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Jim Moses: Our Medical History


As genealogists, we have an advantage over many people, because we know more about our ancestry, including the medical aspects of those ancestors. It has been proven that many of the diseases we might contract have their roots in our DNA, either as a cause of the disease, or by making us susceptible to that condition.

For example, if a man and a woman are both carriers of what causes cystic fibrosis, they have a one-in-four chance of having a child who has the disease. This is through no fault of their own; it is because they are both carriers (and probably don’t even know it). What happens is that if dad is a carrier, when he passes half of his DNA to the child, there is a 50% chance that he will pass the gene and a 50% chance that he won’t. The same is true for mom. If both parents pass on the half that doesn’t contain the gene, the child will have no trace of cystic fibrosis. If either parent passes on the cystic fibrosis gene, the child will be a carrier, and able to pass it on to the next generation. However, if both parents pass the gene on to their child, that child will have cystic fibrosis.

Jim Moses

There are lots of diseases that are passed on to the next generation in this way, or simply because one parent has the genetic makeup for the disease. Asthma, for example, can be passed on by one parent (as far as I know). In our family, my grandfather, my dad, and I all had asthma. I’ve mostly outgrown it. However, I passed it on to one of our children.



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