The family histories of 976 South Indian Type 2 diabetic patients were recorded in a questionnaire-based survey to establish whether the excess maternal transmission of Type 2 diabetes reported in low prevalence Europid populations was also evident in this medium prevalence population. In 450 families (46.1%), no parental history of diabetes was reported. In 423 families with one parent diabetic, 222 fathers (52.5%) and 201 (47.5%) mothers were diabetic. In the remaining 103 (10.6%) families, both parents were diabetic. In contrast to previous studies, we found no evidence for substantial maternal excess in the transmission of diabetes (325 diabetic fathers vs 304 mothers; p = 0.4; p = 0.07 when compared using life table methods). The age of diagnosis of diabetes in probands was lower than that of their diabetic parents (p < 0.001): furthermore increasing parental history of diabetes was associated with an earlier diagnosis of diabetes in probands (p < 0.001). These results emphasize the extensive familial aggregation of Type 2 diabetes in this population but fail to replicate the evidence for excess maternal transmission evident in lower prevalence Europid populations, suggesting ethnic differences in the extent of this phenomenon.