Your family’s health history could be in your genealogy

One of the benefits of doing your family history is to learn more about your family’s health history. While some health issues are environmentally linked, others could be anticipated by knowing more about your recent ancestors and what they might have had. Knowing what runs in a family is always worth asking older family members.

In my family I knew that my Dad and several of his siblings had diabetes, so it was no surprise when I was diagnosed. I later learned that their aunt had died of it in 1925, their grandmother had it, and so forth. Besides diseases, one can often track family characteristics, learning who might have had red hair that was passed on down. Twins run in some families, and my great grandmother was a twin, born in the 1870s, and while no one who knew her and her sister later in life thought they were identical, several photographs have turned up showing that they were identical and dressed alike into their teen years.

So it’s worth asking your relatives what they know about any health history so you can write it down and pass it on to future generations. With families spread all over the country now, people are not growing up surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins, but they still need to know their health history. Search online for “family health history” or the government’s “Family Health History Portrait” from the Surgeon General to see some questions to ask and forms to use. Searching for “Know Your Family Health History” leads to some great links and forms at that can help one learn more about what to ask and how to record the same.


“Preserving Your Photographs: Handling, Caring for and Storing Your Family Photographs” will be the Georgia Archives Lunch and Learn topic on March 10. The speaker will be Stephanie Watkins, professional conservator. Noon, free, bring your own lunch. For more information see or call 678-364-3710. Some good online links to researching and preserving family photographs can be found at Maureen Taylor’s website, which also links you to her free blog, well worth signing up for.


“Long Lost Family” returned Feb. 12 at 9 p. m. on cable channel TLC for its second season. It deals with adoptees and birth parents searching for each other. Research details are included, and while most of the reunions are happy ones, some do not work out. There is a companion series, “Long Lost Family: What Happened Next” as well. You can see it as broadcast or on the Internet for those Sunday night episodes you may have missed.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Contact Kenneth H. Thomas Jr., P. O. Box 901, Decatur, GA 30031 or