Genealogy: It’s Good for Your Health
There are a lot of good reasons for you to look into your genealogy and do some family history. Some people want to know more about their heritage and ethnicity. Some people do it Because of religious beliefs regarding the afterlife. Some people do it to figure out how they came to be in the place they’re in. Some people do it just for the historical fun! But a compelling reason to do your family history is actually because it’s good for your heart. And, no, not just those warm fuzzy feelings you’ll get when you find a long-lost ancestor. Studies are showing that your family history can indicate health problems and concerns for you and your future family.
Family health can be a tough subject. Many families avoid it altogether because the conversations can get a little scary at times. No one likes to talk about serious diseases or death, but wouldn’t it be better to talk about them and potentially prevent something? Everyone knows that there are a lot of serious medical conditions which are genetic – passed through family lines. Obviously looking to your parents is a great start, but of course some of their problems may have been passed on by THEIR parents, and so on and so forth! Genealogy can help you become a health detective in your family tree. It is common in the medical profession to recommend a multi-generational pedigree chart be created in order to look for genetic diseases.
For example, there are women today who discover breast cancer several generations back in their family tree. Once discovered, these women can talk about the cancer with their doctors and determine the best course of prevention. Some women are even getting preventative mastectomies to avoid the cancer altogether! Amazing! Because of their family history health work they will live longer, happier, healthier lives.
It is fairly common for heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer to run in family lines. If you are able to do some investigative health genealogy you may be able to find genetic issues like this in your family tree. While a little frightening, this is actually a great step towards prevention and lifelong health.
Start by completing a family pedigree chart with at least 3-4 generations. Once you have a completed family tree, look into cause of death. This can be found on death certificates, obituaries, in journals, news articles, and other written materials you may be able to find. Note the age at which each ancestor passed away, and determine if that was normal or early for the time. Medical records, if possible to find, are the best indicator for your family.
Once you have looked into your family history, you should share your findings with your own family – immediate and extended. Encourage everyone to share as much medical information as they are comfortable with, because it will ultimately benefit the family as a whole. There are plenty of resources such as familyhealthhistory.org and familyhistory.hhs.gov which can help you in your search. If you are hitting dead ends or are particularly motivated to dig deeper than you feel qualified, don’t hesitate to hire a professional genealogist to aid in your quest for family history health.