Shaking the branches of the family tree

family tree

I have just spent the last hour happily picking my way through my family history online. The 1911 Irish census is now online and it makes for fascinating reading. Family history was never a particularly big topic growing up – I would hear snippets here and there but wasn’t that interested. Now however, I think I’ve been bitten by the bug. I was surprised how emotional I felt seeing my grandparents listed as young children and teenagers on the form. My paternal grandfather died young so I never knew him. This somehow brought him to life for me, however tenuously. I don’t  know what he died of – it has never been spoken of and as my father was a tiny baby when it happened, he says he was never told either. It may even have been cancer but cancer in those long ago days could easily have gone undiagnosed and certainly not spoken of, so great would the stigma in rural Ireland have been.

Of course, researching your family tree can be extremely important in determining if there is a genetic link to cancer in the family. I know that cancer comes down the line through my father’s side in the previous and present generation, but I have no idea how or if it manifested in earlier generations or similarly on my mother’s side. It is important information that we all should know. Knowing the full details of our family history can be an early warning signal and may be vital in a person’s treatment and survival.

Check out Coping with Cancer’s online article on safeguarding your family tree.