Category Archives: Medical

Genealogy News with a Medical Slant

History is in Your Genes

Joseph Hall has an article, History is in your genes, about the Genographic Project – the ambitious 5-year plan to use DNA and map out global migration patterns, that is being sponsored/handled by National Geographic and IBM.

Excerpts from the article:

As part of the worldwide Genographic Project — the largest-ever attempt to trace genetic ancestries across the globe — Royyuru and his colleagues are trying to map the entire scope of human migration throughout history.

“This is probably the most ambitious and fantastic population genetics study ever attempted,” says Royyuru, who spoke at a Toronto computer conference yesterday about the project, which is sponsored by the National Geographic Society and IBM. “Genetic evidence is the strongest evidence — it’s the history book that we all carry,” he says.

Royyuru says genealogical, anthropological and historical data can currently trace human ancestries back no further than a few thousand years.

“So if you want to infer ancestry and geography going back, let’s say, 40,000 or 50,000 years, genetic evidence is the only evidence you can bank on,” he said in an interview.

I disagree about the genealogy tracking back to a few thousand years, although I’ve ran into people who claim they are descended from this or that Roman emperor or whatever. In my opinion, and this is not meant to offend anybody – unless your ancestors were in one spot for very long lengths of time, and you have direct evidence, perhaps DNA even, anything past 500-700 years gets real dicey. I’m not saying that it can’t be proven or documented, but the evidence can get very slim at that point, especially when you look at all of the wars/upheavals/plagues/etc. over that timespan.

It’s not that I don’t think it can be done, I just think that a lot of people use evidence that wouldn’t hold up too well under scrutiny – basically evidence that wouldn’t be accepted by many genealogy professionals.

But I digress, this is a very interesting project, and it’s already causing some heads to turn – especially when it comes to North American migration patterns (Africa/Europe vs Asia).

Knowing Relatives Medical History

Paula Story has a story (hah!) in the Union-Tribune (San Diego), Knowing your relatives’ medical history can help you identify health risks and develop a personalized prevention program, that gets into an area that some don’t want to confront or think about, or that, on the flip side, actually got some peole into genealogy and their family history.

Excerpts from the article:

Knowing the details of what diseases or illnesses have occurred in your family can be an important tool for you and your doctor in determining your risk for developing illness or disease. Perhaps more critically, talking about genetic risk and recording a family medical tree can be a gift you give to others.

One problem in going back much farther than grandparents with health history is that medical records were not generally as detailed as they are today. For instance, the term “heart attack” was often used to describe many types of sudden death, and “stomach cancer” could have been any cancer within the abdominal region, including liver, ovarian or colon.

Using the speed and accessibility of the Internet, many people are beginning to find tools that help them piece together an image of their genetic past, and the increased interest in genealogy in the United States is making those tools more readily available.

I think you are going to see a lot more people looking at this aspect of genealogy.

Colonial Skeleton Stumps Archaeologists

Over at Sci-Tech Today, there is an interesting article from the Associated Press, Colonial Skeleton Stumps Archaeologists, about trying to identify remains from Colonial America in the 1600s. I’ve read another article in a magazine that mentioned some genealogy work that was done in England to find his sister (as you’ll see, they thought they had found her, and took DNA samples, however they turned out to be wrong.

Excerpt from the article:

The quest to identify a nearly intact skeleton found at Jamestown continues.

Jamestown officials said this week that without DNA proof, researchers are doing other studies to test their theory that the skeleton discovered in 2002 belongs to Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold, a founder of the first permanent English settlement in North America, established almost 400 years ago.

The announcement came after The Church of England issued a statement that tests have cast doubts on the possibility that the skeleton belonged to Gosnold.

Last June, researchers took a bone sample from an unmarked grave under the floor of a church in Shelley, England, thought to be the likely location of the remains of Gosnold’s sister, Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney. It was the first time The Church of England had authorized such research for scientific purposes.

If we end up with a few high-profile stories like this, you could see a lot more people trying to indentify past remains, which would be good news for genealogy.

Genealogy Really Does Have Medical Value

Art Matori has an article in the East Valley Tribune (Arizona), Florence man finds genealogy has medical value, that gets into an area of genealogy that may make some uncomfortable, but it has also introduced many people to genealogy.

Excerpt from the article:

Florence resident Jim McWhorter’s first visit with Gaddie led to the discovery of a hereditary coronary condition that threatened both himself and his relatives. By tracing his genealogy, the 68-year-old located and contacted three relatives to warn them of the imminent danger of a heart attack.

A lot of doctors are asking people to research their medical history, and even the US Surgeon has gotten in on the act (see the US Department of Health and Human Services Family History Initiative site). I know that some may be bothered by it, but it really is something to consider.

100th Birthdays May Become the Norm in Some Nations

According to TODAYonline (Singapore), reaching 100 years old may become the norm in some nations:

Within the next 10 years, state-of-the-art, anti-ageing technologies could — if they come into widespread use — radically start altering global demographics, extending people’s lifespans by 20 years, according to Shripad Tuljapurkar, a Stanford University biologist.

They go on to talk about it may widen the gap between nations, but I just want to look at it from the point of view of genealogy – I’m not sure how it would change things, but I know it would make them very interesting. Could you imagine if this had been case within the past 60 years, and how much it would have changed your genealogy research?

Something to ponder.