From its Icelandic origins in the study of visible tephra horizons, tephrochronology took a remarkable step in the late 1980 s with the discovery of a ca. 4300-year-old microscopic ash layer in a Scottish peat bog. Since then, the search for these cryptotephra deposits in distal areas has gone from strength to strength. Indeed, a recent discovery demonstrates how a few fine-grained glass shards from an Alaskan eruption have been dispersed more than 7000 km to northern Europe. Instantaneous deposition of geochemically distinct volcanic ash over such large geographical areas gives rise to a powerful correlation tool with considerable potential for addressing a range of scientific questions. A prerequisite of this work is the establishment of regional tephrochronological frameworks that include well-constrained age estimates and robust geochemical signatures for each deposit. With distal sites revealing a complex record of previously unknown volcanic events, frameworks are regularly revised, and it has become apparent that some closely timed eruptions have similar geochemical signatures. The search for unique and robust geochemical fingerprints thus hinges on rigorous analysis by electron microprobe and laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Historical developments and significant breakthroughs are presented to chart the revolution in correlation and precision dating over the last 50 years using tephrochronology and cryptotephrochronology.