What the Health? Using DNA & Genetic Genealogy for Health Reasons


My mother, Carol Ann (Mandigo) Barth, 1971, in the traditional crinoline nursing cap.

The idea for this blog post has been on my mind for quite some time, but the recent loss of my mother has given me the push I need to put the idea into words through the sharing of my own experiences.

Many people use DNA and genetic genealogy to find parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, and cousins, but there are a few of us out there who also use DNA results for medical purposes. I’m one of those people who, when researching ancestors, pays careful attention to the cause of death of each person. I look for common causes of death among ancestors, particularly within the same family across a single generation or that spans multiple generations.

Here’s an example of one such cause of death I discovered in my father’s biological father’s family: Cancer; specifically, colon cancer. My father’s paternal grandmother, Ida Mae Bassett, died of cancer of the colon, ileum, and abdominal wall. Additional research led me to discover that colon cancer also resulted in the death of at least five other first cousins on that side of the family.

That side of the family also has a history of other cancers as well, including prostate, kidney, and lung cancers. While it’s certainly possible that lifestyle could contribute to lung cancer, as it did in the case of my mother who smoked for 40+ years, I’ve yet to learn of a lifestyle choice that has been shown to have a direct link to colon cancer, prostate cancer, or kidney cancer.

There’s a company called Promethease which will analyze one’s raw DNA and produce a variety of health reports for a small fee of $12. Their official statement reads as follows:

“Promethease is a literature retrieval system that builds a personal DNA report based on connecting a file of DNA genotypes to the scientific findings cited in SNPedia.”

In other words, you’ll get a report based on your DNA what medical conditions or diseases that you may or may not have a genetic susceptibility of developing. I was very curious about whether or not it was just simply coincidence that several relatives on my father’s side had colon cancer, or if there was, in fact, a genetic link or predisposition to it. So, I uploaded my raw DNA file and paid the fee to have a report generated.

The first item that came up in the report was something called Lynch Syndrome. The screenshot below shows exactly how the information appears in the report:

Screen Shot 2019-02-20 at 10.21.22 AM

This immediately confirmed that there is a genetic component to the prevalence of colon cancers on my father’s side of the family. But, this was just one company and one report (along with just one side of my family), so I decided to search to see if there was another company out there that would analyze one’s raw DNA for health & medical conditions.

I found an iOS app (iPhone/iPad) called Genomapp. They claim,

“Genomapp is an app that analyzes your genetic test raw data to give you the maximum information of your DNA. We have the most extensive list of conditions from scientific official sources.”

They were reasonably priced (about $10) and had good reviews so I decided to upload the same raw DNA file I downloaded from Ancestry and have it processed by Genomapp to see if it yielded similar results to Promethease, or if the results were wildly different.

I personally found Genomapp to be much more user-friendly in terms of the overall look and interface. They broke down the results into the following categories:


Each category is further broken down into probability ranges that are lower than the average, normal, and higher than the average.


My results with Genomapp essentially mirrored those with Promethease. Not only is my genotype associated with familial colorectal cancer, but it’s also associated with several other cancers, including melanoma-pancreatic cancer, and hereditary pre-disposing cancer syndrome. And, the reports of both programs confirmed what I’d found in my traditional genealogical research.

Many people might feel a sense of ‘doom and gloom’ with these kinds of results, but for me, I consider myself fortunate to have a ‘heads up’ so I can be sure to discuss these findings with my primary care physician and together we can make sure that I get the necessary screenings associated with the aforementioned cancers.


52 Ancestors #7: Love: Thomas Barth & Carol Mandigo


My parents in Moab, Utah, in 1998


This week’s topic of the 52 Ancestors Challenge is Love, and there is no one in my family tree that I can think of who have demonstrated love more so than my parents. Married for 46 years, they were the quintessential high school sweetheart couple who began dating as 15-year old sophomores; Dad was an athlete who played football and swam, and Mom was a cheerleader. In 1969, they graduated high school together. My mother headed off to nursing school at the Burbank School of Nursing in Fitchburg, MA, while my father headed off to Castleton State College in Castleton, VT, to pursue a double major in chemistry & math and a minor in French.

High School Prom

Wedding day September 4, 1971

They married on September 4, 1971, in their hometown of Windsor, VT. My mother began working as a nurse at a local hospital while my father worked as an engineer at a local factory. Their first child, a son, was born on December 5, 1972. My brother was a very precocious child who was reading at the age of 18 months and was known for his massive temper tantrums. My parents were dealing with a highly gifted child who didn’t have much support or guidance for what to do with such a gifted child in the public school system, but they were willing to do whatever they could. My brother was such a handful that my mother often told me how she didn’t want any more children after my brother because of how much of a handful he was.

