We compared different ascertainment schemes for genetic association analysis: affected sib-pairs (ASPs), case-parent trios, and unrelated cases and controls. We found, with empirical type 1 diabetes data at four known disease loci, that studies based on case-parent trios and on unmatched cases and controls often gave higher odds ratio estimates and stronger significance test values than ASP designs. We used simulations and a simplified disease model involving two interacting loci, one of large effect and one smaller, to examine interaction models that could cause such an effect. The different ascertainment schemes were compared for power to detect an effect when only the locus of smaller effect was genotyped. ASPs showed the greatest power for association testing under most models of interaction except under additive and certain epistatic crossover models, for which case/controls and case-parent trios did better. All ascertainment schemes gave an unbiased estimation of log genotype relative risks (GRRs) under a multiplicative model. Under nonmultiplicative interactions, GRRs at the minor locus as estimated from ASPs could be biased upwards or downwards, resulting in either an increase or decrease in power compared to the case/control or trio design. For the four known type 1 diabetes loci, we observed decreased risks with ASPs, which could be due to additive interactions with the remaining susceptibility loci. Thus, the optimal ascertainment strategy in genetic association studies depends on the unknown underlying multilocus genetic model, and on whether the goal of the study is to detect an effect or to accurately estimate the resulting disease risks. Genet. Epidemiol. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.