Myotonic dystrophy (DM) is caused by the expansion of a CTG trinucleotide repeat. The mutation is in complete linkage disequilibrium with a nearly two-allele insertion/deletion polymorphism, suggesting a single origin for the mutation or predisposing mutation. To trace this-ancestral event, we have studied the association of CTG repeat alleles in a normal population to alleles of the insertion/deletion polymorphism and of a (CA)n repeat marker 90 kilobases from the DM mutation. The results strongly suggest that the initial predisposing event(s) consisted of a transition from a (CTG)5 allele to an allele with 19 to 30 repeats. The heterogeneous class of (CTG)19-30 alleles which has an overall frequency of about 10%, may constitute a reservoir for recurrent DM mutations.