John Stewart’s Other family – hiding in plain sight

Foreword: For genealogists researching British ancestors the UK Census records are a key primary source, especially for establishing core parent-child family relationships. In the following research I want to show how the censuses can sometimes provide insight into more extended-family relationships.

Introduction: I’m sure there are many genealogists who work in a very structured way, taking one branch of their family and exhaustively studying it. I, on the other hand, am a butterfly genealogist, jumping from ancestor to ancestor hoping to find something new, or that I’d overlooked before. Most of the time this is a fruitless pastime, however recently I came across a relative who I’d been hoping to find for a couple of years.

Before I go further I think it’s worth adding a brief sketch of the family structure I believe I have found. When writing about your own family it’s easy to get involved in the details and forget that the reader gets easily lost in the story. Hopefully a quick glace at this family tree will help people understand what I have researched. For absolute clarity, what I’m trying to show with this research is that William and John Stewart are children of John Stewart (senior) and an unknown first wife.

John Stewart’s presumed family tree (not complete)

I wrote about my search for my Stewart ancestors in 2016. They were a Ulster plantation family who moved to industrial Teesside some time in the 1860s. John Stewart and his wife Jane (nee Bell) were my gg-grandparents. Interestingly their marriage certificate  (see below) records them as widower and widow, so the possibility exists that they both had children from earlier marriages. This is something that has often piqued my curiosity.

Marriage record of John Stewart & Jane Marshall-Lissan 7th Nov 1848

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Lidl Deutschland – Indian Tonic Water Review

Today is World Gin Day, a day when people from all over the world come together to share their love of a Juniper-flavoured spirit [OK, I may have over-sold this event]. A fair few of these people will be taking their gin as a Gin and Tonic, with the quinine-flavoured sparkly water contrasting with the botanicals from the gin. The tonic of choice over the last few years has been made the up-market Fevertree tonic, both either it’s original Indian Tonic Water form or the more floral Mediterranean Tonic Water. It’s fair to say that this maker of premium tonic waters has been one of the major beneficiaries of the recent gin Tsunami. I, like many gin-drinkers, regularly curse the fact we didn’t invest in the share IPO as much as we have in their products. The first listed in November 2014 at an IPO price of 134p per share and currently trade around the £30 mark. This financial pain aside, I must admit that Fever-tree tonics add something to most Gins and are a way better product that the rather dull Schweppes product.

Given the premium-pricing power of Fever-tree it’s no surprise that other companies are trying to muscle in on this market. One of the surprise challengers in the market is the Lidl budget-supermarket. They have produced a range of tonic waters, including the classic Indian tonic and a Mediterranian tonic as well as a more left-field offering of Elderflower tonic. As a thrifty Yorkshireman I thought it was time to compare these tonic waters with the more expensive Fever-Tree branded one. As a comparison of the price difference a Fever-tree Indian tonic retails for €1.49 at the trustry Rewe supermarket. Compare this with the €1.69 price for four bottles of the Lidl tonic. So the question is which is the better tonic water ?

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Ancestry.com Ethnicity Update 2018 – A more precise Viking

Today (6th June 2018) I received an update to the Ethnicity Estimates created from my DNA at Ancestry.com. This is part of an updates to ethnicities that Ancestry.com are gradually rolling out. I thought it was worth reviewing the updates to see what value, if any, they add to my genealogical research.

As a background, I should mention that previous Ancestry estimates for British folks, like myself, tend to include both Scandinavian and Western Europe ethnicities. It’s not hard to understand this problem, given our shared history with our mainland European neighbours. However this does sometimes create a perception problem “Do I have Viking ancestors ?” . The answer, for anyone with British ancestry is a resounding yes. You do have “Viking” ancestors, but everyone with a few hundred years of British heritage will have “Viking” ancestry. Ancestry themselves addressed in this blog post from 2015 “The Viking in the Room“. I was hoping that these Scandinavian and European ethnicities might get addressed (removed or reduced) in this update.

