Medical genealogy

Keeping track of your health history

This is in your genes

One of the most important uses of history is to help predict the future and avoid the mistakes of the past. When it comes to medical issues, many people say that they also don’t know what the future holds.
Perhaps this made sense in the past, when a person could not do much in his medical future. However, we now have many options, and based on what you know about your family’s medical history, you can influence your future health. If you have a family history of unusual misfortunes – even those that seem mild – or of many people dying from such causes, you should start an investigation. You may find that there is simply a predisposition to one disease, and there are precautions that can be taken. Or you may find a genetic disorder that you, your children or grandchildren must seriously investigate before you have children.


Some families may be predisposed to a specific disease. This means that they are not born with it, but a large number of people develop it throughout their lives. This information may be useful for you, as you can avoid situations that could lead to an early onset of the disease. You can also be vigilant when observing potential symptoms and early treatment. For example, if you know that you are prone to diabetes, you can be careful with your diet and make sure that you are checked periodically.

Hereditary genetic disorders – kings, queens and you

There are many diseases, not just predispositions, that can be transmitted to a child. In addition, because of race, gender, or other factors, you may be more likely to get this gene. Many, if not most, of these diseases, such as Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell Anemia, and Huntington’s Disease, are terrible, debilitating conditions that none of the parents intentionally want to pass on to the child. Although most manifest at birth or shortly afterwards, Huntington’s disease does not develop until mid-life, when a person has already passed the gene to a child.

Hemophilia is one of the most famous genetic diseases. It is believed that this was caused by a gene mutation in Queen Victoria. Her large family, marrying many of the royal houses of Europe and members of several royal houses, had him, the most famous of which was the son of Tsar Alexander. Tsarina Alexandra so desperately tried to find a cure with the monk Rasputin, a rude and unpopular figure in Russia. The general disapproval of this association contributed to the unpopularity of the royal family, which ultimately led to revolution.

Porphyria is another royal disease with historical consequences. One of the symptoms of this disease is bouts of insanity, and it is believed that King George III of England suffered from this genetic disorder, which may have returned to Mary, Queen of Scots.

Gathering Information

Genetic testing has been very successful, and in many cases, the test can determine if a person carries the gene for a particular disease. In other cases, there is no test, as you determine if there were those who left before you had any problems? As with all genealogy, you must use a lot of resources.

  • Death certificates are usually a great source, although they can be a problem. Old certificates may use outdated terms, but they can be translated.
  • Interviews with relatives may reveal information or some clues.
  • Obituaries spoke more often about the cause of death than now. However, at the end of the obituary, he can say to send donations to the Cancer Society, the heart association, etc., which is a very good clue.
  • The doctor may not have had a name before, but a posthumous diagnosis may be possible. Sometimes photographs or descriptions of a person give modern doctors information that allows them to identify a disease of a person who died hundreds of years ago. Abraham Lincoln may have suffered from Marfan syndrome, a hereditary disorder that was probably not identified when he was alive. (DNA tests that should answer this question will be performed on a cloak stained with Lincoln’s blood.) Ihnaton (Akhenaten), the pharaoh of Egypt, is usually depicted with a long head with a horse and strange hands, he probably also had marfans. Some believe that the figures in El Greco’s paintings were always so tall and thin that he had visual disturbances that made him see people that way. Of course, all this is speculation.

What to do with information

The probability of many inherited defects can be accurately predicted through genetic counseling. People with family histories of these defects must undergo testing and counseling before they have children so that they can make a reasonable decision about the risks involved.

Genetic counseling

Once you have compiled your family history of the disease, you should not go too far trying to interpret it, since you can go to the wrong conclusions. For example, if women in your family who had breast cancer were on your father’s side, doctors say that this does not increase the risk of getting cancer.

If your family has a serious genetic defect and you haven’t started a family, counseling would be a good idea. First, there would be a decision on whether there are any children at all. For some people, the 75% chance of a normal child sounds good, while others would not want to risk 25% of the chance of a child who could never have a normal life or could not survive until his first birthday. In the case of Huntington’s disease, it would be very difficult not to know for many years whether you went through the illness. Even if you already have children, you may need to tell them about your family history and that they may be carriers.

Record your information

The creator of Family Tree has a place to record medical information and the cause of death. You can also print this information on your charts so you can easily track your medical history as soon as you have collected the information. It can save your life!

Future developments

In the future, DNA will provide many answers that we must now fight so hard to find them from documents and family stories. Organizations already exist that urge people to leave a sample of their DNA so that future generations can find answers that are now inaccessible. (Of course, this could also prove that they were not our ancestors!)

Methods of organizing medical genealogical information

Numerous sources provide information about the medical history of the family, for example:

  • Anecdotal evidence (for recent ancestors and relatives).
  • Death certificates (due to death).
  • Newspapers (e.g., unexpected deaths, outbreaks of disease).
  • Military records (service records sometimes provide information on medical history and injuries).
  • Hospital records (but even records from over 100 years ago are often difficult to access!).

Genealogy programs are not well placed to systematically record medical information. Some programs have a “cause of death” for the facts of death, but for other medical information we have to bury it in notes, which does not allow us to easily find, search or visualize information later.

When you have collected more data, the goal may be to create a list of all the ancestors and relatives who had a certain illness or condition.


Good luck in finding.