Medical Genealogy

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.

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