Were You Really the First Diabetic in Your Family?

My grandmother with her grandmother in 1912

A common theme I see on messages boards is that someone will ask about other family members that were diabetic and a lot of people say that no one else in their family had diabetes. My family has a bunch of both types. My grandmother was diabetic, but back in her day, they did not type what kind. She died in 1965. Two of her daughters were diabetic – one Type 1 and one Type 2, so that kind of makes you wonder what type my grandmother was.

The Type 2 daughter was also married to another Type 2 and their son was supposedly Type 1. He died from heart disease in 2006, right before I started getting online and learning all kinds of new stuff. He is not around to ask questions but I do know that he took very large amounts of insulin. That could have been because of his diet (he literally ate French fries every day), was he a Type 1 with insulin resistance, or was he really Type 2? Lots of questions, no answers!

Back in the spring, I started playing with genealogy and looking into long lost family members. One of the obituaries I found was for one of my mother’s cousins – Tom. My mother’s father and Tom’s mother were brother and sister. Tom’s obituary suggested making a contribution to the American Diabetes Association. Of course, his wife could have been the diabetic or one of their kids, but I knew there was a connection to diabetes with him.

I found the draft registration card for Tom’s father from 1942. They are neat to see because they have a section that includes height, weight, eye color, hair color and what their complexion is like. There is a write in spot for any identifying physical characteristics. On Tom’s fathers, it said, “both legs off.” The first thought that popped into my head was diabetes. And yes, I know people lose legs for reasons other than being diabetic!

Both legs off

Finding these long lost family members started me thinking about the people that say no one else in their family was diabetic. Do you really know every single descendant from your great, great, great grandparents? One of my grandmother’s sisters (Mary) moved up to New York and I know very little about her kids. In my case I am diabetic but my mother is not. What if one of Mary’s kids was the one that ended up with diabetes but because her mother moved away and lost contact with her family, they did not know that my grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes. They might be the ones sitting there saying no one else in their family had diabetes when my grandmother, two of her daughters and three of her grandchildren did/do.

So before you say no else in your family had diabetes, do you really know what happened to every single descendant of 4x great grandparent? I know I don’t!

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12 thoughts on “Were You Really the First Diabetic in Your Family?

  1. Very interesting post, Kelly.

    I knew absolutely nothing about diabetes when I was diagnosed. I would have said that I had no family history of any kind of diabetes. However, my older sister was diagnosed a year or two after me. So my guess is that there were some Type 1 or autoimmune genes somewhere in my history.

    I never worried about my children getting Type 1. I was probably naive and a little stupid. However, now that I have grandchildren, I know that I’d be devastated if they got Type 1. Of course my kids could still get it too.

    Hope you’re doing OK. I miss you when you’re not posting.

    • Thanks Laddie! I have been reading up gene testing to trace ancestors and the one site does medical gene testing. It is really interesting to read how many thing really are in our genes.

      Although in one respect, it was probably good that you didn’t spend too much time worrying about your kids getting, but I am if they showed signs, you would have known what to do immediately. Hopefully neither your kids or grandkids end up with it.

      I hope to get back on track here soon!

  2. Heck, there are so many type 1’s on my paternal side of the family that I’ve lost count.
    However, my maternal grandmother had a sister that died when she was 14, in 1910. She recalled that Alice “wasted away to nothing” and I always thought it was some type of cancer. But…….

    • I guess you would have to wonder about what happened to Alice. We have cancer in our family too and when I found the obituary for one of my great grandfathers, it said he died of cancer also.

  3. Great post as usual Kelly! You are so lucky to know of your families history – like you say many of us don’t – it’s not something my family has ever been into (all I know is that we came to England via Eric the Red ).

    I know that my Great Grandmum on my Mum’s side died in her 90’s – and at the time of her death – she had diabetes (she didn’t die due to diabetes tho’ it was something else age related). Could she have been Type 1 or 2 or ??? We’ll never know, but when I became diagnosed a 6 – that was one of the questions my Mum was asked – and again – that “skipped a generation” bit came into play – along with my being a large sized baby (10 lb). For autoimmune diabetes – that used to be a common thing – but nowadays when you read of 2 month (or even younger) old children being diagnosed with Type 1 – don’t think that’s the case – but can’t confirm that for sure.

    • Anna, I read that a lot of people in England came from Vikings. That is neat that you know you came fromm Eric the Red! You have some good longevity genes to have a grandmother that lived to the 90s, diabetic or not.

  4. All I know is that my grandmother had diabetes, and was diagnosed sometimes in her 40’s, and went on insulin around 1927 or 1928. She died at age 82. My mother did not have diabetes, and she died at age 80 with nary a sign. I had believed that diabetes was directly hereditary, and when my mother was in her 60’s and 70’s and perfectly OK, I breathed a sigh of relief, because I thought I was home free. But NOOOOOO — I was my grandmother’s favorite grandchild, so I’m the one she gave it to, LOL!! None of my siblings or cousins have it (and I’m glad for them), but I don’t have a clue about more distant relatives.

    • Natalie, your grandmother wanted to make sure that you always had a special connection to her! When we were kids, my cousin that died and I used to fight like cats and dogs. Maybe my grandmother wanted to make sure that we had something that could bring us closer!

      I grew up the opposite of you. As a kid, I used to hear that diabetes skipped a generation – that was before my first aunt was diagnosed with Type 2. I have to call my mother and ask her if my grandmother’s grandmother was diabetic that she would say that.

  5. I know that I had a great-grandmother with diabetes, though I don’t know which one or which type. I’ve often thought it was Type 2, given the timeline and the ability to detect and to treat (even though Dr.Banting’s discovery was likely during her lifetime). I’m sure she died before I was born, but thatdoesn’t really prove anything.

    • It is hard to say Scott with the things we know about LADA. I kind of thought T2 at first with my grandmother but knowing the things I know now about LADA, I don’t know. I guess we just get to wonder!

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