to find Patti Singleton these days.

EDDD 14; Family Health History, The Perfect Gift (Says Mom)


Totally unrelated to this post. saw this young bald eagle on the beach this afternoon. The 2 adults that were with him exited, stage left. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Totally unrelated to this post. I saw this young bald eagle on the beach this afternoon. The 2 adults that were with him exited, stage left.

Have you ever wanted to change your phone number? I had that sudden urge just tonight…but it was too late, because I had already answered the damn thing. Too late. She was off and running before I even got the second half of “hello” properly spoken. “I’ve got the most wonderful thing for you to do for the whole family for Christmas!” Dead silence on my end. Who in their right mind would reply to that statement, especially  even from their own mother? Not me. I struggled not to hang up and sever our ties completely.

“Don’t you want to know what it is?” Then, before I even had a chance to not answer the statement or the question, she was back at it. “I know everyone one would LOVE to have the health history of our family, and you can do it, Patti!” She released a few syrupy sweet lines, adding a mound of butter, to really set the hook. As if. I’ve had over 50 years to learn how to deal with these tactics.

If only…For the next hour, I held my cell phone in one hand and a pen in the other, as we charted 5 generations of our family tree, including physical and mental health issues for each person. RELATIVE ALERT: This information will NOT be in my next post! Or even the next one. This is private family information that is only for family. Seriously, don’t freak out.

Besides, it’s all mom’s fault. While I am a family history researcher, this topic can be a little iffy (note the alert above). Mom and I went back and forth about what should be included and what, if anything, should be denied excluded. We have lost at least one person, from all but one generation, mainly to heart problems or cancer; this is important stuff.

As a matter of fact this information can tuck neatly into the health file that I hope you started working on during my Postcard series. Remember that? No? I will have a hard copy of it available soon, but here’s a link to the last one, which has links to the whole series

So, uh um uh, mom was right (I might as well tattoo that on my forehead now), this will be a great gift for the family. I send out a yearly name, address, phone number list most years anyway, so I can just add this to it.

There, my Christmas shopping is done, before it even started. I like that in a holiday!

Mom and I agreed to add all known physical and mental health issues for those who have died (not in the mood for a tactful euphemism). For living relatives, we will leave the mental health issues for individuals to fill out on their own and share with whom they chose.

I decided not to change my phone number, at least until next time.

*please note, motherly quotes directly from daughter’s faulty memory.

How Do I Do This?

Below are some questions to start with, from this site:   They have an online form you can fill out and have saved for your private use, or you can print their form and fill it out. (There are other resources available from any search engine; copy & paste or type: family health history form.)

“To start, make a list of relatives to contact. See if there are any existing family trees, charts, or baby books. Important questions to ask your blood relatives include the following.

  • What is your age or date of birth?
  • Do you have any chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure?
  • Have you had any other serious illnesses, such as cancer or stroke? (If you know of a specific disease or illnesses in your family, ask about them, too.)
  • How old were you when you developed these illnesses?
  • Have you or your partner had any problems with pregnancies or childbirth?

Other questions to ask are:

  • What countries did our family come from? (Knowing this can help because some genetic diseases occur more often in certain population groups. Also, different diets and living environments can influence the risks of developing certain diseases.)
  • Has anyone in the family had birth defects, learning problems, or developmental disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome?
  • What illnesses did our late parents or grandparents have? How old were they when they died? What caused their deaths?”

Do you think you will work on this? How important do you think it is, that we share this information with our family members?

I just think, if I have to do it, you should too:>) I’ll tell mom!


Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway?

From writing challenge Every Damn Day December at


Author: Patti Singleton

Pursuits of happiness include gardening, walking the desert, reading, writing, photography, traveling and genealogy.

20 thoughts on “EDDD 14; Family Health History, The Perfect Gift (Says Mom)

  1. When my son was born with club feet, I wasn’t surprised because his father had a club foot too. What surprised me was all the cases of club foot in MY family. Until my son was born club footed, no one had said a word. And so when my granddaughter was also born with club feet, one very bad, one mild no one was surprised.