I’ve written about my own known regional British heritage in previous posts, however it’s probably easier to give a simple summary of my ancestors. Based on my traditional paper-trail research, I believe I’m 50% North Yorkshire, 25% East Anglia, 12.5% Scots-Irish (but probably lowland Scots) and 12.5% Durham/Scottish Borders. For more visual folk (or aren’t too familiar with the British geography, I have a nice map. The black- pins are my great grandparents.


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The moral maze of DNA testing

Last week something long-expected happened in the sleepy world of genetic genealogy. The news broke that police in California had used a database of DNA testers to identify the “Golden State Killer”, believed to be responsible for at least 12 murders and 45 rapes. According to these reports the police submitted a DNA profile from a possible suspect to the GEDMatch genetic database. GEDMatch is a much-loved database for genetic genealogists allowing us to compare our DNA against other testers and identifying how much DNA we share in common, and hence, how closely we are likely to related.

There are a few things that sets GEDMatch apart from other DNA databases. For a start this isn’t a DNA testing company (unlike “the big three and a half” ancestry.com, 23andMe.com, familytreedna.com and livingdna.com). There is no lab, it just a couple of genealogists running a website and the database behind it. With no DNA lab to generate the information, the database of DNA samples is built by the users uploading their own DNA data from whichever company the tested with, hence the description of GEDMatch as “open-source”.

The other point to note is that GEDMatch does not restrict you to searching the database with  your own DNA. If you have someone’s “GEDMatch Number” you can look at the same information as if you were looking at your own DNA results. Finding a GEDmatch number isn’t difficult, since one of the main reports generated by the website lists all your genetic matches and the GEDMatch number. Philosophically speaking, GEDMatch is a website for those genealogists who are open about their DNA data.

Given that GEDMatch is very much a hobbyist website, then it’s obvious that it would not have the resources to have provide the same level of privacy that the mainstream DNA testing companies do, with their own Chief Privacy Officers and regular Transparency reports.

At this point I think it’s worth disclosing my own use of GEDMatch. I’ve been quite happily using the GEDMatch database for a number of years. On occasion I’ve wrote about it as part of my research. Where I have used it I’ve tried to remove any potentially identifying information, in particular the GEDMatch number and kit names of people (except my own kit name, which I’ve left in for clarity).

Since this news-story broke there have been a number of voices within the genetic genealogy community writing about the ethical issues involved with such a case. I doubt I will be able to replicate either their knowledge or lucidity of the issues, but wanted to write something to both give my own perspective on the issues and, if I’m honest, try and better order my thoughts. Having mulled over the issues, I think there are two key issues that make me nervous about police use of GEDMatch.

Police needs vs Societal agreements

The job of police forces around the world is to stop crime and where it has occurred identify the culprit so that the legal process can be applied. That’s fair enough and, naturally will mean that police forces look to use those tools which further those goals. There is, however, a dynamic between the tools and methods police would like to use and the type of society people wish to live in.

It is up to society at large to decide what tools and techniques are acceptable, and what sort of oversight society has to how those techniques are applied. This oversight is commonly applied through court orders where a judge can decide if there is reasonable evidence that the use of such techniques are permissible.

In my opinion there needs to be a much more robust debate and consensus within society as to when police forces can use tools such as GEDMatch and what oversight would be needed for police access. It is perhaps inevitable that police use of GEDMatch has got ahead of any such debate as there are a vast number of technological developments within our society where the technology has got ahead of the legal framework for it’s use. Off-hand I would suggest that this has also occurred in the fields of encryption, facial-recognition, AI and the recent scandal regarding Facebook user profiling.

