Factor VIII activity (factor VIII:C) and factor VIII antigen (factor VIII:Ag) levels above150 IU/dl are associated with a five- to sixfold increased risk of venous thrombosis compared with levels < 100 IU/dl. These high levels are present in 25% of patients with a first episode of deep-vein thrombosis and in 11% of healthy controls. von Willebrand factor (VWF) and blood group are important determinants of the factor VIII level in plasma and therefore contribute to thrombotic risk, while factor VIII appears to be the final effector. Previously, we found familial clustering of factor VIII:C levels in women, which remained after adjustment for VWF and blood group. In the present study, we analysed the familial influence on factor VIII:Ag levels exceeding 150 IU/dl in 12 large families with thrombophilia in which high factor VIII:Ag levels contribute to thrombotic risk. As expected, blood group was a main determinant of the plasma factor VIII level: 58 relatives (32%) had factor VIII levels above 150 IU/dl and 50 (86%) of these had blood group non-O. After adjustment for blood group and age, we found an association between factor VIII:Ag levels in sister pairs (0·35, P = 0·003), brother pairs (0·35, P = 0·003), brother–sister pairs (0·35, P < 0·001) and in mother–son pairs (0·45, P = 0·02), but not in father–daughter or father–son pairs. The familial aggregation test was strongly positive for factor VIII:Ag levels (P < 0·001) and remained so after adjustment for the influence of blood group. We conclude that high factor VIII:Ag levels are a highly prevalent risk factor for venous thrombosis and contribute to risk in families with thrombophilia, and that these high levels are likely to be genetically determined by factors other than just blood group.