Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Health Family Tree

One aspect of genealogy I tend not to think about often is how we can use the information gathered from our research to put together a health family tree.

I didn't really consider it until I connected with my mother and learned she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, I only had limited information on my father's side of the family. But as my knowledge of family history grew, I decided to create a "Health Family Tree" and instead of names, I wrote medical conditions on a pedigree chart.

This is a very useful tool to keep in my medical file, as well as to pass on to cousins, siblings and children:

"A Health Family Tree" - New England Genealogy

With it, I can see potential patterns that I might want to watch out for as far as my own health. For example, in addition to my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer, I know she's had a maternal aunt and two maternal cousins also diagnosed with breast and/or cervical cancer. If I look back at their paternal great-grandmother, I see that she died of breast cancer in 1930. This is useful for my doctor, because that means she can make appropriate recommendations for my health based upon my family history.

If I update this to put my daughter on the first line as "self," this chart would show that both her maternal and paternal grandmothers have been diagnosed with (and survived) breast cancer. So this could become a very important chart in my daughter's life as she enters adolescence and adulthood.

On my father's side, you can see that Type II diabetes is a concern, and my aunt was born with Type I diabetes.

I did leave out certain health concerns on this example for the sake of privacy, like the age at which my parents were diagnosed with cancer. I have also left out sensitive matters, such as alcoholism and mental health issues some of my family members and ancestors have dealt with, like bi-polar disorder and depression. But it's important to include those as well, to ensure you have a complete health history to hand to your doctor and children.

While I'm not interested in testing my DNA with 23andMe, I do like having my family's health history laid out on a pedigree chart, so doctors can see how this medical puzzle fits together.

Have you created a pedigree chart showing your health/medical family tree?

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

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