Migraine is a complex familial condition that imparts a significant burden on society. There is evidence for a role of genetic factors in migraine, and elucidating the genetic basis of this disabling condition remains the focus of much research. In this review we discuss results of genetic studies to date, from the discovery of the role of neural ion channel gene mutations in familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) to linkage analyses and candidate gene studies in the more common forms of migraine. The success of FHM regarding discovery of genetic defects associated with the disorder remains elusive in common migraine, and causative genes have not yet been identified. Thus we suggest additional approaches for analysing the genetic basis of this disorder. The continuing search for migraine genes may aid in a greater understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the disorder and potentially lead to significant diagnostic and therapeutic applications.