Do your family members share a history of cancer, Alzheimer's or another inheritable medical problem?
Some medical professionals suggest a digital family medical record can be helpful in tracking intergenerational illnesses.
As electronic medical records become more common, more software tools have been created to compile family medical histories.
My Family Health Portrait, at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/fhh-web/home.action, for example, allows users to gather family medical information, share it with selected family members then download the completed record to a home computer.
If you have a digital medical record, your family history can be added to the file.
"I do a family history for everyone I see, and I'm amazed at how little we know," said Dr. Cathy Stevens, a geneticist who practices at Erlanger hospital. "But if I know the specifics of a family history I can go straight to the right test."
Shelia Mann, of Knoxville, said she was interested in such a program. Years ago, Dr. Stevens diagnosed her now 12-year-old son, Benjamin, with the rare Barth syndrome.
Only boys show symptoms of the disease. But the gene for the syndrome is transmitted to children only through their mothers. Her daughters would benefit from having a handy medical history from previous generations, she said.
"And we're at the doctor a lot," said Mrs. Mann, who co-founded the Barth Syndrome Foundation. "If we could take all of (Benjamin's) records to the doctor, that would be easier than having a whole stack of papers."