Beckwith–Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) is congenital disorder whose molecular etiology is related to genetic and epigenetic mutations on 11p15. The majority of cases of BWS are sporadic, but a substantial proportion are familial, with an unknown inheritance pattern, although autosomal dominant and sex-dependent inheritance have been proposed. We tested the hypothesis that in familial BWS, autosomal dominant inheritance is the primary mode of transmission underlying familial instances. Segregation analysis was performed in 291 families ascertained with an affected child. Individuals were considered to have BWS if they had two of five major features: macroglossia, macrosomia, hypoglycemia at birth, abdominal wall defect, and ear pits or creases. Models of inheritance were tested using pedigree analysis package (PAP) parameterized for a discrete trait. A total of 291 families of an affected proband were included in the study. The analysis was based on a revised general model that included a boundary solution. Sporadic and environmental models were rejected. Overall, the results suggested Mendelian inheritance but under recessive or additive mode of inheritance, which fit the data equally well rather than dominant inheritance. However, the presence of families in the cohort consistent with dominant and sex-dependent inheritance suggest familial BWS may be a heterogeneous group comprised of different inheritance patterns. Familial BWS does not appear to be consistent with autosomal dominant transmission, and is likely a complex mixture of different inheritance patterns. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.