down your ancestry into different regional world populations, are fun. In certain circumstances it can be useful for a genealogist, for example researching an unknown recent ancestor. At a more general level it can be useful for a person to connect to the place of origin, both at an individual level (hey, I’m a bit Scottish!) and collectively with their ancestors (Hey, I’m related to people all over the world!) It is also a major selling point for the firms selling DNA testing to the public. The richest and most mature genealogical community in the world is based in North America, where most people are a colourful blend of immigrants from many different countries and cultures. As such it makes it worthwhile to provide a form of instant gratification for DNA testers in this market.

The down side of the ethnicity estimates is that it’s, at the moment, an imprecise science. This problem is compounded when people take their ethnicity estimates too literally.

If only DNA was like bunting, it would be so much easier to identify ethnicity !

Continue reading

Posted in 23andMe, ancestry.com, FamilyTreeDNA, Genetic Genealogy, LivingDNA, MyHeritage.com | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harahorn Norwegian Small Batch Gin – something, something, Viking, something, something

Harahorn Gin complete with the fabled Harahorn

I must admit I wasn’t planning to do another gin review so soon after the last one, however last weekend was World Gin Day and needed to be celebrated as such. The gin I picked out was one I bought on a recent family trip to Oslo, or more specifically bought with my last few kroner at Oslo airport as I left. The gin I picked up was the Harahorn Norwegian Small Batch Gin produced by Det Norske Brenneri (the Norwegian Distillery). This distillery claims to be “the first private distillery in Norway after more than 80 years of state monopoly – the Norwegian State had a monopoly on alcohol production until 2005 and still has on the sale of alcohol. Before we go into the gin, a little word on the Harahorn. The gin is “named after a mountain in Hemsedal, and inspired by a fabled horned hare never yet seen by human eyes, a bit like a more scary version of the American Jackalope. Enough of the scary animals, let’s talk about the gin.

Continue reading

Posted in Gin, Gin Reviews, Harahorn Norwegian Gin | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Masons Yorkshire Gin Review – not The One Gin To Rule Them All

I have come, but I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed

Mason Yorkshire Gin Minis

So spoke Frodo Baggins as he stood at the Crack of Doom contemplating casting the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. I know how he feels. For the last year I’ve been planning to write about Mason’s Yorkshire Gin and now as I’m sitting in front of my computer I share Frodo’s reluctance, although I suspect I sound more like Alan Partridge than JRR Tolkien. My problem: theoretically Masons Gin has got everything going for it – it’s Yorkshire, it’s craft gin, the people behind it are gin enthusiasts, it seems popular; but I’m just not into it. So lets start with the background details.

Continue reading

Posted in Gin, Gin Reviews, Masons Yorkshire Gin | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Chapmans: Hawnby, Nova Scotia and Methodism

Many genealogists search for a “Gateway Ancestor”. This is an ancestor who has a well- known and documented link to other ancestors further back in time. This link is normally back to a royal line, a famous person or, for example, an ancestor who sailed on the “Mayflower“. I’m looking for something different, a sort-of “Reverse-Gateway Ancestor”; that is someone who is a gateway to the many hundreds of unexplained DNA relatives I have living in North America. Recently I found one. In this case someone with both a multitude of descendants and an interesting story. Let me try and walk you through the details.

Continue reading

Posted in MyFamily | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WhoDoYouThinkYouAreLive! 2017 – a short summary

Yesterday I made my annual day-trip to WhoDoYouThinkYouAre?-Live (hereafter WDYTYA?Live – please don’t make me write it out long-form again). This is the United Kingdom’s premier genealogy show. Originally held in London, it’s now moved to warehouse that is the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre.

As ever there was good coverage by the many local family-history societies within the UK, however the big exhibitors this year were the main commercial genealogical companies. DNA testing was a big feature of these companies with ancestry.com, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and LivingDNA all highlighting their products. LivingDNA were making a particular push this year, not unreasonable given that they are new and have a product that, at the moment, is particularly geared for the UK market, with it’s Family Ancestry breaking down British DNA into 21 regions. I’ve tested with LivingDNA and you can see my results here.

