Thyroid dysgenesis (TD) is the most prevalent form of congenital hypothyroidism. Ttf-1, Ttf-2, Pax8 and the Tshr are expressed at early stages of thyroid development and are implicated in thyroid ontogeny. Mutations in these genes have been found in some cases of TD. The prevalence of familial forms of TD is significantly higher than expected if the disease was only sporadic, allowing to postulate a genetic basis of the disease. Linkage analysis and mutational screening of the four above-mentioned genes in familial forms of TD showed their exclusion as contributors to the disease in some families, implicating genetic heterogeneity and involving other genetic mechanisms. Strategies to uncover new genes involved in TD are therefore needed. We underscore differences in the temporal expression patterns during the human thyroid development with those in animal models. Further, the extrathyroid expression of these genes during human development enables to define the gene-specific malformations that may be present in patients bearing mutations. The data gathered on molecular thyroid development enable precise genetic counselling of affected families. By increasing our knowledge of thyroid development, we hope to uncover new perspectives of genetic screening and eventually of early in utero treatment.