The rumors are true. Graduate school consists of mountains of reading. And while my eyes glaze over on occasion, I have been keen on the recurrence of this one quote by, Sir Francis Galton, English anthropologist, eugenicist and statistician (extraordinaire?):
“There are many methods of drawing pedigrees and describing kinship, but for my own purposes, I still prefer those that I designed myself” – Galton, 1889
Every text book seems to find Galton just so dang amusing and arrogantly appropriate, a real trail-blazer in the world of genealogy. Either that, or no one else ever said a clever quote about pedigrees besides Galton. [Note to self: say a clever quote about pedigrees at the next NSGC conference, guaranteed to make it into text.]
In the past month, we’ve been learning all about them: family pedigrees/family trees/family history/ “family portraits”. Call it what you will.
As GCs, we’re trained to jot down family histories and dig into health histories, recognizing heritable factors and then educating/counseling appropriately. Pedigrees are essentially useful tools for: making medical diagnosis, deciding on testing strategies, establishing patterns of inheritance, identifying and calculating risk, distinguishing genetic from external factors, and decision making for medical management.
One of our recent class assignments was to create our own family trees. I believe a better name for this assignment is ” grandma phone-tag”, since I had to get “on the horn” with my grandmas for a week straight to fill in the blanks. Here’s a snap-shot of my “work in progress pedigree” to demonstrate the labyrinth-like nature of families. It’s intentionally blurry and hard to read in order to protect privacy, however the gist is that just doing a “short” history can overwhelm an entire sheet of paper. There’s more to your family than you probably know.