Tracking your genealogy is a pass time for many people around the world. But how
many of us track the health histories of our ancestors? Various illnesses have plagued
our families for many generations. Diseases are known to be passed down through
the family tree. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what illnesses your ancestors
had? Did it ever pass through your mind when a family member was diagnosed with
cancer or another illness what side of the family that it came from?
Medical Problems Should be Tracked and Shared
Your medical history can reveal as much about your risk of various illnesses,
as costly high-tech gene-screening tests. When researchers at the Cleveland Clinic
compared risks based on family history with those from personal genome screens that
test for common DNA variations, the simple history flagged far more people who could
benefit from stepped-up monitoring or tests for specific mutations related to breast,
colon, or prostate cancer. "Most alarmingly, the genome screening missed all of
the people at high risk for colon cancer," says Charis Eng, M.D., Ph.D., chair of
the Clinic's Genome Medicine Institute.
Create a Custom Event to Record your Medical History
Genealogy programs have two standard events, Cause of Death and Physical Description.
They can help to record important family facts. If your genealogy program allows
you to create custom events, we encourage you to create one called “Medical
History”. With this field, you can record the various known illnesses, both
genetic and naturally occurring diseases, as well as significant illnesses.
Tips on How to take the time to Bring your Family Medical History up to Date
When you find a death certificate for your ancestor, record the cause of death.
When you find a military record, record the physical description as found
in the source.
Ask your living family members about their health and record what you can
about each person. Include all conditions, not just those you think are genetic.
Be sure to gather information from both sides of your family, as breast and
ovarian cancers are just as likely to be passed from your father’s side as
from your mother’s.
If you have already created a family tree or thinking about it, leave your future
generations armed with a good medical history by starting to collect your family’s
medical information today.