Using data from The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, we compare direct interview diagnoses of alcohol dependence to those obtained by history from family members. Using a requirement of three or more positive implications by history, the specificity, sensitivity, and positive predictive values are 98%, 39%, and 45%, respectively. A logistic analysis found the gender of the relative and alcoholism in the informant to be significant, but not the gender of the informant. The partial odds ratio of a diagnosis at interview associated with a positive family history diagnosis was 13.6. The relationship between the informant and relative was significant, with negative reports from an offspring or mate more influential than a negative report from a parent or second-degree relative. We derived a recursive equation to combine a variable number of family history reports, wherein the probabilities associated with a single report are computed from the logistic analysis. This permits the use of family history information both as a proxy for an uninterviewed relative, as well as a second source of information to be used in the analysis of genetic family data.