Do you have a medical family tree?

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In recent years, medical science has made us aware of how certain diseases are hereditary. Everything from Alzheimer’s and diabetes to some cardiovascular diseases are disorders we can inherit from our ancestors.

It is not our intention to scare you, but wouldn’t it be interesting to set up an alternative family tree? You probably won’t get so far back in time, but at least it can be a good start for your descendants. Several church records have the cause of death in a medical term. It can be it anything from consumption to heart problems.

Ask your relatives

Interviewing your living relatives can be the right way to find the answer as to what some of your late relatives have died of whether it be old age, tuberculosis (consumption), heart defects or something else.

However, it may be taboo or embarrassing for some to talk about diseases and disorders in the family. It can therefore be strategically wise to get the conversation started by sharing your own health history first.

Try not to be too insistent, but as a starting point avoid asking to many in-depth questions.

Since there might be emotions related to medical genealogy information, you may want to type in keywords or make a record of the conversation on tape (if the person agrees). If you become overly involved in the writing, it can ruin a good conversation and instead create a distance between you and the person you are interviewing.

Additional reading: 65 questions you can ask your relatives

Make hereditary diseases more visible

In order to make the medical family tree more interesting and useful for current and future relatives, you can also clarify any hereditary diseases.

Some diseases are more related to genetic material than others. Norwegian Health Information have listed the following:

  • Heart disease, high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Arthritis / joint pains
  • Mental illness
  • Kidney disease
  • Alcoholism or other substance abuse
  • Congenital defects
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Learning disabilities, possibly mentally retarded
  • Abortions and stillbirth

If you need a template for a family tree to get started, you will find it in our online store.