The motor neuron diseases (MND) are a group of related neurodegenerative diseases that cause the relative selective progressive death of motor neurons. These diseases range from slowly progressive forms including hereditary motor neuropathy (HMN), to the rapidly progressive disorder amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). There is clinical and genetic overlap among these MNDs, implicating shared pathogenic mechanisms. We recruited a large family with a MND that was previously described as juvenile ALS and distal HMN. We identified a novel MND/HMN locus on chromosome 7q34-q36 following a genome-wide scan for linkage in this family. The disease causing mutation maps to a 26.2 cM (12.3 Mb) interval flanked by D7S2513 and D7S637 on chromosome 7q34-q36. Recombinant haplotype analysis including unaffected individuals suggests that the refined candidate interval spans 14.3 cM (6.3 Mb) flanked by D7S2511 and D7S798. One gene in the candidate interval, CDK5, was selected for immediate mutation analysis based upon its known association with an ALS-like phenotype in mice however, no mutations were identified. Identification of genes causing familial MND will lead to a greater understanding of the biological basis of both familial and sporadic motor neuron degeneration including ALS.