This paper establishes several existence and uniqueness results for two families of active scalar equations with velocity fields determined by the scalars through very singular integrals. The first family is a generalized surface quasigeostrophic (SQG) equation with the velocity field u related to the scalar θ by , where and is the Zygmund operator. The borderline case β = 1 corresponds to the SQG equation and the situation is more singular for β > 1. We obtain the local existence and uniqueness of classical solutions, the global existence of weak solutions, and the local existence of patch-type solutions. The second family is a dissipative active scalar equation with , which is at least logarithmically more singular than the velocity in the first family. We prove that this family with any fractional dissipation possesses a unique local smooth solution for any given smooth data. This result for the second family constitutes a first step towards resolving the global regularity issue recently proposed by K. Ohkitani. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.