    My mother died of breast cancer, my brother of pancreatic, two maternal grandparents also of pancreatic and me, breast cancer times two. And dad’s heart disease — I’ve got that too. I dread to think what I’ve passed to my kid and granddaughter. You can’t necessarily prevent anything, but at least your family members can know what to look for. I wish someone had given me some honest information. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed anything. Then again, maybe it would have.

    • My oldest (7) gr’daughter was born with severe club feet. Been in and out of casts and surgeries since she was a babe. Her dad had it too. An ultrasound found that she did, so we weren’t surprised.
      Thyroid disease, arthritis and heart issues run in our family. So, I think some things can be prevented or diagnosed better and faster.
      Even so, I agree we should all know about our families, if we can. Addictive behavior and mental health issues are especially helpful to know.
      Thanks for chiming in again, Marilyn.

  2. When I signed on at my current surgery some years ago I was given a questionaire to complete which asked lots of questions about the family’s health issues. There was quite a lot I had to write unknown against. Until that time I hadn’t even given it much thought. I started to check as far as I could, even ordering death certificates for some so that I would be aware of and issues that were tracking generations. Heart problems seem to be prevalent ( I’m safe I don’t have one).
    Understanding how important this information could be for the future generations I now make sure that all the family can pass this on to their own doctors and can monitor babies to check for problems before birth.
    Your information could help save lives Patti.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • Thanks for your addition to this conversation. I’m glad you could add to ways this info can be so important, David.
      Interesting, but the only reason I saw this was that I came here to comments to add a link and saw comments (yours & others) that were never on my notification page. Wow, now I need to go see if I missed others.
      Warm hugs and I hope you are doing well.

  3. However painstaking, these are important questions to ask. My sister and I were both discussing this very topic recently.

    She was concerned because she’s had some health issues and didn’t get to know our mom as well as I did before she passed. (Long story.) I had to give her some of our mother’s health background so that she could make any links to her current illnesses if possible.

    So yea, this is useful indeed. 😀

  4. This is a really great post, and so very important! For the first part of my life I had no clue about my family medical background and requesting my adoption records yielded no useful information. The only thing it did yield was unwelcome contact from my biological mother (unwelcome because it should have required my consent for the department to give her my contact details – it changes the direction of lives that kind of thing). On the fortunate side, having met her many years back, I found out that two of her later children were born with Adrenal Hyperplasia, a genetic condition that has been quite difficult for all of them to live with. Unfortunately, my father’s medical information is inaccessible, due to him not actually being recorded as my father on my birth records and a general lack of co-operation from my mother. It is something I have never understood about the adoption process here in Australia. Keeping important medical information a secret helps no-one. The laws have changed since the National Apology on Forced Adoption which happened in Australia earlier this year and information is more easily accessible to the relevant parties. What a wonderful gift you are giving your family, and what a thoughtful mother you have, Patti.

    • Robyn,
      I thought of your story when I posted this. I wish someone would have thought to include medical info in all adoption packets, even if birth parents wanted privacy. I guess it has taken all these years to realize how important it is. I hope it is now included in modern adoption, but I’m not sure.
      Thank you for adding to this conversation.
      My mom is a gem, and luckily, she has a great sense of humor!
      Hugs and glad you are here.

      • Patti, I was also reminded of the Brazilian Healthcare system. I learned about it from a technology perspective, (I work in IT) but in the case study one of the challenges they mentioned was that some of the remote tribespeople don’t like to give out their names (sacred). The realisation they had in order to overcome the challenge, was that the medical system was treating bodies, not names, and each body was unique and had it’s own medical history. The name was irrelevant, they just needed a unique way to identify each body. Pretty clever and interesting stuff, eh?

