This study introduces a novel way to use the lifetime ratings of symptoms of psychosis, mania and depression in genetic linkage analysis of schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BP). It suggests using a latent class model developed for family data to define more homogeneous symptom subtypes that are influenced by a smaller number of genes that will thus be more easily detectable. In a two-step approach, we proposed: (i) to form homogeneous clusters of subjects based on the symptom dimensions and (ii) to use the information from these homogeneous clusters in linkage analysis. This framework was applied to a unique SZ and BP sample composed of 1278 subjects from 48 large kindreds from the Eastern Quebec population. The results suggest that our strategy has the power to increase linkage signals previously obtained using the diagnosis as phenotype and allows for a better characterization of the linkage signals. This is the case for a linkage signal, which we formerly obtained in chromosome 13q and enhanced using the dimension mania. The analysis also suggests that the methods may detect new linkage signals not previously uncovered by using diagnosis alone, as in chromosomes 2q (delusion), 15q (bizarre behavior), 7p (anhedonia) and 9q (delusion). In the case of the 15q and 2q region, the results coincide with linkage signals detected in other studies. Our results support the view that dissecting phenotypic heterogeneity by modeling symptom dimensions may provide new insights into the genetics of SZ and BP.