Carotid atherosclerosis (CAS) is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, and therefore, assessing the genetic versus environmental background of CAS traits is of key importance. Carotid intima-media-thickness and plaque characteristics seem to be moderately heritable, with remarkable differences in both heritability and presence or severity of these traits among ethnicities. Although the considerable role of additive genetic effects is obvious, based on the results so far, there is an important emphasis on non-shared environmental factors as well. We aimed to collect and summarize the papers that investigate twin and family studies assessing the phenotypic variance attributable to genetic associations with CAS. Genes in relation to CAS markers were overviewed with a focus on genetic association studies and genome-wide association studies. Although the role of certain genes is confirmed by studies conducted on large populations and meta-analyses, many of them show conflicting results. A great focus should be on future studies elucidating the exact pathomechanism of these genes in CAS in order to imply them as novel therapeutic targets.