Traditionally, researchers working in the field of genetics and alcoholism have used treatment centres and clinics to try and recruit suitable subjects for research purposes. The current study considered a diverse range of possible sources to recruit suitable families for a linkage study of alcoholism. These sources included the press, personal contacts and circular letters to alcohol treatment centres and members of the Substance Misuse Section of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Only 9–14% of families contacted from any source were suitable for inclusion in the study, due to the strict selection criteria. Press contacts were found to be the most productive source of suitable families willing to participate in the study, accounting for over 50% of contacts and eventual subjects recruited. There appeared to be no bias in the affection status of subjects recruited from the different sources. For future genetic studies of alcoholism it might be worthwhile to utilize this source more fully. Reasons for exclusion from the study are also considered, with the most common reasons being non-co-operation and no family history.