There was clear interest in their product and their talk “High Definition Ancestry DNA Testing in the UK” was sold-out before the show began. Fortunately I managed to blag a spare ticket last minute and thought it was worth putting down some notes on the talk. The talk was in three parts and featured LivingDNA MD David Nicholson, head of BioInformatics Dr Martin Blythe, and, er, Alex – an anthropologist at LivingDNA. Much of the information in the presentation has already been published, so I will just focus on the information that was new to myself.

  • LivingDNA have previously explained that their aim was to help combat racism and help people understand how similar we all are. David Nicholson explained how the company is working with schools to push this educational aspect, through a 3 part educational program. In addition they is now working with Syrian refugees, helping the re-connect with family members and prove family relationships for asylum seekers. Well done.
  • The presentation mentioned some of over 100 academic partners the company work with. WDYTYA?Live regulars Prof. Mark Jobling from Leicester and Garrett Hellenthal from UCL were among this list.
  • LivingDNA already have the “Irish DNA Research Project” underway. If I got my numbers correct, they have now gathered 1200 Irish samples.
  • The company has teamed up with the German Compgen (Verein für Computergenealogie e.V. – Club for Computer Genealogy) to launch Deutsches DNA-Forschungsprojekt (the German DNA Research Project), which aims to identify German regional genetic signatures (including old Eastern German provinces of Schlesien, Posen, Pommern, Ost- und Westpreußen). This project has estimated that there are 24 regions that German DNA could break down into (see map below). Speaking outside the lecture David Nicholson commented that they expect to have results by the end of the year, although a paper on the subject would be 2 or 3 years out.
  • The company hopes to work on regional breakdowns in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and Austria (if my notes are correct !).
  • Outside of the presentation I was able to ask Garrett Hellenthal how LivingDNA was able to break down the genetically-similar Central and Eastern England samples from the People of the British Isles project into the LivingDNA regions (basically North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Central England, East Anglia, South England, Southeast England and South Central England). Garrett explained that the genetic differences were there in the original POBI data, which was re-worked for the LivingDNA results.
  • Finally I checked with LivingDNA when raw-data downloads would be available. The expected time-frame is in a couple of months. The firm wants to validate all the data from the new Illumina GSA platform they use before releasing it.

A number of companies were offering discounts on DNA tests for kits sold at the show. The following offers were available:

  • FamilyTreeDNA – Family Finder: £40
  • AncestryDNA: £49
  • LivingDNA (autosomal + mtDNA + yDNA) £99

Outside of the world of DNA, Family Tree Maker owners mackiev were there. I gather FTM 2017 is not yet ready to ship (the new TreeSync feature does not play nicely with the ancestry.com servers). When it’s ready it will be a paid for upgrade (£39), although a show alternative would be to purchase FTM2014.1 (£29) and get the free upgrade.

FindMyPast were also boasting a large stand. If you are at the show you can pick up a flyer which gives you a month’s access for £1.

 [Update May 2017] Sadly this looks like itwill be the last WDYTYALive! Show. On 3rd May 2017 the organisers, Immediate Media, announced the decision to stop the show.

Posted in Genealogy, WhoDoYouThinkYouAre | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Lidl Schwarzwald Gin Review

Schwarzwald distilled Dry Gin. Does what it say's on the can.

Schwarzwald distilled Dry Gin. Does what it say’s on the can.

This is something of an oddball gin. It’s sold through the Lidl supermarket chain in Germany and branded quite plainly as Schwarzwald distilled Dry Gin. The gin is distilled by the privately-owned Edelbranntweinbrennerei Bimmerle KG deep in the heart of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in the little village of Mösbach, which itself is not far from Strasbourg (thanks Google Maps).

The Bimmerle distillery is responsible for a raft of distilled products, including their own Needle Gin and Lörch schnapps, as well as Aldi and Lidl schnapps. Their Lörch schnapps range covers from the classics “Kirschwasser” (cherry schnapps) to more modern liqueurs, such as the “Happy End” blackcurrant liqueur. I should warn you that Happy End is also an own-brand toilet roll from the Penny supermarket chain, so be careful what you wish for.