An unwilling genetic legacy

Many of the comments I’ve seen on the use of GEDMatch go along the lines of “Great, the bad guy got caught, the police are welcome to use my DNA”. Whilst I am in total agreement that the capture of the person believed to be the Golden State Killer is a good thing, I’m concerned at the DNA legacy I leave behind my descendants. Living in Germany I’m well aware that the government may not always be acting in the interests of it’s own citizens. In the 20th century it was not just Germany that was involved in the genocide of it’s own citizens. Similar genocides occurred in Stalin‘s Russia, Pol Pot‘s Cambodia, Mao Zedong‘s China and sadly, many, many others. Indeed there still are many states in the world today who act against their own citizens with the intentions of keeping the existing government in power (think North Korea and, again, many others).

In such situations I believe it is legitimate for the people to act against the state and thus break the law. I would hate to think that myself or my descendants/relatives would be identified in such situations through my DNA results.

As an aside – this is the reason I have not and will not ask my children to do DNA testing. When they are adults they can make that decision for themselves.

Final Thoughts

I must admit I’m still undecided as to what to do as a result of this news. At the moment I remain on GEDMatch, although I do not have a family tree attached to my profile. It will be hard for me, as a genetic genealogist, to remove my data from GEDMatch. I enjoy the process of collaboration with other DNA relatives that helps us both to build our knowledge of family history. In addition I’m currently playing with the fabulous DNAPainter application, that relies on information primarily from GEDMatch. Probably the best I can say is that currently I will monitor the situation and see how GEDMatch respond to this situation.

PS. If you are interested in the ethics of DNA testing then the go-to document is the Genetic Genealogy Standards which were drawn up by a group of leading genetic genealogists. At the time these standards were drawn up *(201) I suggested, probably very ineloquently, that it was unethical to DNA test children for genealogical purposes. I still believe that, in the vast majority of cases, to be true. Sadly my suggestion was not included in the standards.

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Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin Review – something to sing about ?

© “Rheinland Distillers”

I rarely start a gin review by having to reveal my ignorance on the finer points of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle (or more correctly Der Ring des Nibelungen), but today I need to make an exception. You see today’s handcrafted artisanal gin is a German gin named after the Germanic God/Hero of Wagner’s Ring Cycle: Siegfried and I need to be bluff your way through the myth of Siegfried to give you the full back-story for this gin. Siegfried, in the Ring Cycle, kills the Giant Fafner, who, after killing his own brother Fasolt, had transformed himself into a dragon. Siegfried thus get the eponymous Ring from Fafner and bathes in the dragon’s blood to gain immortality. The problem, as Achilles could have warned him, is that he didn’t get completely soaked. A leaf from the Linden tree (commonly called a Lime tree in Britain) fell on Siegfried’s shoulder and thus made him vulnerable. As a result Hagan, the son of the Dwarf Alberich, can kill Siegfried. Phew.

This is an incredibly long and complex way of explaining that the signature botanical for this gin is the linden flower. The gin is made by the Rheinland Distillers up in Bonn, the former West German capital in the Rhineland district of Germany. Let’s get on to the gin.

As you have gathered the signature botanical are the Linden flowers. The bottle discretely mentions that a total of 18 botanicals are used but neither the bottle or the website name them. The only hints come from the website tasting notes which highlight the “thyme , cardamom and juniper” nose, whilst the taste introduces “notes of ginger, angelica root”.

Before I jump into my tasting notes I should add that the Siegfried Gin is winner of quite a few awards, some of which are mentioned on both the bottle and the website. Now awards can be a bit of a hit and miss affair, after all I’ve even written up my own “Best Value Gin in Germany 2017 Awards“. However in 2017, the influential “The Spirits Business” trade publication did give Siegfried Gin one of only six “Master” awards within the “Super Premium” Category. That’s quite an achievement.

But where does the Siegfried Gin fit in the Pantheon of Gin Gods ?

Day or Night Gin ? At 41% abv. it’s not at the top end of the gin range, but it still packs a punch. More a Night at the Opera than a Day at the Races.

What does it smell of ? A mossy forest, with a slight hint of something floral.

