MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: How can genitics help me understand my family history?

Date: Tue Jun 26 12:24:15 2001
Posted By: Greta Hardin, Secondary School Teacher, Science
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 984957347.Ge

Family and Genetics

Genetics, in terms of your family can only help with traits, not 
personalities and family stories.  You can trace certain traits through the 
generations - like hair color, chin shape, eye color, curly hair, widow's 
peaks, baldness, certain geneticically influenced diseases and the like.  
So, for instance, if you have red curly hair, brown eyes, a very prominent 
nose, and bad allergies, you can look back in you family and see where these 
came from.  Who has red hair, who has the same nose and who else was always 
Also, if there is a genetic disease - like Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or 
Cysitic Fibrosis (CF), you can calculate your chance of either getiing, or 
being a carrier for these diseases.  And this would become more of a concern 
as you get older, married, and think about having kids.  The calculations 
for to figure these out are a bit more complicated than what you may have 
done in school with pea plants and the like.  Interestingly enough, tracing 
genetic diseases back in your family can (sometimes) help explain some of 
the odd stories in your family - like the great uncle who was bed ridden at 
an early age (maybe MS?) or the great great grandmother who had lots of 
babies die (CF?)... And now they've even found that Schizophrenia is 
somewhat genetically determined.
So - for practical reasons genetics may actually be a little more useful for 
predicting the future appearance of family, but it can also be useful for 
enhancing hindsight.

Hope this helps!

PS - the diseases I named were not chosen because for some psychic reason I 
think you might have them, instead, I chose them because they are well 
known, and you might be familliar with them.  There are other genetic 
disease, but they are much more obscure, and therefore I think they would 
have been less useful as examples. - Good Luck

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