For a while I've understood the benefits of genealogical research in providing family medical information (is there a family history of cancer, for instance), but recently it cleared up a puzzle. One of my relations has always had bad leg veins and has had surgery several times in an attempt to improve the condition. The doctor said he found it difficult to understand how bad the vein problem was with a history on only one side of the family. The reason, naturally, was that there was a history on both sides. I found the missing link.
Diagram of varicose veins, from the Civil War pension application file of Edward Flynn, in the author's collection.
I don't know why I didn't put it together sooner. I suppose it is like those times when the right hand isn't paying attention to what the left is doing. Anyway, as I was searching through my gg-grandfather's Civil War Pension Application file while writing my blog post about Old Newspaper Spin, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Hey, this sounds just like my relative!
As I had already scanned many of the documents into the computer, I perused them and sent the ones I thought relevant, thinking it was simply an interesting tidbit. To my surprise and delight, both my relative and the doctor were very excited to see them. The records explained a lot and, in fact, the veins that my gg-grandfather's doctors described were the first ones to cause problems for my relative.
While my findings don't materially change anything for my relative I was gratified to learn that they were helpful. It just goes to show that you never know what might be useful even several generations removed.