Thursday, October 18, 2007

Medical family histories

When you're interested in a particular subject, bits and pieces of information about it seem to pop up all the time. The word "genealogy" always catches my eye (of course!), along with "family tree" and other related terms.

I came across a reference to medical "family trees" in a recent issue of the AARP Bulletin. (Yes, I am old enough to get that, and so is everyone else past the age of 50!) The paragraph cited the Government's Health and Human Services web site, which has a form the reader can fill out to create a medical family history. The benefits are obvious – if a pattern of genetic diseases (or even those diseases not yet known to be genetic) is found, one can better prepare for eventualities. The address is: Your physician will thank you.

This discovery led me to find the following book, which is available through the Sonoma County Library System: How healthy is your family tree? A complete guide to tracing your family's medical and behavioral tree / Carol Krause (Simon and Schuster, 1995)

A web search (good old Google) brought up the following as well:

"Family health history "/ Ralph Bishop

And at
"Your medical roots" / Gina Shaw

Sometimes, though, our medical interests are historic, rather than personal. I have long been interested in the tangled family lines of European royalty, particularly that of Queen Victoria. I even worked out a chart once, while reading a book about her family which did not include its own chart (someone had swiped it). Of course, such charts now are readily available online, and I later found an exhaustive one in a book of photographs, Queen Victoria's family : a century of photographs / by Charlotte Zeepvat. Besides the most fascinating pictures, it includes six pages of charts for her descendants. (Sorry, not at the local library, but you could probably get it on Inter-Library Loan. It was published in the UK by Sutton, 2001.)

Musing on the troubles created by hemophilia, the dread disorder which haunted the Queen's family, I began to be curious as to who was afflicted besides her great-grandchild, Alexis, son of Russia's last Tsar. An internet search produced an abundance of information, some of it in the form of family trees. One of the best, which includes much data on each individual, is found at: There are at least ten hemophiliac males in three generations.

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