Tips For Collecting Your Family Health History

Several years ago, a national survey found that 96 percent of Americans believe that knowing their family history is important. But the same survey found that only one-third of Americans have ever tried to gather and write down their family's health history. Have you collected your family health history? Learn all you can about your family’s health!


How do I collect my family health history?

  • Talk to your family!
  • Holidays and other family events (birthdays, weddings, reunionos, religious gatherings) provide a great opportunity to ask family members about their lives.
  • Plan individual conversations to get more information.
  • Use what you have—existing charts or trees, photo albums, baby books, birthday date books, etc.
  • Send a survey. This can be part of a holiday newsletter or school project.


What information should I collect?

Collect this information for you, your parents, siblings, and children. Then move on to your aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents:

  • Name and relationship to you (myself, parent, child, etc.)
  • Ethnicity, race, and/or origins of family
  • Place and date of birth (or your best guess—for example, “1940s”)
  • If deceased, age and cause of death
  • Health history—include conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—and when the disease started
  • Lifestyle (occupation, exercise, diet, habits such as smoking and regular doctor check-ups)

Collect stories about your heritage and culture. This is a great chance to preserve your family’s memories.


What should I do with the information I collect?

  • Bring it to your healthcare provider. S/he might refer you to a genetics specialist or recommend early screening.
  • Use it to make healthy lifestyle choices. You can change your diet and exercise habits to reduce your risk for many conditions.
  • Share it with your family. Shared knowledge can lead to support.
  • Keep adding to your family health history. It is a lifelong process!