Genealogy is the number one
hobby in the United States today…and has been the most popular past time
for several years. It’s something interesting to do. It’s fun. It
gives you something about which to talk with most anyone you meet –
Have you thought about
how your hobby of genealogy could help save not only your own life, but
the lives of many of your family?
Today, many researchers
are tracing not only their family names and dates and places, but also the
medical history of the forebears.
Once upon a time doctors
thought that hereditary diseases were limited to rare things like some
birth defects or hemophilia (Remember the son of the last Czar of
indicates there are genetic components in almost all illnesses including
diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer (of the breast,
ovaries and colon), asthma, asthma, alcoholism, ulcers and even manic
I read that when you are
putting together your family history, the question to ask isn’t “Are there
any genetic diseases in our family?” but “Which genetic diseases do we
Research has shown that
each of us harbors at least 20 disease-causing genes.
One of the best ways to
protect your children and to know which diseases lurk in your own family
is to do a medical family tree.
One article I read said,
“Many thousands of untimely deaths could be prevented each year in the
United States if people would only learn which diseases run in their
According to a
University of Utah School of Medicine study, if you’re under 50 and two or
more relatives have had coronary heart disease, your risk climbs to three
to six times the normal rate. If those relatives had coronary heart
disease before age 55, your chances go to four to 13 times the national
Here are a few
guidelines to help you investigate your own medical roots.
Look through your own
family records and see what information you can find in old Bibles,
scrapbooks, documents, death certificates, etc.
Look at family
photographs as these will help you with traits such as obesity,
osteoporosis (which might show up as poor posture), baldness and any other
abnormal physical traits.
Ask questions of your
relatives. Do your best to record the health history of your closest
relatives – your parents, siblings and children. These individuals share
at least a 50% of their genes in common with you.
Try to get medical
information on your grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews – with
whom you share 25% of your genes.
You might want to also
do research on your cousins and even more distant ancestors. The more
detailed and wider your base of information, the better it will be.
Ask about things like
obesity, infertility, learning and speech problems – all of which may have
a genetic component.
A diplomatic way of
asking might be, “Can you think of any unusual traits that run in our
Try to back up the
stories you uncover with death certificates and medical records.
Become aware of how
terminology has changed. For example, what was called “stomach cancer” in
the 1950s may have really been cancer of the colon or ovaries or
pancreas. Your doctor will be glad to help you understand the medical
Tell your doctor about
your family history and ask about what you can do with the information to
safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones.