Understanding of the genetic basis of normal and abnormal development of the immune response is an enormous undertaking. The immune response, at the most minimal level, involves interactions of antigen presenting cells (APCs), T and B cells. Each of these cells produce cell surface and soluble factors (cytokines) that affect both autocrine and paracrine functions. A second level of complexity needs to consider the development of the macrophage/monocyte lineage as well as the production of the common lymphoid precursor which undergoes distinct maturation steps in the thymus and periphery to form mature T cells as well as in BM (BM) and lymphoid organs to form mature B cells. A third level of complexity involves the immune response to infectious agents including viruses and also the response to tumour antigens. In addition, there are imbalances that predispose to decreased responses (immunodeficiencies) or increased responses (autoimmunity). A fourth level of complexity involves attempts to understand the differences in the immune response that occurs at a very young age, in adults, and at a very old age. This review will focus on the use of C57BL/6 J X DBA/2 J (BXD) recombinant inbred (RI) strains of mice to map genetic loci associated with the production of lymphoid precursors in the BM, development of T cells in the thymus, and T-cell responses to stimulation in the peripheral lymphoid organs in adult and in aged mice. Strategies to improve the power and precision in which complex traits such as the age-related immune response can be mapped is limited with the current set of 35 strains of BXD mice. Strategies to increase these strains by generating recombinant intercross (RIX) strains of mice are being developed to enable this large set of lines to detect quantitative trait loci (QTLs) with a much higher consistency and statistical power. More importantly, the resolution with which these QTLs can be mapped would be greatly improved and, in many cases, adequate to carry out direct identification of candidate genes. It is likely that, given the complexity of the immune system development, the number of cells involved in an immune response, and especially the changes in the immune system with ageing, mapping hundreds of genes will be required to fully understand age-related changes in the immune response. This review outlines ongoing and future strategies that will enable the mapping and identification of these genes.