      • Very! I had no idea, but it is good to know these other issues. I was just looking at a form and thinking along those lines. It was a family tree outline, you fill in the box that is in the mother, or brother or other family spot, with health info, not names. Yes, you can still see who they are by relation, but it may make some people more comfortable about sharing the info. No sure…

      • I hope so, because it is important, and the genetic lines are where some of the important connections lie, in terms of medical history. Good luck with it all, and hugs back to you!

  5. Hi Patti-good post, but this girl is not joining the health history quest this year. I know your mom will be crushed, lol. In this day and age so much has changed and most of us have early screening – and of course some things never change and the biggest killer is still heart disease. Living a healthier life not only helps prevent, or prolong at least, it’s onset, but also helps to keep at bay other issues. Anyone determined to live as healthy as possible is already aware of what’s needed. Besides – I know if I were to start asking all kinds of ‘personal’ questions, my family would stop answering their phone!

    • I’ll keep it from mom for now, Elizabeth. neither of you need more stress:>)
      We just talk to the oldest mom in each family and they usually have all the answers.
      Thanks for joining in the discussion.

  6. My family is so bizarrely open about things I have a hard time getting them not to tell me about everything from sexual exploits to the weird inner workings of their bodies. I did do my mother’s side of the family tree (which was great fun) but I already guessed alcoholism and insanity were in the gene pool. My father’s uncle was admitted into an insane asylum for some reason–the father’s side not as forthcoming about the past. 🙂

    I laughed at your reaction to your mother’s call.

    • Love it!
      Mum’s the word on one side of the family here too, not saying which side, but let’s just say southern folks can be pretty private:>)
      She is laughing too, I hope!
      Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  7. Here is a link to a very good set of forms for family medical info :

  8. Family health history scrooge checking in. Nope. Vic answered those questions a hundred times for all the doctors. He died of a cancer that took 10 pathologists to name and a super expert in lymphoma to say they didn’t know how to treat it and there were no known risk factors. I have hearing issues and Meniere’s Disease. No one in my family, no one ever, had hearing or inner ear problems. No use thinking about mom’s Alzheimer’s (I already do all they say to prevent it, but so did she all her life) or her odd psychological quirks or my dad’s kidney disease or my grandparent’s strokes. If I had been adopted like Jamborobyn (notice me reading the comments, Patti), I would want to know more. As it is, I know enough. I am mortal.

    But I’ve done almost nothing for Christmas, so maybe you’re on to something. Creative post, Patti. Different every day. Beautiful eagle. Exquisite.

    • Love it, a health care scrooge:>) 100 points for reading the comments. I love my new little Robyn, she is another strong one who tells it like she sees it. My cousin who is my age has Meniere’s, the only one of 14 of us. My friend/neighbor has the whole ball of wax, like you do. (accidental pun) Yes, mortal, like me! Don’t tell my mom, she’s got us all living forever:>)
      I did like Jill’s wall of lights tree (I think it was Jill). Not that I have a wall that size. My fav thing is the lights. As the big day gets closer I will take some side roads and see, but this is essentially an economically suffering fishing village–not many have the money or enthusiasm for holiday lights.
      Glad that I’m keeping up something of interest…I do love the challenge. It’s keeping me busy and involved. Wish I could have taken clearer photos of the eagle, but he was a long way from me.
      Thanks for hanging in. Looks like you’re almost caught up:>)

  9. What an amazing post!! I love how you write…your mom and her syrupy tactics…so cute. I never acknowledged my mom’s similar ways of getting what she wanted. Boy I miss her!! She is still alive but was kidnapped by that conceited, selfish,bi-sexual Mr. Alzheimer. You make me realize I need to do this for my kids. Now the challenge of talking to some family who have poo pooed me after I ran away from hom in 97. Thank you so much for that link and this post!! I am so engrossed with your blog but have to get ready for work…To Do list: Read ONLY Patti Hall’s blog at breaks and between calls. Blessings, Oliana

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