Victor McKusick; Mast syndrome, Troyer syndrome; Johns Hopkins University; history of genetics


In this first-hand account, Harold “Hal” Cross, a researcher instrumental in the dawning of Amish genetic/demographic studies, recounts his memories of early projects and the development of the first Amish directories. Interest in Amish genetics emerged in the 1960s, as Cross, then a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, informed Victor A McKusick, Professor of Medicine, about the potential for studying genetic disease among the Amish. Cross, working under McKusick’s direction, then collaborated with Amishman Ervin Gingerich of Holmes County, OH, in completing the first full-size household-level Amish directory in 1965. The effort was financed in part by Johns Hopkins, which benefitted from having extensive Amish genealogical information. The Amish benefitted by having access to their own population information. Individuals in other Amish settlements, including Elkhart-LaGrange Counties, IN; Geauga County, OH; and Lancaster County, PA, soon produced their own directories. The information has been incredibly useful for identifying new genetic disorders, while Amish have continued the directory initiatives long beyond the initial project. [Abstract by editors.]