The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

May 21, 2012

Frankie Meyer: Medical histories hold important details

JOPLIN, Mo. — When compiling a family history, researchers often notice health patterns among the various lines.

Members of some lines live longer. Other lines have health problems such as heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, birth defects, asthma, mental illness or alcoholism. Details about diseases and other conditions are found in death certificates, obituaries, letters, bibles, diaries, military records and pension records.

Details about family health patterns can help a doctor in diagnosing problems, and it can also help each person recognize his or her increased health risks. Armed with that knowledge, patients may need to change to a healthier life style and add new medical tests to regular checkups.

After tracing one's family medical history, should a researcher share the information with other family members? Absolutely. However, steps need to be taken to protect the privacy of family members.

If a researcher has a genealogy website, never include medical information. When filing out the medical history at a doctor's office, do not include the names of relatives, only the relationships. You never know who might see those records.

If drawing a pedigree chart of health problems, use squares for men and circles for females. Caution other family members to not share details about family health problems with anyone but close family members and doctors.

The surgeon general has created a website that provides software that can help families organize information on family health patterns. The site is

When the site opens, scroll down to “Access the My Family Health Portrait Web Tool.” When the next screen opens, read “Learn more about My Health Portrait.”

After learning more by using the health tool, return to the former screen and click on “Create a Family History.” After data is entered, a health pedigree can be printed. The site notes that only the person inputting the details can download the health pedigree.

Whether a person decides to complete the health form or not, much can be learned by reading the questions on the form because they provide clues to the type of details that need to be gathered during family research.

A few of the questions are about race and ethnicity, because some diseases are more common among some groups. One example was whether a person has Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. The site notes that Ashkenazi heritage carries an increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

Another question is whether the parents were related. When asking about specific diseases, the site has a space to add the age at the time of diagnosis and the actions that were taken.

Suggestions or queries? Send to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168, or contact:


Text Only
Globe Life
  • 041314_cj glass1.jpg Carl Junction students create projects, win awards at national contest with glass arts

    The students are part of a new glass arts class at Carl Junction High School taught by Jessica Sellars, a graduate of the school who earned her bachelor's degree from Missouri Southern State University and her masters of art education from Pittsburg State University. The art teacher taught for 20 years at Coronado High School, located in Henderson, Nev.

    April 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • ryan richardson Ryan Richardson: K-9 unit receives protection from donors

    I know I write a lot about pet advocacy in this column, but for a moment, I want to write about pet heroes.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer: Website helps locate library microfilms

    Family history researchers must be determined sleuths to learn about some ancestors who don't show up in easily-obtained records. This week, I learned about a free resource that will help in the search of elusive ancestors.

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_032123610 Patty Crane: Reporter's mea culpa found in identity theft

    As I was browsing the library's list of new materials for March, "True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa" by Michael Finkel caught my attention.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer Website helps locate library microfilms

    Family history researchers must be determined sleuths to learn about some ancestors who don't show up in easily-obtained records. This week, I learned about a free resource that will help in the search of elusive ancestors.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • images_sizedimage_312124454 Linda Cannon: Gardening book helps plan for spring

    In springtime, many of us think of gardening, so, come snow or sleet or whatever, it's time to get into those gardening books and see what improvements can be made to our yards (or decks or patios if that's all you have).

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • ryan richardson Ryan Richardson: Pet deposits legal in Missouri, vary by state

    Building upon last week's column about what goes into moving and renting with pets, I wanted to touch on something that I wasn't too sure a lot of people were familiar with. I had a few people ask me about the legalities of a pet deposit and how it applies to residents in Missouri.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer: Website allows access to news archives

    Between 1982 and 2011, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress worked together to develop a program called "Chronicling America." Each year, NEH gave monetary awards to institutions in various states to digitize 100,000 pages of old newspapers that relate to each state's history.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 040214 LIFE barbershop2_c.jpg Barbershop choirs grow in popularity thanks to singing TV shows, pop culture

    Singers call it the "angel's voice." The phenomenon occurs when a group of singers reach an identical chord, voices blended together as one, the harmonics justly tuned and balanced, creating a new frequency of sound that can "literally raise up the hair on the arm," said Don Snow.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • 091108-Frankie-Meyer_c.jpg Frankie Meyer: Berries were big business in Southwest Missouri history

    Recently, I noticed some blooms on my strawberry plants on the patio, and I was reminded of my youth in the Ozarks when children often earned money by picking strawberries in the fields of local farmers. I, along with my sisters, brother and all the other children in the area, looked forward to the experience each summer.

    March 31, 2014 1 Photo