We evaluated the influence of family history on longevity by examining longevity in a cohort of 78,994 individuals drawn from the Utah Population Database (UPDB) who were born between 1870 and 1907, and lived to at least age 65. We examined Mendelian genetic and social modes of transmission of excess longevity (the difference between observed and expected longevity) by varying weighted kinship contributions over different classes of relatives. The genetic component of the variation in excess longevity measured as heritability, h2, was approximately 0.15 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.12-0.18). Among siblings of probands who reached the 97th percentile of excess longevity (+ 14.8 years, currently age 95 for men and 97 for women), the relative risk of recurrence (lambdas) was 2.30 (95% CI 2.08-2.56). In sibships whose relatives were in the top 15% of the distribution for familial excess longevity, the value of lambdas increased substantially, indicating that considering the longevity of distant relatives may be helpful in the selection of families in which to identify genes influencing aging and longevity.