Everyone has heard about DNA although few understand it. DNA first became popular for solving crimes. Before long, DNA became an integral part of medical testing and diagnosis of a number of inherited medical conditions. We now know that there are genetic roots to many common diseases that affect all of us, including diabetes, mental illness, cancer, and heart disease. We are now beginning to discover the influence of genes in our life, in the lives of our families, and in the lives of our ancestors.
The advertising for this new book states that if Gilda Radner, one of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, had known of her family’s medical pedigree and her ethnic heritage, she might have been able to prevent her death from ovarian cancer at the age of 42. Many other diseases also have a hereditary component. Unlocking Your Genetic History explains how to integrate a family health history into your genealogy, how to get the appropriate medical information and analyze it, and how to design a medical pedigree in order to detect the genetic influence on your family’s health. Early awareness, identification, and treatment can mean the difference between life and death. In short, you may be able to prolong or even save the lives of your relatives by reading this book.
The second part of the book discusses the new field of using genetic testing to link you to your ancestors and verify your genealogy. Genetic testing was used to show that Thomas Jefferson or a close male relative fathered children with Jefferson’s slave, Sally Hemings, and has direct male descendents living today. It has shown that Jews retained their genetic identity despite the Jewish Diaspora. DNA testing can help identify Native American ancestry, determine who settled Polynesia, and track the march of Genghis Khan as he swept out of Mongolia. It can often determine if you are descended from a particular ancestor.
The chapters in Unlocking Your Genetic History include:
1. Ignorance Is Not Bliss: Know Your Family's Health History
Family Health History
It Runs in the Family
2. Dominant and Recessive Diseases: Our Genetic Inheritance
Genes and Diseases
The Founder Effect
Mad King George
The Importance of Location
The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick
3. When Genes Go Bad
Other Genetic Diseases
4. Compiling Your Family's Health History
A Review of Systems
5. Do You Speak Medicalese?
Coroners and Medical Examiners
Cemetery and Funeral Records
Hospital and Physician's Records
The Federal Census
Analyzing the Information
6. Draw Your Pedigree
Constructing the Pedigree
7. What Have I Found?
The Warning Signs
Patterns of Inheritance
8. Common and Important Genetic Diseases
The Heart and Blood Vessels
The Stomach and Intestines
Muscle, Bone, and Skin Conditions
The Kidneys, Bladder, and Reproductive System
The Sensory System
Hormone and Metabolic Conditions
9. Tracking Your Genes: Molecular Genealogy
What Is a Gene?
The Structure of DNA
How Does DNA Function?
Using DNA for Genealogy
10. Y Chromosome Testing: Your Father's Father's Father . . .
Y Chromosome Inheritance
How to Analyze the Y Chromosome
Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
Starting Your Own Y Chromosome Project
Jewish Y Chromosomes
The Irish Surname
11. Mitochondrial DNA: Tracking Mom's Line
How to Analyze mtDNA
Starting Your Own mtDNA Project
mtDNA and Anthropology
12. More Information on the Internet
The National Library of Medicine
Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man
Genetics Home Reference
The National Human Genome Research Institute
Other Government Web Pages
Y Chromosome Family Projects
13. Ethics, Privacy, and the Future of Genetics and Genealogy
Investigating Family Health
Testing and Family Information
The New Genealogy
21st Century Medicine
In addition, the book has a glossary, a bibliography, a lengthy index, and two appendixes:
1. Forms for Compiling Your Family's Health History
2. National Genealogical Society Standards and Guidelines
I found Unlocking Your Genetic History to be easy to read. To be sure, it has a lot of medical terms. However, Dr. Shawker explains all the terminology in a manner that this layman could understand.
Thomas H. Shawker, M.D., is well qualified to write this book. He is chief of the ultrasound section in the Imaging Sciences Program at the National Institutes of Health, a professor of radiology at the United Services University, and a fellow of the American College of Radiology. He is chairman of the National Genealogical Society’s Family Health and Heredity Committee and president of the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society. He is the author or coauthor of over two hundred scientific publications and a speaker on both medical and genealogical topics.
Unlocking Your Genetic History will help readers understand their family’s medical and genetic history and improve their understanding of the genetic revolution. It might even save your life or the life of one of your loved ones.
Unlocking Your Genetic History is a 320-page paperback published by Rutledge Hill Press. You can purchase Unlocking Your Genetic History from the National Genealogical Society's online book store at https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/BookStore/ShowProduct.cfm?PRODID=431 or from any other book store if you specify ISBN1401601448. The National Genealogical Society sells the book to members for $15.99 and to non-members for $19.99. Other book stores may sell it at a discount.