Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Searching Family Tree, Note Medical Histories

By David Burton
University Extension

When searching family history it is important to record medical conditions of relatives.
One reason is that knowing the family medical history is essential to make informed medical and reproductive decisions. This is especially true now that the medical community understands that many diseases are inherited.
"As a genealogist or the family record keeper, details you record could benefit future family members," said David Burton, civic communication specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
Burton recommends making it a point to record as many of the details as possible when collecting data for family history.
These details are found in family stories, obituaries, death certificates, census records, newspaper stories, and interviews. For example, take note of:
Birth and death dates if deceased, as well as cause of death.
Occupations, which might influence health.
Major illnesses such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes.
General patterns of ill health over the life of an individual.
Birth defects or stillborn children born to a family.
Allergies, both environmental and drug related.
Emotional or behavioral problems (depression, alcohol use, anxiety, etc).
Chronic health problems like asthma or high blood pressure.
Vision and hearing problems.
General health routines, like tobacco use and diet.
Note the age of the person when health conditions were reported.
"A log of family health history can be shared with family members and medical providers. We cannot even guess how the information could help future generations," said Burton.
"The History of Me” is a 20 - page guide developed by Burton that is full of questions that will guide a person toward preserving a personal history for future generations.
The booklet is available for free online at

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