I was recently asked by the wellness coordinator at my place of employment to give a presentation on medical genealogy. Somehow he heard that I did a lot of genealogy research. Even though medical genealogy isn’t something that I’ve focused on, I have a lot of experience researching and tracking down records. I understand the importance of having a record of medical information about relatives and illnesses/diseases/addictive behaviors that run in a family. Making informed decisions about prevention and screening can only occur when a person knows the risks.
When I began working on my presentation, I thought to do my own medical genealogy. What better way to focus on what to look for? I started by making a “cause of death” family tree. This might sound morbid, but I thought end of life was a good place to start since death certificates are primary sources of information.
It’s interesting that once I had the information laid out in neutral form, I found an interesting pattern. My direct ancestors, especially women, lived a long time. (Knock on wood…) Two of my great-grandmothers died in their 30s but one died during Spanish flu pandemic and another took some medication which caused her to spasm and die within a couple of hours. I look at these deaths as outside “the norm.”
Modern medicine makes sense for longevity today, but four, five, six, seven generations ago? Most of my ancestors were farmers. That’s a hard life. I guess this means I’m from hardy stock.