The Veterans Affairs Hypertension Primary Care Longitudinal Cohort (VAHC) was initiated in 2003 as a pilot study designed to link the VA electronic medical record system with individual genetic data. Between June 2003 and December 2004, 1,527 hypertensive participants were recruited. Protected health information (PHI) was extracted from the regional VA data warehouse. Differences between the clinic and mail recruits suggested that clinic recruitment resulted in an over-sampling of African Americans. A review of medical records in a random sample of study participants confirmed that the data warehouse accurately captured most selected diagnoses. Genomic DNA was acquired non-invasively from buccal cells in mouthwash; ~ 96.5 per cent of samples contained DNA suitable for genotyping, with an average DNA yield of 5.02 ± 0.12 micrograms, enough for several thousand genotypes. The coupling of detailed medical databases with genetic information has the potential to facilitate the genetic study of hypertension and other complex diseases.