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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Beth's Weekly Moultrie Observer Column - Week 56
(This appears here courtesy of The Moultrie Observer)

Genealogy is the number one hobby in the United States today…and has been the most popular past time for several years.  It’s something interesting to do.  It’s fun.  It gives  you something about which to talk with most anyone you meet – anywhere.

   Have you thought about how your hobby of genealogy could help save not only your own life, but the lives of many of your family?

   Today, many researchers are tracing not only their family names and dates and places, but also the medical history of the forebears.

   Once upon a time doctors thought that hereditary diseases were limited to rare things like some birth defects or hemophilia (Remember the son of the last Czar of Russia?).

   Today’s research indicates there are genetic components in almost all illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer (of the breast, ovaries and colon), asthma, asthma, alcoholism, ulcers and even manic depression.

   I read that when you are putting together your family history, the question to ask isn’t “Are there any genetic diseases in our family?” but “Which genetic diseases do we have?”

   Research has shown that each of us harbors at least 20 disease-causing genes.

   One of the best ways to protect your children and to know which diseases lurk in your own family is to do a medical family tree.

   One article I read said, “Many thousands of untimely deaths could be prevented each year in the United States if people would only learn which diseases run in their families.”

   According to a University of Utah School of Medicine study, if you’re under 50 and two or more relatives have had coronary heart disease, your risk climbs to three to six times the normal rate.  If those relatives had coronary heart disease before age 55, your chances go to four to 13 times the national average.

   Here are a few guidelines to help you investigate your own medical roots.

   Look through your own family records and see what information you can find in old Bibles, scrapbooks, documents, death certificates, etc.

   Look at family photographs as these will help you with traits such as obesity, osteoporosis (which might show up as poor posture), baldness and any other abnormal physical traits.

   Ask questions of your relatives.  Do your best to record the health history of your closest relatives – your parents, siblings and children.  These individuals share at least a 50% of their genes in common with you.

   Try to get medical information on your grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews – with whom you share 25% of your genes.

   You might want to also do research on your cousins and even more distant ancestors.  The more detailed and wider your base of information, the better it will be.

   Ask about things like obesity, infertility, learning and speech problems – all of which may have a genetic component.

   A diplomatic way of asking might be, “Can you think of any unusual traits that run in our family?”

   Try to back up the stories you uncover with death certificates and medical records.

   Become aware of how terminology has changed.  For example, what was called “stomach cancer” in the 1950s may have really been cancer of the colon or ovaries or pancreas.  Your doctor will be glad to help you understand the medical terminology.

   Tell your doctor about your family history and ask about what you can do with the information to safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones.

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