I review previous systematic work on the family Meropidae and present phylogenetic hypotheses derived from my analyses of colour, pattern and shape variation in 30 plumage regions among species and subspecies in this family. Consistent patterns are seen across shallow portions of the trees. Uncertainty remains concerning the placement of several deep branches within this group's phylogeny. In particular, the phylogenetic placement of Meropogon forsteni and Merops breweri, M. ornatus, M. hirundineus and M. boehmi remains uncertain. The biogeographical patterns in the resultant trees are similar with either a Southeast Asian or African origin for the family, with most of the early diversification occurring in Africa, and with multiple independent subsequent invasions of non-African areas.