Going back to the Schwarzwald Gin we have a more basic Lidl product. What you get is a half litre bottle of 43% abv Gin. Fortunately the Lidl webside has a good write up of the eleven botanicals involved. On top of the juniper you get lavender and ginger, as well as oranges and lemons. The most intriguing botanicals are naturally the ones not revealed. These are the “heimischen Botanicals aus dem Schwarzwald verleihen dem Gin seine pikanten Akzente“, roughly speaking the local botanicals from the Black Forest which give the gin it piquant accents. I’m a big fan of another Black Forest gin, the wonderfully floral Monkey 47. This Gin gets many of its subtle flavours from local herbs, so I was hoping that this budget gin may bring some of the same flavours. As a side note I noticed that the distillery’s own-brand gin, the Neeedle Gin, also uses 11 botanicals (including what look like sloes as well as cinnamon, lavender, oranges and lemons), I wonder if there is a connection ?

Enough of the back story, what’s the gin like ?

Day or Night Gin ? Well this gin is a hard hitting 43% gin, so best not to drink it straight away as you sit in the Lidl car-park. Better to head home and find a comfy couch before you start.

What does it smell of ? Juniper and something herbally, much like I image the Schwarzwald smells

What does it taste of ? The first thing I would recommend is not to drink this pure. In it’s pure state it’s a little rough and quite herbally – imagine mixing a herbal cough syrup with strong vodka. However if you match it with a good tonic water, say Fever-Tree then you end up with a very nice traditional gin, you start with a bitter citrus taste, followed by a full-on juniper hit and finally a nice spicy finish.

Buy it ? There’s only one place to go for this, the Lidl. I bought mine in store, just before Christmas. It retails at €7.49. I’m not sure if this is one of their seasonal products, but perhaps that depends on sales numbers. Anyway, if it’s sold out at your local supermarket you can still buy it on-line from the Lidl. I must admit I had a bit of a Ron Weasley moment (Bloody Hell) when I checked the Lidl website. Not only do they e-tail this gin, but they even have a bunch of premium brands, including Beefeater, Tanqueray and my beloved Monkey 47. You could start your own gin bar from their on-line selection.

Overall I’m giving it 4 out of 5. That’s not to say it’s as good as a €30 bottle that gets 4/5, but this is extremely good value.

Posted in Lidl Schwarzwald Gin | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

REWE Diamond of Marrakesh Gin Review

This gin is a bit of an odd sausage. It’s made for the REWE supermarket group here in

The bottle is really a rather nice colour.

The bottle is really a rather nice colour.

Germany. The REWE Group (pronounced Re-ve) is Germany’s second largest supermarket chain. To give you an idea of how ubiquitous they are in Germany consider the town where I live. There is one Aldi store, one Edeka store and three REWE stores.
The gin is part of REWE’s “Feine-Welte” gourmet line, which covers everything from Avocado oil to Venezuelan chocolate.  All Feine-Welt products are branded with the same white/gold colour scheme. As the bottle matches the brand colour scheme it has golden base that works through to a transparent top. The shape also changes from completely round at the base to almost square at the top. (I’m now beginning to worry I have a gin-bottle fetish).
As for the gin, the bottle tells us that it’s “Fünffach Destilliert” – distilled five times and that it’s signature botanical is Neroli Extract. As my good friend wikipedia informs me, Neroli is the taken from the blossom of the Bitter Orange tree, so we are expecting to add a little citrus to our mix.

Day or Night Gin ? It’s a respectable 40%, so you could have a little gin mixed with the REWE Valencia-late harvest orange juice, whilst enjoying a lunchtime picnic of the “Feine-Welt” gourmet line. As an aside, I can recommend the “Feine-Welt” vanilla ice-cream; it’s excellent and is totally free of additives, colours and artificial flavouring.

What does it smell of ? Quiet a strong floral bouquet, but very little juniper.

What does it taste of ? It’s quite a smooth gin. A little juniper at first, followed by a rather pleasant mix of the bitter-sweet citrus taste and something spicy, probably cardamons. A short, slightly spicy, finish. Paired with a tonic water you have a very good G&T, with the gin flavours adding and enhancing the quinine from the tonic water.

Buy It ? You’ll need to go do to the REWE for this, €12.99 for 70ml, or you can order it for their home delivery service here.

Overall ? 4 out of 5. This was my favourite gin from our 6 gins deathmatch. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good value. Try it and feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section.

Posted in Gin Reviews, REWE Diamond of Marrakesh | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment