Umbilical cord blood is an alternative hematopoietic stem cell source for patients with hematologic diseases who can be cured by allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Initially, umbilical cord blood transplantation was limited to children, given the low cell dose infused. Both related and unrelated cord blood transplants have been performed with high rates of success for a variety of hematologic disorders and metabolic storage diseases in the pediatric setting. The results for adult umbilical cord blood transplantation have improved, with greater emphasis on cord blood units of sufficient cell dose and human leukocyte antigen match and with the use of double umbilical cord blood units and improved supportive care techniques. Cord blood expansion trials have recently shown improvement in time to engraftment. Umbilical cord blood is being compared with other graft sources in both retrospective and prospective trials. The growth of the field over the last 25 years and the plans for future exploration are discussed.