Vaccines Work

I would like to start to say that I am not a specialist in this area. Or any medical area for that matter. The below is based on what I have read in, and been told by what I would consider reliable – scientific, medical – sources.

I was very happy this last week to get my first dose vaccination against Covid-19. I got the Pfizer Biontech one in Dublin’s CityWest based vaccination centre. It was done very efficiently, in and out in just over an hour. Thankfully no side effects, as I understand is the case for the vast, vast majority of people.

I won’t be able to change my behaviour yet though. It will take approximately 2 weeks for this first dose to be effective. After that, I can still get the virus – and transmit it – but the likelihood of getting seriously ill or worse should be very small. It is only after the second dose has taken effect (1-2 weeks after getting the dose, which is planned in about 4 weeks from now) that the likelihood of getting the virus at all becomes much less.

Which would bring me to somewhere in July. But after having been in lockdown or semi-lockdown for 14 months, a few more months does not sound too bad.

I am, however, very much looking forward to a holiday I booked for later in the year. I booked it a few months ago in the hope that we would be where we are expected to be now – personally AND as a country: fully vaccinated myself and 70-80% first dose vaccination in the country. We expect to reach the latter in July/August.

I am still careful. I have booked a holiday in Ireland, thus avoiding the crowds of airports. And I intend to do plenty of outdoor activities. So here is hoping for good summer weather!

It could still go wrong. We might see another spike, another variant. But I am hopeful for the future. And there is something that we all can do to prevent another setback: keep wearing masks, keep social distancing, etc. And when you are offered the vaccine, take it! Because vaccines work, as you can see from the below graph taken from the website:

My Family History

My wife has a company specialising in professional family history research, called Her enthusiasm for the topic was contagious, and I have for several years been researching my own.

Source: Google Maps

“Van” means “from” in Dutch. And “Turnhout” is a town in Flanders in  Belgium.  It is located at the bottom of the map shown.

Unfortunately, in my research, I never got further back than the middle of the 18th Century and my ancestors lived in the same region I was born in: Tilburg in The Netherlands, at the top of the map.

But although I have not been able to trace it, I still believe it is a reasonable assumption that the town of Turnhout is where my family originally hails from. Especially because it is only 35 kilometers from Tilburg.

Paternal ancestry

As mentioned, I traced the Van Turnhout ancestry to the middle of the eighteenth Century in the Tilburg region.  Jan van Turnhout got married on 10th May 1749, to Wilhelmina van den Corput. He was from Dongen, a village to the north-west of Tilburg, she was from Rijen, a village south-west of Tilburg.  I did find a birth record for a Jan van Turnhout in Dongen, dated 10th August 1728, but am not sure if this is the same Jan. The newlyweds went to live in Rijen and it is in this village that my ancestors would reside for the next 100+ years. Most of them were land labourers.  This changed when one of my forebears died young, in 1868, aged only 31.  His widow remarried and took her young son Hubertus (born 1866) with her to live in Dongen with her new husband, the same village that Jan had come from over a hundred years earlier. I don’t know what exactly happened, but his experience seems to have spurred the young lad on, as he went on to found a transport company in Dongen. And gave his children an education. One of these children, Laurens, became an accountant. This was my grandfather, who would also live all his live in Dongen. It was my parents who moved to the big city next doors, Tilburg.

Maternal ancestry

I also researched my maternal family history; the Hazelaar family. This time I managed to get back to the 17th Century, if only just: my 7th great-grandfather, Jan Derks Haselhort got married on 21st November 1697 in “Op het Klooster”.  The family was from a completely different part of The Netherlands,  the Coevorden area in the East of the Netherlands. Also, “Hazelaar” was not the original name of the family; it was “Haselhorst”, a very German name. Coevorden is very close to the German-Dutch border, so this is not entirely surprising. Finding themselves on the Dutch side, they obviously decided to adopt a more Dutch sounding name. Finally, “Op het Klooster” was a hamlet just south of Coevorden, where the family owned a farm.  Much later, after the Second World War, a branch of the family went to live in Canada. The whole family went together. However, one of the children postponed his departure because his wife fell ill. And then he died himself! The widow decided to stay in the Netherlands, with her 3 children. The youngest of which was my mother.


I had a DNA test done via Ancestry. Apart from the Scandinavian genes that virtually everyone in Western Europe seems to have, my DNA is neatly splitting in a Germanic line and an “English and Northwestern Europe” one. The latter is explained because the word “English” is a development of “Anglo-Saxon”. And both the Angles and Saxons were tribes which migrated to Britain from the continent. 

So, it seems that my parents came from two different gene pools, my mother presumably representing the German line and my father the Anglo-Saxon one.

Happy Christmas

2020 has been an awful year. Most of us would like to forget it and move on. Unfortunately, we will all need more patience. It will take time before the vaccines will become readily available and it will need 60-80% of people inoculated before it is truly effective. This means we will spend most of 2021 socially distancing, wearing masks, etc.  That idea might be disturbing for some. But think of this.

My heart goes out to those that have lost dear ones. And it is exactly because of that we need to keep strong. Otherwise, we will cause just more grief.

This means that Christmas 2020 has to be different. No big family gatherings in Ireland, no visits to my family in The Netherlands.

But my family is still healthy. I am still in a job. I will still take the Christmas week off for some relaxation and enjoy the company of my wife, and for Christmas, my mother in law, with whom we are in a “bubble”.  I will still enjoy this Christmas. Just the way I enjoyed my holidays, even though it wasn’t in Italy as planned, but just a few day-trips in Ireland. 

