Intergenerational transfers in families are increasingly a topic of interest in the context of reductions in the welfare state and increased longevity. This paper draws upon data from a study of four-generation families which afforded an opportunity to examine the transfer of material and care resources across family generations. It explores ways in which family members from different generations talked about family obligations and the relevance of the concept ‘cultures of transmission’ in classifying these discourses. It addresses the questions: How far are cultures of transmission familial in the sense of typifying particular families? And how far are they shaped by life course phase and by historical context?