Knowing Your Family History

Family history may seem like a string of distant stories that has no relevance on your life now.  But the truth is, knowing your family history can be a very important and connective piece of your family’s health and dynamics.  Taking the time to research your family history may be a fascinating journey back in time, as well as a critical measure to understanding aspects of the present and future.

When you were a kid, you may have heard many tales of your family’s past from various generations.  While these stories may have seemed so far away – from both a sense of time and place – they can shed much light onto the choices, behaviors, values and health ingrained into your family.  As you’ve grown older, you may notice how one generation influences the next.  But what about the generations you haven’t met and witnessed?  They have had a profound impact on the subsequent generations of your family too.

Family history helps create unity and understanding within families.  Knowing the struggles, challenges, sacrifices, passions, triumphs and amazing feats of the past can help you better understand older generations in your family.  The influences of past situations – good and bad – stick with each of us in ways that form our psyche, traditions, values and Family treelifestyle choices.  Studying the stories of your family such as where generations past grew up, the political and cultural pressures of their times, their professions, family life and much more can help connect families, bridge gaps and secure strong familial bonds.

Knowing your family history is also valuable for health purposes.  Scientific research continues to show genetic factors involved in countless health conditions.  While you cannot change your genes, you can be aware of increased risk factors based on patterns in your family’s medical history.  Having this information can help determine a course of action and the level of vigilance needed for preventative care.  For instance, it may be recommended that families with increased risk of certain types of cancer should have more frequent health screenings to catch potential issues early.

Whether you are a history buff or not, mapping a family tree and digging into medical records can be an eye-opening experience.  Start with any records you have and reach out to relatives who can help you begin to piece together your family’s history.  The act of reconnecting with relatives alone may be extremely rewarding.  Although it’s a rather new invention, the Internet can be a magnificent tool in tracking genealogy too.  Once you know relative’s names and a few things about them, you can search for more info.  Genealogy programs are also available on a subscription basis to help fill in the gaps.

Be sure to check causes of death and read through any existing medical records.  Often, putting together medical history can be the most challenging part of knowing your family history because you have to put the puzzle together yourself.  But it is well worth the effort if it can help inform your family’s health and recommended preventative care.

Use family history as a bridge from the past to the future.  Connect with generations past – living or deceased – by getting to know their stories and their medical history.  You’ll be amazed at how this small step back in time can broaden your horizons in many giant ways.

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