 So, rather than complain about the things we cannot do, let’s appreciate the things we can. And with that, I wish you:

Hill Walk and Garden in Dalkey

Dalkey is a former village and now a suburb of Dublin.  It is located in the South-East of the city. It traces its origins to Viking times and was a busy port town in the Middle Ages.

I have visited the attractive town itself many times. This time I went for a walk in Killiney Hill Park and a visit to Mornington Garden. 

Killiney Hill Park

This park takes in both Killiney Hill and Dalkey Hill. It was opened to the public as far back as 1887, by Prince Albert, and was then called Victoria Hill, in memory of her Jubilee. 

The park offers spectacular views over the surrounding areas: Dublin to the northwest, the Irish Sea to the east and southeast, and Bray Head and the Wicklow Mountains to the south. Here are some pictures I took:

View over Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, and Dublin Bay from Dalkey Hill
View over Killiney Bay from Dalkey Hill







View over the Irish Sea and the Wicklow Mountains from Killiney Hill







Mornington Garden

Afterwards, I visited Mornington garden, which is a private garden just outside the entrance to the park.  It is by appointment only and costs €6 per person, minimum group of 4.  Our very knowledgeable host was Annmarie Bowring who gave a very enthusiastic tour of her beautiful garden. And gave me lots of tips and ideas for my own (she also runs a garden school). These are just a very small sample of the many flowers in her garden. If you are into gardening, I would recommend a visit! For more information, click here.



Staycation 2020: Italy

2020 will forever be known as the year of COVID-19. The impact on my life has so far been one of inconveniences rather than anything more depressing:

  • I have been working from home since early March. I used to travel a lot to meet clients. I was in a plane most weeks,  often heading for London and occasionally Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, or Berlin. That has obviously ceased, and I now conduct “meetings” via video conferences.
  • I have not been able to visit my widowed mother since January – which I normally do every few months.
  • I had to cancel a family trip to Lanzarote, a visit to friends in Iceland, and my planned holiday to Italy.

But let’s look at this another way:

  • Thankfully no close relatives or friends have succumbed to the virus.
  • I still have my job.
  • Thanks to Facetime I am in regular contact with my mother.
  • Lanzarote, Iceland, and Italy will still be there next year or the year after.

I don’t want to belittle the stress this crisis brings to people with young families and/or living in small apartments. But I have no sympathy for people who “must” go abroad. 

Instead of visiting the Amalfi Coast and Umbria as planned we – my wife and I – are staying put. We are taking a two-week break to recharge our batteries, however. We will be doing a number of day trips, such as:

We also came up with the idea of “theme days”.  The first theme day was “Italy”: as we could not go to Italy, we decided to bring Italy do us.

We decorated our house with Italian flags, table cloths, etc. We went shopping in the Specialty Grocery Store “The Best of Italy“. Here we got a lovely “home-made” lasagna for lunch and plenty of fresh ingredients for dinner.

Dinner recipe

  • Roast a small quantity of pine nuts. This can be simply done by spreading pine nuts in a  single layer in a small frying pan. Don’t use oil, but do stir constantly until the nuts start to go brown. Then move them into a bowl. Don’t leave them in the pan, as they might burn.
  • Pasta: cook in lightly salted water. Once done, drain and add a dollop of green pesto and mix thoroughly.
  • While cooking the pasta, heat a mixture of vegetables in a frying pan. I chose a red pepper, a large onion, a mixture of mushrooms, and green asparagus.  I also added some small cherry tomatoes. Don’t forget the herbs: Italian herbs, Oregano, and fresh Basil (I grow a Basil plant in my kitchen)
  • Use pasta bowls to serve; first put in the pasta, cover with the vegetables, and sprinkle with the pine nuts. 
  • Then there is the cheese. I like to offer both Parmigiano. which I buy ready grated and mature cheddar, which I serve in a grater. 
  • I chose a white Pinot Grigio to accompany the dinner. 

For dessert, we had a home-made Tiramisu. You will be surprised how easy it is to make, but it will take a few hours in the fridge to set, so you will need to do some planning. 

And while enjoying the dinner, we watched a classic Italian movie: Cinema Paradiso, in which a filmmaker recalls his childhood when falling in love with the pictures at the cinema in his home village and forms a deep friendship with the cinema’s projectionist.




Moreen, a Country Mansion

This article tells the story of a 19th Century estate, called “Moreen” which was developed as a retreat for a well to do Dublin family. Their main house was in the city centre. Moreen was then in the countryside, although not too far from the big city. It has a rich history, stretching from the time of the Pale to Markievicz to the modern Central Bank.

Legacies of British Slave Ownership

I wrote this article for the “Internet Genealogy” edition of October/November 2017. This is a leading North American genealogical magazine that focuses on keeping today’s family historian up-to-date with the vast and ever-growing collection of genealogy-related resources, software, tools, products, technologies, etc. My article “Legacies of British Slave Ownership” is about a very unusual database contains a wealth of information on British plantation and slave owners in the Caribbean

Real Estate Speculation in the 19th Century

This article was published in an Irish Local History Magazine in November 2017. My article is “Gordonville”, about the history of a house and the village it is in. It shows the impact on a small village of the coming of the railways. And that speculation on real estate is not a recent phenomenon.