Based on data gathered in 1952, the Stirling County (Canada) Study estimated that 20% of a general population needed psychiatric attention. The study used DSM-I as a catalog of qualitatively different kinds of disorders. However, the manual was adapted in light of several inadequacies and special needs that relate to community-based epidemiology. These modifications resemble some of the features that are embodied in DSM-III. It is suggested that the frame of reference for this early study has not become out of date. With certain improvements that follow on the model provided by DSM-III, an updated frame of reference is given as the foundation for future reporting of longitudinal cohort and repeated representative sample studies in Stirling County. DSM-III is superior to its predecessors as a manual for community research. Nevertheless, the use of comparable diagnostic approaches makes it possible to trace continuities between early and recent studies.