Critical Conditions

By Rick Crume Premium

Does a particular cause of death seem to run in your family? Are you predisposed to heart disease, high blood pressure or baldness? The link between health and heritage compels many genealogists to track genetic traits along with generations of their pedigrees.

Most family tree software accommodates some medical facts, but Genes & Things wanted to take recording genetic roots a step further. It designed GeneWeaver <> specifically to help you document your family’s physical traits, health history and longevity.

The program reads GEDCOM files created with other genealogy software, so you don’t have to retype everything. But it doesn’t import certain fields, including Height and Weight from Family Tree Maker and Illness from Personal Ancestral File — those you have to re-enter manually.

GeneWeaver has space to record all kinds of interesting information, from physical characteristics such as height, weight and eye color, to medical facts such as diseases, allergies and smoking habits. You can also indicate general dietary habits and levels of physical activity.

A Health Wizard guides you through a series of 12 pages where you can enter a person’s details. That simplifies data entry, but the program’s weak name-search routine and slow transition between some screens will try your patience.

Once you’ve entered all your family health information, what does GeneWeaver do with it? Not as much as you might expect. GeneWeaver 1.0 produces only two reports:

• The Medical Pedigree Report is a four-generation pedigree chart showing each person’s date of death, age at death and primary and secondary causes of death. GeneWeaver can’t, however, calculate a person’s age at death — you’ll have to do the math yourself and enter the numbers.

• The Medical Genogram Report uses symbols to show four generations of a family, including siblings, and may reveal disease patterns within a family. Numbers indicate each person’s age at death and primary and secondary causes of death.

None of the other information you enter, such as eye color, hair color and blood type, gets included in any printed report. Nor does the program do any kind of analysis, such as determining the top causes of death for relatives in your file or calculating their average life span. Genes & Things is working on a free update (version 1.1) that will add sourcing and an individual health history report.

The bottom line: While GeneWeaver can help you record your family health history, don’t look to it for help analyzing the information. It’s more of a data-entry tool than a means to interpret and understand medical facts.

GeneWeaver requires Windows 95 or higher, 25MB hard disk space and 16MB RAM. For a complete guide to tracing your family’s medical history, see the October 2000 Family Tree Magazine.

From the August 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine