GenToday-L Archive

Heraldry, What's That?

Heraldry is a system of hereditary identification using visual symbols called coats of arms, or armorial bearings. The use of such symbols, which became increasingly elaborate, soon spread beyond the military field. In medieval Europe such emblematic identification became a highly complicated science, the roots of which predate AD 1000. Heraldry itself dates from the beginning of the 12th century, when coats of arms began to appear and were adopted rapidly throughout Western Europe. These symbols were developed because of the military necessity of identifying armor-clad warriors, whose faces were covered by helmets. The granting of arms was very exclusively regulated and documented.

Sharing a surname does not mean that you share the right to the same arms. Arms were inherited usually only by the firstborn son and passed down that way. As you can see, not even the sibling brothers had a right to those arms. The granting of arms have to be verified by extensive genealogical research in order to claim your family coat of arms and crest. Your pedigree has to be traced back to someone who used a coat of arms, to prove your descent from the family that bore them. Thereby, you can see if you trace back that far in your family, more than likely, that surname will not be your current surname.

Therefore, if someone with a database (in the mall or in a book/magazine) tries to sell you a coat of arms just because your surname is the same or similiar, just be aware of the above. If you want to buy one, go ahead, it may be just a fun thing for you to have, but please do not take it seriously!

Suggested Reading:

  • A Pictorial Archive for Artists
  • Design Your Own Coat of Arms
  • Basic Heraldry
  • Clans and Tartans

    Tip of the Month

    People have not always been allowed to have as many names as they wish. Only 400 years ago not even a middle name was allowed in England. It was illegal. The old English law was definite and admitted no infraction of its ruling.

    The only exception made to this regulation was in the case of persons of royal rank. If they wished it they could boast a middle name. Woe to the person of ordinary rank who was sufficiently unwise or obstinate enough to insist on having more than a first and last name.

    For the first offense, he would very likely be tied to a whipping post and be severely lashed. For a scond offense, he would endure some more lasting punishment - perhaps the removal of his thumb or ears. If he still persisted in his stubborness, he would be hanged. There is a case on record of a poor man, in all probability half demented, who insisted in signing four names everytime he wrote his signature to any paper. He passed through all of the above stages of punishment - and he was hanged.

    (With thanks to about a half dozen publications, latest being The Martin County Genealogical Society Newsletter.)


    I am seeking parents, siblings or any information concerning William Hickman, b. 1783 ? NC. In Mo. by 1850. THANKS (Jack Davis)

    Looking for Clara Ada Burke b. about 1860 around Waltham, Me. she married Gilbert Hillman Buzzell b. same area 22 Aug 1856 any help greatly appreciated respond to

    Researching all WEST's. Also GILPIN, HILER, MELTON, WARDEN, MILNER, WILLOUGHBY, TAYLOR, and EAST (Freda P. Summar)


    Looking for parents of William Thomas Fate TURBERVILLE (any spelling) b. 06 OCT 1901 Gilkerson, Craighead Co, AR to "Tom" TURBERVILLE (any spelling) & Pearl SEXTON. Any info on surname TURBERVILLE in AR appreciated! Email: Sherry Miller

    I'm searching for the marriage record of John W. Branum & Sarah Fleming, about 1830 in Alabama.Elwood Branum, P.O. Box 82, Pilot Point, TX. 76258

    Researching: In NY: Webb, Miller In England: Harvey, Summers, Thomas, Tugby, Webb In Spain (Basque): Calzada,Orbe,Ostendi,Ysaguirreg

    Researching Moses L. CLAYTON, b:Sept. 27, 1821, Princeton, Caldwell CO. KY. He moved, w/ his parents, Morgan CO., Illinois, 1833. Remained Morgan Co. 41 years.He showed on all census reports his parents were b:Georgia.

    Fielding Boley, son of Samuel and Mary Elizabeth Beasley Boley, was orn in 1867 Wheeling, Livingston Co. Mo. Does anyone have information as to exact date of his birth and any other information?

