Family History – A Matter of Health
You may have a laundry list of reasons you’ve been meaning to do your genealogy: record preservation, family heritage and religious convictions are among the top motivations we see. But your genealogy may be a little more useful than you’ve considered; studies are currently showing that knowing your lineage can actually give you some valuable insight into your family medical history – and offer you important warning signs and alert you to certain risks.
Some medical professionals are now recommending that patients obtain a pedigree of at least three generations to help prevent or treat certain genetic diseases. For example, you may have recently read about Angelina Jolie’s decision to undergo a preventative mastectomy due to her strong family history of breast cancer. If your pedigree shows major risks of heart disease or diabetes, your physician may choose to recommend specific testing or even prescribe preventative treatment.
Getting your family talking about mutual health problems can be a delicate matter, but your genealogical efforts can greatly help you in your search – and give you the ammunition you need to begin persuading other family members to participate in keeping a family medical history journal. Genealogical records, like death certificates and obituaries, can give you key insights into family medical histories. With these, you may be able to determine at what age an ancestor passed away and from what cause. Depending on the geographical area and time period, it may have been common for families to use the same doctor for generations. These records, if available, could be invaluable to your health and that of your posterity.
Your genealogy says a lot about your past, but with the proper research, it can also tell you a lot about your future! Several resources are available to help you record and build your family’s medical history. These include familyhealthhistory.org and familyhistory.hhs.gov. Familyhealthhistory.org gives you tools and resources to help you start talking to your family and community about the importance of knowing your lineage. Of course, hiring a #professional genealogist can greatly simplify your efforts in finding your ancestors and family histories.
Whatever your reasons are for determining your lineage and genealogical background, think about all the ways your health can benefit from it! For more details see “Doctors Want You to do Your Family History,” Deseret News, 21 July 2013, sec. A, pp. 1, 5.