My article on Heraldic Visitations was published today in Your Family History magazine (issue 35). Visitation records are one of the best record types for research into families in the sixteenth century and medieval periods. I always look for a visitation when starting research into a subject or family.
The visitations were compiled in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and involved teams of royal heralds touring England to make enquiries about families that claimed gentry status. The heralds interviewed family members and reviewed documents before producing a pedigree for the family, some of which go back to 1066. The claims should always be taken with a pinch of salt - everyone wants to think that they have illustrious ancestors after all. However, by cross-referencing with other documents you can generally work out what is true and what is more likely to be wishful thinking.
Visitations are a great resource for historians and genealogists and, with many available free online, it's always worth having a look when carrying out research.