    Does anyone have any information on my grandfather. His name is HARRY E. GLENN. Born in New Jersey July 5.1877. Died in Shelton, Wa Dec 15,1930

    I'm looking for information on Emma Rebecca Featherston, b. Sep 1885 Hartford, Seb.Co, AR, d. Aug 3, 1963 AR, mother's name "Ellen"; father lived Bentonville, Benton Co. AR, and died in Jenny Lind, Seb o., AR. (Heather J Scott)

    Searching for any info on MALLEY, HISCOCK, HENNING, JOHNSTONE and PROUT.

    Looking for the area of "Nierywiecie Borusf". Also researching: Brydalski, Wierzbowski, Ropoczynski, Schmidt, Orlowski, Augustyn, Kaczmarek, Pietruszewski, and Szruba. Jonathan

    I am searching for the marriage record of John W. Branum and Sarah Fleming, about 1830 in Alabama. Any help would be appreciated.

    Looking for info George & Maude Coker, (parents Bill & Mary Coker) George & Maude from Tenn/settling in Harlan, Ky. George was a miner & when Maude died, George md Cynthia Jones. He had children with both wives. He d:Harlan,1933. Maude died bef that.

    Looking for info William Henderson Baker, "Hence", from Leslie Co, Ky. Md to Lettie Morgan & had many children. After Lettie died, Hence md Ann Couch & had daughter Betty Baker. Hence was a farmer & Deputy Sheriff of Leslie County, Ky

    WHEELER, William md Sarah ADAMS 7 Apr 1817, Madison Co., KY witness was RICHARDSON. I Believe James Richard WHEELER b 9 Apr 1822 in Jefferson Co, KY was their 4th child. Looking for ancestors of William & Sarah. Bill WHEELER

    "McKane - Large cash REWARD for proven siblings/parents of James McKane b. 1799 Londonderry, Ireland md Elizabeth Lyons. Emigrated Ontario, Canada c. 1840 w/ 3 children. Brother may be Moses McKane w/possible spouse Ann Kennedy. (Jim McKane)

    CLARK, Dorsey/Doss Clark . Md Cleve WEST Loudon Cty, Tn Oct.3,1911.Dorsey's daugher was Helen (or Jonnie).Dorsey's brothers were Sam, Fred & Floyd CLARK. Cherokee or Melungeon (jimmy porter)

    NEWFIELDT(FELT-FIELD) and VANGUNDY FAMILIES OF MIDWEST. Newfieldt family immigrated from Germany in July-August 1885. John VanGundy family in IL mid to late 1800's

    Researching Presbyterian MCNEILLs originating from Pictou, Nova Scotia. They spread out to Cumberland and Colchester Counties. Connected to other surnames of BOWDEN, PHINNEY, MCLAUGHLIN, SKIDMORE, HYNMAN-HAYMAN- AMON-AMEN. 1800-1900.

    Looking for the parents of Issac Grover who was born in Harrisbur, Pa 1848 & found living in Iowa the the age of 14 living with a Benedict O'Neal

    Researching: RYS, FRANC, LACHUT, SEROKI, SIROKY, SIROKI from Austria prior to 1918

    Albert Sidney Hall b 1862-d 1949 Weakley Co TN, 188? Paragould AR, >1900 Tarrant Co. TX>, 1900 Cherokee Co. TX ,>1932 Carrollton, Dallas CO TX. Attended WHAT Baptist Seminary ? Md who to father Mildred Roberta in l888.? Any other info about his parishes, Early life. My grandpa. Bette Robinson

    Additional Articles:

  • Rooting Female Ancestors
  • United States Passport Applications
  • Finding Marriage Records

    The Genealogy Lady established the "Genealogy Today" newsletter in April 1997. She answers questions online at, and sells books at her Genealogy Book Store.

  • What's New in Genealogy ... Today!
    click to view original photo