Friday, January 15, 2010

St. Vitus Dance, say what?

A special article to the Ashville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times, "You may have had 'quinsy' and not even known it," discusses a variety of outdated medical terms. The article explores milk sickness, camp fever, and St. Vitus Dance, among others. Aside from being informational and sometimes entertaining, knowledge of these more archaic terms can help researchers when they come upon unfamiliar terminology in family lore or on death certificates. Unfortunately, the articles on this site are available for a limited time. This particular article is a continuation of the December 7 article that has since been archived and requires a small fee for access ("If your g-grandma died of apoplexy what really killed her"), So if you are interested, you might want to use the "Print this page" link on the site and save this article for future reference. Of course, many lists of archaic medical terms --without the commentary -- are available on the Web, a good list can be found on the Genealogy Quest website.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Important points for collecting family medical history

It's time once again to be thinking about collecting family medical history. A Reuters article out today provides a good example. In reference to family history it says, "Men are twice as likely to have prostate cancer when a brother, father or uncle have had the disease. If they have two or more first-degree relatives with the disease. they are four times more likely to be diagnosed."

Another article, on, discusses "Why and How to put together a Family Medical History." The article suggest how far back in the family tree you might want to go, and indicates the importance of knowing not only what a family member died of, but what other conditions they had during their lifetime:

"It's not just about death. The age at death and the ailment that caused or immediately preceded death is the obvious information to record for each of your deceased relatives. But it may not be as important as information about earlier diseases or conditions. Did your father, who died in his 80s of heart failure, have a previous bout with colon cancer or experience high blood pressure for most of his adult life? Make sure you ask about any chronic or previous problems."

"Age is key," it says. You will also want to record the age at which medical conditions arose, if that information is available. "Early" means different things for different diseases, but generally, the younger a person is when a disease rears its head, the more likely it is to have a genetic component. Having two first-degree relatives (a mother, daughter, or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, for example, is one of the red flags that may mean you should be tested for specific mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In all, the article provides eight practical tips that are definitely worth reviewing.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Resources examine 1918 Flu

Today's article, "The Influenza Epidemic of 1918," on, Kimberly's Genealogy Blog provides some interesting additional sources for those researching ancestors during the 1917-1918 time period, including the Influenza Digital Archive out of the University of Michigan's Center for the History of Medicine and the Pandemic Influenza Storybook, among others. As noted in the article, "Most are aware that WWI had a devastating impact on our ancestral history, claiming an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic of 1918, however, killed an estimated 50 million people, nearly a fifth of the world's population. Yet, it is rarely afforded more than a footnote in the historical accounts of the time.

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