What does it taste of ? Firstly I should say it comes across as a very smooth gin, if nothing else the distillers know how to make their gin. Taste-wise, the predominant taste is bitter, in a good way. This combines with the overall forest/herbal theme of this gin. There isn’t a strong Juniper taste, rather the more aromatic Angelica Root and as the distiller’s notes say a “freshness of lavender”. In a G&T it works well and is strong enough to give the characteristic bitterness. I would suggest garnishing with Lime rather than Lemon to keep the bitter theme going.

Buy It ? The standard retail unit is a half-litre bottle. You can buy it direct from the distillers for 29.90€. It’s also available online and instore from the Galeria Kaufhof for 31.99€.

Overall ? 4 out of  5 I’ve been struggling here between giving it 4 or 5 out of 5. On the one hand it makes an excellent bitter Gin and Tonic, which is something I love. However it doesn’t, for me, stand up to the 5 star competition, for example the Monkey 47 or the Tanqueray 10. In addition at €30 for a half litre bottle it needs to be something special that I’m just not finding.

Anyway it’s certainly worth trying. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

 

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The Lamberts in Yorkshire

Most of my ancestors had sensible surnames, like Sturdy, Armstrong and Atkinson, so I ‘ve always been a little intrigued by my grandmother’s surname, Lambert. It had a distinctly European flavour and has always left me wondering how my Yorkshire ancestors came to have such a name. Sadly the name Lambert has died out on my part of the family tree., This is despite the fact that my great-grandparents, Thomas Lambert and his wife Sarah, had 5 boys amongst their 7 children, as all the males died out without leaving any heirs. In part this was due to two of them dying in the first World War. A third died of the Spanish Flu just after the war. I wrote a little about the boys here. Thomas himself was also unlucky, dying at the age of 40 of Pyaemia (blood poisoning). Given that he worked as a Whinstone miner this is probably not surprising.

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Orson’s London Dry Gin Review –

Orson’s London Dry Gin The answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything ?

For many people 2017 has been an Annus Horriblis, however on the plus side it has been a bumper year for gin. Perhaps the two events are related. Keen to cash in on this boom, many supermarkets have launched or re-launched their own brand gin products. German supermarket Penny is no-exception and is hoping to ride the, ahem, “Gin-Tsunami”with it’s own-brand Orson’s London Dry Gin. Note the apostrophe here. This gin was either created, made or drunk by Orson.  Sadly, dear reader, we never get to find out who Orson was, or his/her role in this gin. Clearly the Penny need to get in a “Backstory Writer“. At least they marketing department have made a decent fist of the bottle, going for the classical apothecary’s brown jar look. Perhaps it’s an homage to the incredibly wonderful Monkey 47 Gin, which comes in a similar brown jar.

Day or Night Gin ? It weighs in at 42% abv. so keep it for the evenings.

What does it smell of ? It’s coming up all like a well-maintained herb garden, but with a wiff of citrusy lemon. Not a bad start really.

What’s it taste of ? Taken neat it has a strong juniper taste, which helps to over-ride the  petrol taste from the alcohol. There’s certainly a lime taste and there’s probably some angelica in there struggling to get out. I tried the Orson’s as a classic gin and tonic 1:2 with Fevertree Indian Tonic Water, ice and a slice of lemon. To provide some competition I tried it against both the Norwegian Harahorn Gin and the Lidl house-brand Schwarzwald Dry Gin. I found the Orson’s struggled to express itself in G&T, not able to either control the tonic taste or leave me with the characteristic bitter aftertaste. On the plus side, my two co-tasters (wife/daughter) found it OK, bit nothing special.

Buy it ? As you would expect it’s available from the Penny, either in-store or via their online store. Normal price is €6.99 for 50cl, although occasionally you will see it discounted.

Overall ? 2 out of 5 It’s not a bad gin, but if you are looking for a budget supermarket gin you can do better with either the Lidl Schwarzwald Gin, or my favourite, the REWE Diamond of Marrakesh London Dry Gin.

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