Posts Tagged ‘Family History and Heraldry’

Coat of Arms – Heraldry Classifications

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Family history researches may at some point get involved in examining a coat of arms to determine the history of a family or simply for the pleasure of finding a heraldic connection to their family lines. Many  family history researchers  believe that a coat of arms is only granted to families or individuals. In fact heraldic symbols extend to corporations, communities, societies and cities as well. There are several major classifications of heraldic arms, some of which fall outside of the family or individual type. Such classifications are Arms of Succession, Community, Dominion, Pretension, Concession, Family, Alliance, Patronage and Office.

heraldic shields

 One unusual category of arms was ‘Arms of Attribution.’ These are fictitious arms invented by heralds in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for royalty that actually died before coats of arms were in use.
 The below classifications are the most generally valid categories in use from the past and today.
 Succession – These are arms that are taken up by those who inherit certain estates by bequest, entail, or donation.
 Community – These are arms that are associated with bishoprics, cities, universities, academies, societies, guilds and corporate bodies. Many of these go back to a very early period.
 Dominion (or Sovereignty) – These are the arms of the kings or sovereigns of the territories they govern, which are also regarded as the arms of the State. Thus the Lions of England and the Russian Eagle are the arms of the Kings of England and the Emperors of Russia, and cannot be altered by a change of dynasty. In America several states have official arms of Dominion that derive from old rulers of the colony, such as in Maryland which bears the arms of Cecililus Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, who was the proprietor of the colony.
 Pretension – These are arms of kingdoms, provinces, or territories to which a prince or lord has some claim, and which he adds to his own, though the kingdoms or territories are governed by a foreign king or lord: thus the Kings of England for many ages quartered the arms of France in their escutcheon as the descendants of Edward III., who claimed that kingdom, in right of his mother, a French princess. Nearly all early sovereigns bore arms of this type as they constantly disputed territories.
 Concession – These are arms granted by sovereigns as the reward of virtue, valor, or extraordinary service and deeds. All arms granted to subjects were originally conceded by the Sovereign.


 Family (or paternal arms) – These arms are such as are hereditary and belong to one particular family, which none others have a right to assume, nor can they do so without rendering themselves guilty of a breach of the laws of honor punishable by the Earl Marshal and the Kings at Arms. The assumption of arms has however become so common that little notice is taken of it at the present time. These types of arms sometimes are modified over time by various family members.
 Alliance – These are arms gained by marriage.
 Patronage – These arms are such as the lesser gentry bore as subjects to governors of provinces, lords of manors or feudal lords. They usually derive from the coat of arms of the lord and indicate a level of dependence on such, as well as the connection to that manor.
 Office – These are arms born by those holding certain offices such as the King of Arms in England or the Butlers of Ireland, ancestors of the Dukes of Ormond.

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Author: Mark Jordan

There will be a heraldry workshop at the forthcoming  genealogy conference in Nottingham, England in 2009. This four day family history conference will be an ideal opprtunity to meet other heraldic researchers and at under $500 ALL inclusive of ensuite accommodation, meals and refreshments there has never been a better time to attend a genealogical conference

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