Sunday, June 28, 2015

Genealogy and Our Health

In recent weeks, I've gone back to researching family history online. In 1998, I published a family history book based on my father's family. Now I am looking at my mother's side, the Robisons, Jones and Coopers.

John Monroe Robison, seated, and his children, probably taken between 1900 and 1910

Genealogy research becomes a huge puzzle as I look for little pieces that connect people I know are my family to those with the same names or similar names. Besides census records, which are easy to see online now, I looked for  military records, pension papers, etc.

I found an application for a pension by my great grandfather, John Monroe Robison. I read all the forms connected with this request. He was 78 years  old and evidently had to have two doctors examine him and give their opinions about his health.
He applied in 1906. Two doctors said he was feeble, weak and had a mitral valve problem as well as a hernia.  A witness stated that John could not do physical work. John stated he depended on an unmarried daughter to care for him. 

The papers required him to tell his military history during the Civil War. This man served in the Confederate Infantry for three years. I found his war records in Leon County, Florida where he was discharged. On this form he says he enlisted in Bainbridge, Georgia in 1862. He came home in 1865 and continued to farm his acreage in south Georgia. But he was denied his pension because he owned land and had paid taxes on it each year. 

In 1908, he applied again. He had given his land to his children. He could no longer farm and could not pay the taxes. He contributed only $25 a  year to his  upkeep. His doctors said he was feeble, weak and had a large hernia in his right side. He also had congestive heart failure.

This was the part that caught my interest. Congestive Heart Failure. My mother had CHF, my sister had CHF, my brother has CHF. Two other brothers died suddenly from heart attacks. My mother's mother died from a sudden heart attack. Now I learn that my great grandfather had congestive heart failure. 

Will I be like my father who died from pneumonia at the age of 88? Or do I have  the  genes of my mother's family? Will I ultimately deal with heart issues that cripple and cause suffering?

Finding this  health information in my great grandfather's records intrigues me. Now I want to know more about those people I never met but who passed down their genes to  me.
That information is not as easy to find online. I will continue to search for the story of their lives, but I will be acutely interested in their health and  how they died. 

So far, my cardiologist gives me good reports on my heart health. I get checkups every year, but I'm always a little worried each time I take a stress test or even an EKG. 

We  can't change our genetic makeup, but I want to know what I might expect so I can do my best to take proper care of myself. John Robison lived in a time before the many advances in heart care. Still, he lived a  long life for the time. In today's world, with today's medical care, he might have lived much longer. My brother, who has been diagnosed with CHF, now has a pace maker and walks a mile every day. He is in his mid-eighties and says  he is doing well.

From what I can tell by reading those forms, John Robison was denied a pension again in 1908. He died in 1910. 

1 comment:

DJan said...

A while back my brother did some genealogy research for our family. Not surprisingly, heart disease and early deaths were common. I didn't inherit good genes, so I do my part by eating right and exercising. :-)