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Johanne Gervais

The French Canadian Disease

A genealogist’s passion is studying family history and tracing their lineage. If there happens to be an inherited disease anywhere in the link, they can trace from where it originated and by which route it passed down through the generations. Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy (OPMD) is one of nine types of muscular dystrophy, a group of genetic, degenerative diseases primarily affecting voluntary muscles. Although named for the muscles it affects first – the eyelids (oculo) and throat (pharyngeal) – OPMD can affect facial and limb muscles. OPMD affects 1 in 1,000 people of French Canadian descent. How many have inherited OPMD and do not know it?

If you have French Canadian ancestry, this lecture will help you identify if you have OPMD but most importantly, it will show how genealogy played a major role in tracing the origins of the disease to three French sisters who came to New France in 1648. This lecture will also show how you can trace, through your ancestors, the disease to one of those three sisters.