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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yDNA whole chromomsome testing – The Whats and Whys of FamilyTreeDNA’s BigY test

Recently I got the results back from my Y chromosome test at FamilyTreeDNA. I want to share my results and use them to illustrate the benefits of taking such a test. I’ve writen this article for people who are interested in their (or their male relative’s) yDNA and are thinking about  how much time, effort and money they invest in it. I’ve split this article into two parts, the “Whats” and the “Whys”, but there is inevitably some overlap between the two. Before I dive into these I think it’s useful if I try to do short explanation about the Y chromosome.

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Wint and Lila London Dry Gin Review – An imaginative history

As Billy Idol would say – Nice Day for a White Wedding

If you like a good historical yarn, then today’s gin will be of interest. This is the Wint & Lila London Dry Gin, made by the “Famous East India Company Wint and Lila” to celebrate the marriage, on 25th April 1645, of Juan De Wint y Sweets and Margarita De Lila Blanco. These people, in their time, were A-list celebrities. Margarita was the daughter of  Carlos de Lila and Van Thune and her marriage to Juan cemented a link between two of the great merchant houses of Cadiz. That at least is the story that the Wint & Lila gin is selling you. The manufacturer claims to be the “Famous East India Company”, bu this is a slightly hollow claim to fame, after all the most famous “East India Company” would be the British East India Company (although the Dutch and Portuguese had their own), which was dissolved in 1858 or 1874.  That hasn’t stopped at least one other company trading under the East India Company name. Anyway, the idea is that you are supposed to associate the gin with the fruits and spices (and the drama) of the East Indies. More prosaically the gin is made for 10 botanicals, which these days appears to be the golden number. The website kindly lists these as juniper berry, coriander, angelica, angelica roots, cinnamon, orange peel, lemon and lime, mint and orange blossom. These are very classical botanicals with just a touch of the “scents of Andalusia”. In reality it’s aiming for the same palate as the excellent, and good value, REWE own-brand Diamond of Marrakesh Gin. The gin itself is distilled fives times by their distiller partner Casalbor Wines&Spirits in El Puerto de Santa María, with the stills being heated using a “Bain-Marie”, rather than direct heat. One final point to note is that this gin is aimed for the Spanish market, so expect a gin that works well in the hot evenings of a Spanish summer.

Day or Night Gin? This is a straight forward 40% ABV Gin, so given it’s citrus accents it could work as great at lunchtime as in the evening.

What does it smell of ? As the Bells of St. Clement’s will advise you “Oranges and Lemons”.

What does it taste of ? Taken straight it’s quite a pleasant spirit, the strong lemon taste predominates with just a hint of the herbal juniper and angelica coming later in the taste. As a gin & tonic it’s a little disappointing as the lemon tends to dominate over the other botanicals, especially if garnished with either lemon or lime. I can understand that it makes for a relaxing G&T in the Plaza Major, however the lack of other botanical tastes means it doesn’t have the bite I wold expect of a good gin.

Buy It ? As I mentioned this is a gin for the Spanish market, so finding it here in Germany is a challenge. Galeria Kaufhof has it available online for €39.99.

Overall ? 2 out of 5. This isn’t a bad gin and it’s certainly worth trying if you find it at a cosy bar whilst on holiday in Spain. The flip-side is that it’s nothing special (at least for myself). Given that it comes out at around €40 a bottle you are expecting something top drawer (think Monkey 47, Tanquerey 10 etc.) Bottom line: like a holiday in Malaga, try it once, then move on.

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Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve review

This is a bottle not to be messed with

These days I normally don’t do whisky reviews, and for good reasons. There are plenty of websites out there that do good reviews and many producers have cottoned-on to the whole language of whisky reviews. For the Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve (hereafter Founder’s Reserve) I’m going to make an exception, for the simple reason it’s a rather wonderful whisky and, if you are standing in front of a bottle at duty-free shopping somewhere in the world, I hope I can convince you to buy it.

Let’s quickly run through the background story for this whisky and the distiller that produces it. The distillery is situated in North-East Scotland, 17 miles from Aberdeen in the village of Oldmeldrum. As the Glen Garioch website statesGlen Garioch is the most easterly Scotch Whisky distillery not just in Scotland but the world.” The last part of this claim to fame seems rather redundant to me as, I assume, a Scotch Whisky distillery could only be located in Scotland.

Moving on. The whisky celebrates the fact that the original brothers first distilled whisky in Oldmeldrum in, you guessed it, 1797. Now let’s get down to the tasting notes. Here we are helped, or hindered, by the fact that both the web-site and the packaging give you there own marketing-led notes. The website pitches the whisky as follows:

Nose: Warm amber in appearance, sweet vanilla and subtle spice combine with fruitier green apple and grapefruits on the nose.

