Know Your Roots, For Your Health’s Sake

People research their family trees for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one of the most important reasons is to help each person maintain good health.

If your ancestors died of a particular medical problem, there is a chance that you will develop the same problem. Knowing the causes of death of your forebears does not automatically mean that you will have the same problems, but it at least makes you aware of the inherited possibilities. There is a strong possibility that you could improve your own health and possibly extend your life and the lives of your loved ones by analyzing the medical problems that run in your family.

Sharon West is a registered nurse and a genealogist. She has published an article explaining why you should find the causes of death of at least the last few generations of your ancestors. The article may be found in the Citizen Times (a newspaper in Asheville, North Carolina) web site at:


Thanks for the reminder!


Every time I walk into a new doctor’s office, I bring along a medical pedigree chart going back as far as I can (to about my gg grandfather who was killed by indians on one particular line) on each line & giving as much detail as possible (I obviously know quite a bit more than I ever wanted to know about my parent’s health issues more than any other ancestors).. When I met my PCP, he was quite flabbergasted & impressed when I whipped out my chart. When he got to the ancestor who was killed by the indians, he read that cause of death aloud wondering how I would come to know that about that particular relative. He’s still our PCP today!


I impressed my oncologist by having a medical pedigree attached to my paperwork. The information was essential to my treatment plan as I had breast cancer. It ruled out the need for a BRCA test. She also needed to know what other cancers had been in my family. (She was also impressed that my forms were filled out using a PDF editor. The forms were sent ahead of my initial appointment in PDF format, so it was easy for me to do this. Made reviewing them easy for her.)


In my case I have been experiencing Basal Cell cancer since April 2002. It has cost me my right paroidid gland. The upper lobe of my right lung. Eight or ten skin lesions. Most seriously it attacked my seventh cranial nerve. This is the nerve that controls the muscles and feeling of the face and cheek. It was removed along with my ear, ear canal and ear drum. My older sister died of cancer. Our father died of cancer as did his mother in 1943 and her mother in 1916. My Primary car, ENTs and Oncology were thankful even though all cancers were different.


I know of a case many years ago where someone was doing this for her children and grandchildren’s sake. Only problem was she was adopted and didn’t know it her elderly mother had never told her!


My 23andme DNA test gave me invaluable medical information. To know that one is a carrier of certain inheritable diseases, and which diseases one is more likely to develop, allows preventative measures. It is very useful to know how one might react to certain drugs.
Pat in UK


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