Genealogy has become an interest of mine and, in search of my long-gone ancestors I have found that there is more than family history as we know it here. In genealogy we find the clues to our own history of illness or lack thereof and so it is with interest that I saw the Surgeon General of the U.S. realized a software tool to help all of us with our health would be a good idea.
My Family History Portrait is free software that you can download and use. The site describes it as: “a visual depiction of your family tree. It is constructed using circles and squares to see who is related to whom and how they are related. In terms of health and disease, a family health portrait can help show a health care provider how a particular trait or disease is passed on from generation to generation.”
So, in addition to helping you pass this valuable information on to other family members, it’s a way of seeing how health is a part of genealogy.
I remember one of my first biology classes in high school where they unraveled the mystery of eye color. There are a lot of people in my extended family and all of them have variations of grey, blue or green eyes, except for my mother. My mother had hazel eyes and, as such, she was the only brown eyed member among us.
How could this have happened? Simple genetics tells us that blue is a recessive gene (only comes out when it meets another blue/grey/green gene) and brown is a dominant gene (it rules the roost)
Voila’! My mother had light-eyed relatives in her family tree because that’s the only way we got to have these blue/grey eyed members. Brown-eyed people can have one gene for brown and one for blue/grey/green, but blue-eyed people have both of their eye color genes for that same blue/grey/green color. So while brown-eyed people can have children with either brown or light-colored eyes, light-eyed people can only have light-eyed children if they have children with a light-eyed mate.
When we start to look at a family tree in terms of genes and what they bring to us, we look at a connection to people we never knew, but who, nevertheless, passed on to us abilities that may now confound us.
What makes some of us so sensitive to the environment or to stress or anxiety? Somewhere, sometime in the long-distant past, one of our relatives managed to survive because of this genetic inheritance. Perhaps he or she managed to avoid the dangers of a saber toothed tiger or a giant lizard or to steer clear of a bog and those who possessed this inner programming survived to pass that survival gene on to us.
The environment has changed, undoubtedly, but we are still reacting in situations as though there were still real danger. So, it would seem, anxiety, panic and even depression runs in families and at one time they may all have had their place in helping our ancestors live in a hostile environment.
While science unravels the mystery of our genetic inheritance, we can do our own investigation via genealogy research. The internet is packed with sites that can help you find databases that will tell you more than you could have found prior to this age of computers. My search continues. I hope you begin yours.