The Framingham Heart Study (FHS) was started in 1948 as a prospective investigation of cardiovascular disease in a cohort of adult men and women. Continuous surveillance of this sample of 5209 subjects has been maintained through biennial physical examinations. In 1971 examinations were begun on the children of the FHS cohort. This study, called the Framingham Offspring Study (FOS), was undertaken to expand upon knowledge of cardiovascular disease, particularly in the area of familial clustering of the disease and its risk factors. This report reviews the sampling design of the FHS and describes the nature of the FOS sample. The FOS families appear to be of typical size and age structure for families with parents born in the late 19th or early 20th century. In addition, there is little evidence that coronary heart disease (CHD) experience and CHD risk factors differ in parents of those who volunteered for this study and the parents of those who did not volunteer.