Palete: Butter cream and vanilla pave the way to fruity green apple skin and citrus cleanliness, leading to an elegant and subtle finish.

Meanwhile the packaging has it’s own opinion, and provides the following:

Tasting Notes: Characterised with a sweet vanilla, butterscotch & fresh green fruits, sweet buttercream and citrus cleanliness result in a fresh gentle finish.

Having got this out of the way, let me tell me throw my own whisky-thesaurus at you. Before I start I should mention one key point.

Price: This is a strong 48% alcohol by volume product. If you are thinking of buying the 1 litre bottle remember this. Whisky is normally aged at around 70% alc./vol. When bottled it’s diluted with water, normally to around 40% alc./vol. On top of this remeber that most supermarket bottles of whisky are only 0.7l. Do a quick calculation, your litre bottle at 48% is giving you ((.48-.(0.7*.40)/(0.7*.40) * 100) 71% more whisky than your typical high-street 0.7 l bottle. In Germany I bought the litre bottle for c. €37. Converted to a standard-whisky 0.7l bottle with 40%alc./vol, this works out at around €21.58. So if you would pay that at your local supermarket, then this bottle gives you the same value. Enough maths.

Colour: vibrant orange. If you were Dutch you’d be happy to drink this on Koningsdag.

Nose: You’re hit by a big sweet-smelling apricot aroma. Slightly floral (Jasmine ?)

Taste: Sweet, slightly peachy, orange, caramel and a hint of chocolate.

Finish: Short, again with a hint of chocolate, something minty and cinnamon.

Bottom Line (5 out of 5): I like this whisky. for a start it’s good value, but more importantly it’s a very pleasant drink. Interestingly, it’s almost converted my wife from a gin drinker, which is no mean feat. Now that Winter is coming to the northern hemisphere I can see this bottle disappearing quickly. Please try it, and please give your reaction in the comments.


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Gencove DNA testing for genealogy – Review

Gencove is a new company to watch in the world of DNA testing. Like the Illumina-backed Helix, the company is offering a a platform for developers to build applications around the DNA samples that Gencove manages. Whilst Gencove will take DNA samples from other sources (think 23andMe and Ancestry) they are promoting their use of low-coverage Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). As their website states:

“Gencove has developed a new low-coverage Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) process to replace commonly used SNP Arrays. We sequence a random 10% to 20% of the genome in contrast to a SNP array, where about 0.02% of the genome is covered. Using a method called imputation, we can compare the sequenced bits to reference genomes and fill in many of the blanks.”

Currently they are offering the test for $59.99 and are shipping worldwide. Once your data has been sequenced it’s available to download as either a .vcf file with imputed genotype probabilities or file with SNP array data.

From the genetic genealogist’s viewpoint Gencove offers the now-familiar ethnicity testing. The test is fairly high level, covering 22 regions of the world. My results are shown below:

Gencove Ancestry Results

On top of this you get a map of the world showing the areas each region covers. As usual the boundaries are rather fluffy (as they should be).

These results are not too different from my results with other testing companies, however since my known ancestry is all British Isles the results are not earth-shattering.

On top of the ancestry app the initial offering four genomics apps. These cover “Open Science” so that you can “Contribute to research and citizen science”, a “Sleep App – Are you a morning or evening person”, an opportunity to “Discover your microbiome” i.e. the “Bacteria and viruses that live in your mouth” and the most interesting one “YouGenomics India” which want to “Help improve genomics for South Asia”. The later app is currently working with the South Asian diaspora in the United States to build a better quality biobank of South Asian people as well as using the data to provide more defined ethnicity estimates by breaking the South Asian ethnicity into ““Central Indian subcontinent”, “Southern Indian subcontinent”, and “Bengal”.

As ever, for any DNA testing company it’s worth reading their Privacy Policy available at If you are interested in the work of this company you can follow updates and announcements via the Gencove blog.

Out of curiosity I’m planning to order their Whole Genome Sequencing. If I find anything interesting from the data, I’ll update this blog.

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My X-chromosome Inheritance – the hunt for Mr.X

One of my favourite family board games is “Scotland Yard, the Hunt for Mr. X“. In this game you have 24 turns for a team of players to find the Spy (Mr.X) as he moves around the streets of London. I mention this because not only is this a great game, it’s also a rather clumsy, but accurate, way to introduce this blog topic, the X-chromosome.

I’ve been inspired to do this by gedmatch, the vendor-neutral website for comparing your DNA. Normally I’m not a big user of gedmatch, however I was surprised when I checked my X-DNA matches and saw that my top match was an unknown relative with a whopping 47.7cM matching segment on the X chromosome. To put this in context, the whole of the X chromosome is only 195.93 cM long AND my largest autosomal DNA match is only 42.4 cM over the other 22 chromosomes. This match was clearly worth investigating.

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