This page will teach you how to use interviews with family members and public records available through the internet to identify ancestors who are likely to carry your variant.
Talking with Living Relatives to Find Your Ancestors
If your grandparents and other older relatives are living, they will most likely know all of their siblings and children. Contacting your grandparents will help make sure you aren’t missing any of your aunts, uncles, or grand-uncles or –aunts.
- Ask about their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. While you might have this information already, checking this information won’t hurt. Different people will know medical information for different family members.
- While your great-grandparents are less likely to be living, you can ask for contact information for your grand-uncles and -aunts (grandparents’ siblings) and distant cousins.
- If you think that it might be difficult to contact a relative by phone, you could use email or a letter to contact a relative.
- Remember that your variant will only be found in people biologically related to you. It will not be found in family members who are related by adoption or by marriage.
Using Online Genealogy Tools to Find Your Ancestors
Online genealogy and social networking tools have made contacting relatives and finding ancestors much easier. Documents about your ancestors, such as birth certificates, can be found in online public databases. There are several websites dedicated to genealogy and family history. Here is a list of a few:
- FamilySearch.org – The largest free genealogy website. Sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this site features family tree building software and online access indexed databases of family history documents such as census, birth, and death records. Free online training tools and help with family history searches are also available.
- MyHeritage.com – This site features family tree building software and online access indexed databases of family history documents. There are both free and subscription based premium searches available.
- Ancestry.com – One of the largest genealogy websites gives online access many digitized and indexed family history documents such as census, birth, and death records. It is also a large online community of people interested in family history that facilitates social networking and crowd sourcing for collaborative family history research. A subscription is necessary for most searches.
- Geni.com – A genealogy website with the aim of helping users connect with each other through social medial to find ancestors and relatives. Founders are interested in research through genealogy. A subscription is necessary for most searches.
You don’t necessarily need to sign up for a genealogy website to find information about your relatives. There are many free archives of public records. The USGenWeb Project is a good place to start to see what is available from different states and counties in the United States.
- Death certificates – These are public records that contain names and death dates. They often also have health information related to the causes of death and the age of death, which can be especially useful for variant classification. These records are considered public information and are often available online from many state recorders offices. Although some information may be available online, it is likely that you will need to order a copy of your ancestor’s death certificate to get complete death certificate information. Funeral homes may also have copies of death certificates that they can share with you.
- Census records – In the United States, census records before 1940 are considered public records. Census records contain the names of individuals living in a household. These might help find branches of your family that you were not aware of previously.
Obtaining Tumor from Deceased Ancestors for Testing
There are situations where you may be able to find out if an ancestor who died in the last few years has your VUS. If the ancestor had a cancer or other surgery where tissue was removed from their body, the preserved tissue or slides for microscopic examination may be kept for many years. Your genetics provider may be able to request that a hospital send a sample to be tested for a VUS.