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How Healthy Is Your Family Tree?

Making a health history of your family can put your data to a very practical use and keep you and your loved ones healthier.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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As family history researchers and genealogists, we enjoy finding our factual data about our current family and our ancestors. After all, if our ancestors had not lived, neither would we! They had to be tough birds to survive.

But in the course of finding this information about family members, we can come across very useful information that can affect our own lives and the lives of those yet unborn, if we haven't already started a family.

I am referring to a medical genealogical history and such allied work. Of course, what was called a certain kind of disease 300 years ago might not be the same disease today. Some jokesters refer to a bullet wound as lead poisoning, while in other cases accidents happen. No one could have foreseen the tragic tsunami that struck Southeast Asia at the end of 2004. And of course wars and other situations cause earlier than expected mortality.

But there are advantages to building a family medical history in as much as you can reliably determine it. Your doctor and other medical researchers can utilize this to help keep you and your family as healthy as they can be. I was interested in an article done by the Center for Disease Control at (, which discusses the ramifications of having a family health tree for public health workers. For example, if a certain group of people has a tendency to develop certain disease and if they have children and pass it on to them, this is of interest. This is not Big Brother, telling people whom they can or can't marry. This is advising that something might occur and to be ready to deal with it. As the article points out, people share genetic material when they reproduce. They usually also share a common living environment (which be healthy or not), and often share behavioral traits - use of alcohol, drugs, or any number of other items can affect health and quality of life.

If the women or men in your family have a history of eye disease, breast or prostate cancer, or other maladies, the other family members can take action to be screened early and often for likely developments. Having seen far too many of my co-workers and friends suffer and die too early because they didn't know, this is an important issue for me.

Take a look at the web site noted above and do further research. See how much data you can get on 5 or 6 generations of your family - and while I am sensitive to the emotional issue of adoptees, the bloodline and genes are at work here, not the emotional bond. You may be able to learn from the past to help your present and future family.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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