Generational succession in families is investigated through the passing on of authority as embodied in the position of head of the family. Paths of succession and processes of timing and negotiation accompanying shifts in headship are examined. In a random sample of 464 residents of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, two-thirds of respondents said their family had a head; one-third also identified a past and future head. Headship transitions are analysed by gender and kinship category of occupant, and generational direction of transition. Headship usually descends from father to son to grandson. Succession is precipitated by life course events, which are perceived as creating vacancies into which one�s own generation� but almost never a younger generation, may step.