Family Health History Database: Creating database of my family health history provides eye opening link to heart disease

By: Michael S Sheaffer

With the recent death of an Aunt, I have bee reflecting on the health issues of my family past and present have had. I decided to do a in-depth look at causes of death and their contributory factors as stated in death certificates and or what was listed in obituaries or church records when no death certificate were kept. I found out that heart disease was by far the most dominant cause of death in my Sheaffer line going directly all the way back to my 5th great grandfather who was listed in his church death record in 1858 as dying from “Dropsy” modern day term is congestive heart failure.

I am creating a database of each generation of direct grandfathers and their children and look at what were the most common causes of death along with average age. What has jumped out at me is that the average lifespan seems to have gone down rather than gone up as i had figured it would with advancement in medicine over time. Creating a Family Health History Database is a great asset to have for your family doctor and his records for which he could use to help diagnose future problems earlier due to any predisposed diseases and family history.  As I continue to to create the database I will periodically post about my finds. Here is a list of just one generation of my family line, Click on Image text and you will be directed to a copy of their death certificate.  

Below is the entire family of my 3rd Great Grandparents John & Mary Sheaffer and their chiildren

John E Sheaffer & Mary C (Steidler) Sheaffer

John E Sheaffer & Mary C (Steidler) Sheaffer

John E Sheaffer                                                                         Mary Catherine Steidler 

Born 1836     Died 1913                                                             Born  1837          Died  1910

Age: 77                                                                                          Age: 73

Cause:   Epitheloma of Ear – Cancer                                      Cause:  Oedema/Arterio Sclerosis – Heart

Death Certificate:                                                                      Death Certificate:

Children of John & Mary Sheaffer

Name                                                                                         Cause of Death                                                                           Category                              Age                     Death Certificate Image

  1. Jacob Henry Sheaffer                                                   Cerebral Hemorrhage                                                       Stroke                               81                    Image:

    2. Davis Albert  Sheaffer                                                   Cardiac Organic Disease/Apoplexy                             Heart                                67                     Image:

    3. Anne Elizabeth (Sheaffer) Ketner                            Organic Heart Disease                                                      Heart                                69                    Image:

    4. John William Sheaffer                                        Acute Cardiac Dilation/Myocarditis                                      Heart                                61                    Image:

    5. Martin Sheaffer                                                                Died as infant                                                                       Infant                               0                   No Record

    6. Cora May (Sheaffer) Smith                                           Myocarditis                                                                          Heart                                66                    Image:                           

    7. Charles Elmer Sheaffer                                                  Coronary Heart Disease                                                  Heart                                70                   Image:

    8. Emma Lucetta (Sheaffer) Lutz                                   Cerebravascular Accident/                                        Stroke/Heart                      80                   Image:

Arterio Sclerosic Cardiovascular Disease

    9. Mary Ellen (Sheaffer) Jones                     Cerebral Hemorrhage/Coronary Artery Disease               Stroke/Heart                       75                   Image:                               

  10. Katherine Weeden (Sheaffer) Miller             Cerebral Hemorrhage/Arteriosclerosis                        Stroke/Heart                       76                  Image:        

  11. Rose Jane (Sheaffer) Zeigler                              Chronic Myocarditis/Arterio Sclerosis                               Heart                               64                  Image:                                                       

Common Factor of Deaths: 13 Persons in family

Heart/Stroke:  11

Infancy:             1

Cancer:              1 

Average age of family at death:   67.6  years


I am able to draw a strong family predisposition to Stroke/Heart Disease something that I know in my current generation of family members suffer from. As I add more people to the generational list it will be a more complete profile that i can pass along to my doctors. I strongly urge others to do a Family Health Database like this.  I would love to hear feedback on others who have done a Family Health Database and what they have found??

John E Sheaffer Family Photo Circa 1907

John E Sheaffer Family Photo Circa 1907

This entry was posted in Sheaffer Family Genealogy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Family Health History Database: Creating database of my family health history provides eye opening link to heart disease

  1. kelsee727 says:

    I have been researching my family history for three years. Only recently it hit me that I should be paying more attention to death certificates. I had a brief illness send my mind in this direction. I have noticed heart disease is common on certain sides, but cancer runs a close second. I just located 7 death certificates for one family and 6 died from some type of cancer. I like your idea of keeping track of this. I was going to rely on my brain, but keeping a log seems the better idea. Thanks for sharing!


    • Michael S Sheaffer says:

      Glad you liked it Kelsey. For years I had known heart disease seemed to have been prominent in my family but it wasn’t until I was able lay it out on a database that I could see it visually that I realized how prominent it was. I also could see that starting with my 3RD Great grandfather that the lifespan was declining. That was eye opening, and helped make me able to make better lifestyle changes. Good luck in yours and keep me updated on how it went.



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