Ancestors Tree



Episode One
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Episode Four
Episode Five
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Episode Seven
Episode Eight
Episode Nine
Episode Ten


Charts and Records


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What runs in your family? Curly hair? Straight teeth? Twins? Heart disease? For Carol Krause, the answer to that question was literally a matter of life and death. When both of her parents died of cancer, Carol pieced together a medical family history that showed deadly cancers going back several generations on both her mother’s and father’s pedigree lines. The information on her medical pedigree showed doctors not only what to look for but exactly where to look, and preventive treatment saved Carol’s life. Episode eight shows you how to begin gathering information for a medical pedigree.



  • Four generations of medical information is usually sufficient for genetic counseling.
  • Gather medical information on living as well as deceased members of your family. Information from the horizontal line (brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins) is as important as information from the vertical line (parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents).
  • Don’t rely on family members’ accounts of causes of death or illnesses in the family; document as much information as you can.
  • Treat the information that you gather with discretion.
  • Consult a physician or a genetic counselor if you have questions or concerns about the information you find in your family’s medical history.


Suggested Activities

Create a medical pedigree chart by recording the names of your ancestors along with the illnesses from which they died, the dates of onset of the illnesses, and the death dates. Talk to your living relatives about what they remember the causes of death to be for specific ancestors. Verify the information they give you and find additional information for your medical pedigree by gathering death certificates. Copies of death certificates can usually be obtained through the public records office in the area where the death occurred. Look around your house for other records that will help you build a medical pedigree such as obituaries, insurance documents, and hospital records.

Sisters looking at a book


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