Your Family's Medical History Matters

Certain health conditions can run in families. Diabetes, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia… even cancer – just to name a few. These ailments have the potential to repeat from generation to generation.

Knowing your family’s health history and the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and so on can help doctors identify some of the health risks you and your family members may face. Unfortunately, with the passing of each generation, valuable health information is often forgotten or lost. By compiling your family’s medical history, you can help impact the health of your current loved ones and future generations to come.

Here are some tips on assembling your family’s medical history.

A few helpful tips...

  • Ask relatives about your family’s health history. Find out what your contemporaries and older members of the family remember  regarding family health issues over the decades.

  • Look for family records. Try to locate things like family trees, birth certificates, death certificates, etc. Even old diaries, photo albums and scrap books may help.

  • Search for official documents. Government records (like death certificates and military discharges) along with newspaper reports (such as obituaries and hometown articles) may include some useful information. Many can be accessed online or through your public library.

  • Compile your information. Document your family history in a computer file so you can share it with the rest of your family as well as pass it on to future generations. The U.S. Surgeon General has developed a computerized tool called My Family Health Portrait to help people create a family medical history.

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