We know that genetics can help verify your family tree and there are several projects that enable you to identify your DNA. This will in the broad scheme identify your ethnic background - Scandinavian? Celtic? - and in more precise terms who your relatives are provided they too have provided their DNA.
But another benefit of genetic studies has to do with health. Take this quote from an article by Howard Bell in Emory Health Care:
"Wendy Pickar believes family medical histories tell a powerful story. Her maternal grandfather died of brain cancer at age 49. Her maternal grandmother died of thyroid cancer at age 55. Her mother died of brain cancer at age 51. Her mother's sister died of brain cancer at 64. That aunt had a son who died of thyroid cancer at 13. Wendy is 40 and says she's thankful for every year. 'Doctors tell me there's no medical proof brain tumors are hereditary,' she says. 'I don't believe it. Someday, they'll find a genetic flaw.'"
Breast, colon, thyroid, ovarian, and prostate cancers, heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer's commonly run in families. Prostate cancer exhibits tremendous differences in incidence among populations worldwide. Asian men typically have a very low incidence of prostate cancer. Higher incidence rates are generally observed in Northern European countries. African American men, however, have the highest incidence of prostate cancer in the world; within the United States, African American men have a 60% higher incidence rate compared with white men. These differences may be due to genetic, environmental, and social influences, but genetics is a possibility if not probability. An analysis of population-based data from Sweden suggested that a diagnosis of prostate cancer in one brother lead to an early diagnosis in a second brother using prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening.
A news article by Kirk Johnson (31 Jul 2004) in The New York Times Science section notes how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or Mormons) has unwittingly provided a huge resource for the study of, among other things, genetics and health:
Utah is justly famous for its big families, with cousins piled on cousins, uncles from here to Tuesday, and roots stretching back to the Mormon pioneer days. And what once appeared to be a regional quirk is increasingly viewed by scientists as something more: a near-perfect laboratory, arrived at by complete accident, for the study of human kinship.
Utah DNA is being used for an international study that seeks to identify chromosomes linked to diseases like asthma and diabetes. Other researchers are studying how the genes for left-handedness or longevity or even the ability to taste bitter foods have moved through the Utah gene pool over time. A nonprofit foundation here is compiling a giant genetic database that will try to pinpoint - after a quick swab of a person's cheek for a DNA sample - where the person's ancestors came from.
All of that is by way of introduction to a plan to develop our own register of familial or genetically-distributed conditions. This introduces concerns for privacy. This page identifies any genetic condition in broad terms only. Keep in mind that this does not imply that every member in the category is at risk, only that the risk is or may be present in certain families within that category. If you want further information, contact me (using the contact link under the INFO menu) and I will provide what information I have and refer you to an appropriate contact person in the families at risk.
You might also be interested in old medical terminology. Visit http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~usgwkidz/oldmedterm.htm or http://www.antiquusmorbus.com/English/English.htm.