Fortunately, they did decide to have another child in 1977–me. Apparently, I was quite the easy baby compared to my brother, and it sounds like that was a much-needed blessing in their house at that time. Finances were tight for the two of them, let alone as a family of four now. We lived in a single-wide mobile home during the first few years of my life before my parents purchased their first home, a small cape-cod style home for $25,000. During that time my father was laid off from his job as an engineer and took a job teaching high school science and math. My mother was working as a nurse at the V.A. Hospital. Unfortunately, the salary of a teacher wasn’t enough to help my father provide for his family. He left teaching for the United States Postal Service which immediately doubled his salary.

In 1987, my parents sold the house and we moved to the next town to the north where they built a new house. My father continued working for the post office for the next 20 years, and my mother continued her career as a nurse at the V.A. Hospital. They continued raising my brother and me, carting us all over the country helping us fulfill our dreams. They loved their children and all the pets that came and went, but most of all, they loved each other. They loved vacationing together on Marco Island, FL.

They grieved the loss of two of their beloved Bernese Mountain Dogs in just two months’ time (In May and June), but nothing would prepare them for what happened within days of losing their second dog. My mother was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, and it had already spread to her bones, pancreas, and liver. As my mother put it, “I was fine one day and then I wasn’t.”

The cancer was very advanced, and my mother lasted only a few weeks after diagnosis until she passed on July 28, 2018. The image of my father holding my dying mother’s hand at her bedside is one that I will never forget. This past September should have been their 47th wedding anniversary, and they would have been together a total of 50 years. My mother would have turned 67 years old in December. Her death shattered our family, and we are still picking up the pieces just six months later.

New Year, New Challenges

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about Genealogy on this blog. 2018 was a rough year for me personally. The loss of two beloved family dogs and the sudden death of my mother in a three-month span was a devastating blow. Following the loss of my mother, a badly herniated disc in my neck left me in nearly unbearable constant pain and unable to use my right arm for almost two months until it could be surgically repaired. A severe intestinal infection had me hospitalized for several days while I was suffering from the neck injury.

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Mayflower Connections: Richard Warren

I recently discovered that I was also a direct descendant of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren.

Richard Warren was born sometime between January 11, 1580 and January 10, 1581, in London England. He came over on the Mayflower without his wife and children (they came over on the ship the Anne in 1623).

For more detailed information about Richard Warren, check out the official Mayflower History website.

Here’s my connection to Richard Warren, who is my 11th great-grandfather:

Richard Warren & Elizabeth Walker

Abigail Warren & Anthony Snow

Sarah Snow & Joseph Waterman

Sarah Waterman & Solomon Hewett

Sarah Hewett & Eleazer Hyde

Zilpha Hyde & James Rogers

James Rogers & Sarah (Sally) Coit

James Coit Rogers & Fanny Tracy

George E. Rogers & Caroline L. Pollard

Jennie L. Rogers & Charles L. Perkins

Amy B. Perkins & Nathaniel Goffe*  (*revealed through DNA testing)

Thelma E. Perkins & Roy G. Campbell

T.B. (my father)


Mayflower Connections: John Billington

I have fallen too far behind to continue participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors challenge this year. Between the constant shoveling and plowing this winter and working 50+ hours a week, my one-eyed 10-year-old chihuahua battling a staph infection post-surgery, my 4-year old Bernese Mountain Dog with a seizure disorder, and furnace issues, I couldn’t keep up with the weekly posts.

That doesn’t mean that I stopped researching genealogy completely. In fact, I recently discovered I am a direct descendant of not one, but two Mayflower passengers.



Mayflower passenger John Billington (1580-1630)


The first connection is through John & Elinor Billington. Here’s the line that leads to me:

John Billington (1580-1630) m. Elinor Billington*   (*maiden name unknown)

Francis Billington (1606-1684) m. Christian Penn (1607-1684)

Mary Billington (1640-1717) m. Samuel Sabin (1640-1699)

Marcy Sabin (1655-1728) m. James Welch (1655-1726)

Mercy Welch (1689-1784) m. Thomas Spaulding (1690-1761)

Mary Spaulding (1716-1801) m. General John Tyler (1721-1804)

Mehitable Tyler (1743-1816) m. John Coit (1741-1808)

Sarah (Sally) Coit (1770-1843) m. James Rogers (1765-1816)

James Coit Rogers (1807-1878) m. Fanny Tracy (1808-?)

George E. Rogers (1833-1907) m. Caroline L. Pollard (1843-1918)

Jennie L. Rogers (1868-?) m. Charles L. Perkins (1868-1913)

Amy Buelah Perkins (1892-?) had child with Nathaniel S. Goffe (1886-1966)

Thelma E. Perkins (1911-2007) had child with Roy G. Campbell (1893-1978)

My father (T.B.) (1951-  ) m. C.M. (1951-  )


If I’ve counted correctly, that makes John Billington my 12th Great-grandfather.

Apparently, John Billington and his family had a reputation for being troublemakers. John had a long-standing feud with a fellow colony member named John Newcomen and it escalated to the point where Billington killed Newcomen. This sealed John Billington’s fate as he became the first man executed by hanging in the new colony.