What is a Family Health History?

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  • Written By: Harriette Halepis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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A family health history chart is a type of family tree that includes health and illness information. Taking the time to research your family health history may allow future generations to prevent serious diseases. To begin creating a family health tree, start by speaking with immediate relatives such as parents, grandparents, and siblings.

Ask these family members about any illnesses or complications that they have dealt with. Write down the types of illnesses that each person has encountered. Once immediate family members have been interviewed, move on to aunts, uncles, cousins, and any other distant relatives. Tracing a family health history all the way back to one's great-grandparents is ideal. Also, don't forget to note the cause of death for each deceased family member.

Specific illnesses and diseases to look for include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, mental illnesses, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney disease, alcoholism, leaning disabilities, birth defects, and blindness or deafness. Since all of these ailments are serious in nature, it is best to pay careful attention to these diseases.

If some family members have current medical problems, be sure to include important factors such as whether or not a person smokes, and what kind of cancer a family member has contracted. Further, make note of family ethnic origins by listing the birthplace of each family member; some illnesses are directly linked to certain ethnic groups.


There is no set standard for the actual construction of a family health history chart. Most people differentiate between men and women included on a chart by drawing square shapes to represent men, and circular shapes to represent women. However, this format is not a rigid one, and creating a chart that simply makes sense is the best course of action.

For those people who cannot trace a family's medical history due to deceased family members, death certificates, medical records, and other identifying information may help. Even looking at old family photographs may provide some clues as to the overall shape of deceased family members. Really, gathering as many details as possible is the goal when creating a family health history.

After gathering an extensive amount of family health information, take the time to review family health details with a family doctor. If any kind of medical screening is necessary, a trained medical professional will be able to arrange these tests. Collecting family health information is important in order to remain healthy, prevent diseases, and learn about your family roots.


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