Update: We have heard rumors that this shop will be closing it's doors on January 4th, 2014.
Across Liberty Square from Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, just to the right of Hall of Presidents (when looking at it) a shingle swings above the entryway to the Heritage House, Historical Research Center. How much of a "research center" it is, is up for debate, as most of its space these days is taken up with Jack Skellington gear rather than the American history souvenirs that it used to carry. However, tucked away in a back corner you will still find a desk dedicated to looking up your "family crest."
A large book of common surnames rests on the counter for guests to browse through, with a friendly cast member near by. It offers a generic look at the possible origins of each surname and matches them up with a "family crest". The shop offers a myriad of elegant looking souvenir gifts that you can have custom made featuring your unique family name. From a simple print out of a single name with a "family history" to a more involved multi-name look up complete with posh embroidered coat of arms. It's a fun way to spend a little time and possibly learn something of your family history.
As with all things however, buyer beware -- even at Walt Disney World. If you have ever done your own in depth genealogical research, you are probably aware that the offerings of this shop, and others of its kind offer, only a very generic overview of one branch of any given family. Family history is a very complicated subject matter and every branch of a family tree is not always connected to the one offered in the story the shop provides. In addition, the heraldry presented in shops like this that most American's believe to be a "family crest" are really not entitled to be used by an entire family. They were most frequently at one point in time given for a specific family member to use, but they are not something that is generally passed down.
None the less, shops like the Heritage House, and it's companion in Epcot's UK Pavilion offer a fun way to become interested in your family history, a starting point of genealogical exploration, and a fun, pretty souvenir. Have you ever stopped by to look up your family name? Have you ordered a beautiful piece of heraldry for your home? Leave a comment and share your story!