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The objective of this study was to determine the contribution of a familial history of cancer (FHC) to the development of leukemia in children below 2 years of age. This is a national hospital-based case–control study of children 0–24 months of age recruited from 15 Brazilian hospitals from several regions providing oncological care and local general hospitals. Participants’ FHC antecedents were obtained through face-to-face interviews with the mothers of cases and controls using a standardized questionnaire. Unconditional logistic regression was used to determine crude and adjusted (adj.) odds ratios (OR), and the respective 95% confidence intervals (CI), of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) after adjustment for selected variables. FHC antecedents were obtained from 178 ALL, 51 AML, and 428 controls. FHC in second-degree relatives (grandparents, uncles, cousins) showed an adj. OR=1.66 (95% CI 1.12–2.45) for ALL. Antecedents of two or more relatives with cancer showed a statistically significant two-fold higher risk of either ALL or AML. Paternal, and joint paternal and maternal antecedents of cancer also showed statistically significant higher adj. OR, respectively: 1.80 and 1.89 for ALL, and 2.34 and 3.23 for AML. Hematological malignancies among second-degree relatives showed an adj. OR=3.48 (95% CI 1.72–7.09) for ALL. According to the anatomic site, antecedents of leukemia/lymphoma among case relatives, compared with the control ones, showed an OR=2.98 (95% CI 1.52–5.82) for ALL, whereas stomach cancer antecedents showed an OR=3.55 (95% CI 1.02–12.39) for AML. The observed results support the hypothesis that FHC antecedents are associated with leukemogenesis in children below 2 years of age.