Glycosidases, which cleave the glycosidic bond between a carbohydrate and another moiety, have been classified into over 63 families. Here, a variety of computational techniques have been employed to examine three families important in normal and abnormal pathology with the aim of developing a framework for future homology modeling, experimental and other studies. Family 1 includes bacterial and archaeal enzymes as well as lactase phlorizin-hydrolase and klotho, glycosidases implicated in disaccharide intolerance II and aging respectively. A statistical model, a hidden Markov model (HMM), for the family 1 glycosidase domain was trained and used as the basis for comparative examination of the conserved and variable sequence and structural features as well as the phylogenetic relationships between family members. Although the structures of four family 1 glycosidases have been determined, this is the first comparative examination of all these enzymes. Aspects that are unique to specific members or subfamilies (substrate binding loops) as well those common to all members (a beta/alpha)8 barrel fold) have been defined. Active site residues in some domains in klotho and lactase-phlorizin hydrolases differ from other members and in one instance may bind but not cleave substrate. The four invariant and most highly conserved residues are not residues implicated in catalysis and/or substrate binding. Of these, a histidine may be involved in transition state stabilization. Glucosylceramidase (family 30) and galactosylceramidase (family 59) are mutated in the lysosomal storage disorders Gaucher disease and Krabbe disease, respectively. HMM-based analysis, structure prediction studies and examination of disease mutations reveal a glycosidase domain common to these two families that also occurs in some bacterial glycosidases. Similarities in the reactions catalyzed by families 30 and 59 are reflected in the presence of a structurally and functionally related (beta/alpha)8 barrel fold related to that in family 1.