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Heraldry, Coats of Arms and Family Crests

Explore the origins of heraldry and coats of arms; learn about common heraldic devices; find sources for heraldic material, learn how to "blazon" a crest, badge or shield; and browse heraldic clip art collections for crests, shields and more. Plus how to determine if a coat of arms belonged to your ancestors.
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Family Coats of Arms - They Aren't What You Think
Except for a few individual exceptions from some parts of Eastern Europe, there is no such thing as a coat of arms for a surname. Learn why the coats of arms you see in the store and on the Internet probably have nothing to do with your family history.

Intro to Heraldry for the Genealogist
Learn all about coats of arms and family crests, including which people were granted the right to bear arms, what the designs and colors mean, and how you can use heraldry to prove family relationships.

The American College of Heraldry
This organization identifies and registers "legitimate coats of arms being legitimately borne in America in order to leave a cultural and historical record of armory in this country for future historians, genealogists and scholars in various academic fields." Web site includes a lot of good general information on heraldry and coats of arms.

The Augustan Society
An international genealogical, historical, heraldic, and chivalric society based in California.

Blazons - Heraldry Software
This downloadable shareware program allows you to type in a description of a coat-of-arms (the description is known as a blazon) and will attempt to interpret and display the coat. Useful for people with a serious interest in heraldry or for those who have a worded description of a coat-of-arms and wonder what it would look like.

A Brief History of Coats of Arms
Susannah Davis discusses the origins of heraldry, authorities, inheritance, marshalling, and how to search for coats of arms in your family tree.

The College of Arms
The official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families and their descendants. Learn more about heraldry and the granting of coats of arms, or enlist the services of a herald to locate and/or prove your ancestor's coat of arms.

Common Heraldic Devices
An introduction to the intricate design of a coat of arms, including the field, tinctures, divisions, ordinaries, sub-ordinaries, charges, animals, plants, blazoning, and mottoes. By Susannah Davis for BBC Online.

Excuse Me, There's No Such Thing as a Family Crest
An article from a company that creates crests and coats of arms for people, which attempts to explain why this is OK.

Flow Chart for Identifying Coats of Arms
This flowchart is designed to aid in identifying the bearer of a given coat of arms. Includes the heraldic resources which should be checked and the order in which to check them.

Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry
From abacot to zule, this online glossary provides the meaning of thousands of heraldic terms. From a book first published in 1894 by James Parker.

Free Heraldry Ebooks
Free, downloadable versions of two heraldry ebooks: Symbolisms of Heraldry, descriptions of the meanings of over 200 lines, ordinaries and charges found in coats of arms, and Pimbley's Dictionary of Heraldry, a guide to understanding heraldic terminology and the various charges and expressions used in describing coats of arms. You can also browse Pimbley's Dictionary of Heraldry online.

Find answers to common questions about heraldry, browse through over 200 articles on heraldry and the right to bear arms, and search the fully illustrated glossary of over 500 heraldic terms in six languages.

A Heraldic Primer
An introduction to the basic language of heraldry and how to blazon. From the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Heraldry for Genealogists
A good overview of heraldry around the world as it applies to people interested in "armigerous (bearing arms by lawful authority) ancestors." From RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees.

Heraldry in Scotland
An excellent overview of heraldry in Scotland, one of the few countries where heraldry is protected by law. Includes an overview of the Court of Lord Lyon, the matriculation of arms, and a typical Scottish grant of arms.

Heraldry Lecture
Genealogist Joseph C. Wolf has reprinted the entire text of his popular lecture on heraldry, describing the origin and development of coats of arms, the significance of the component parts of the coat of arms, and the usage of arms-bearing as they apply to women.

Heraldry on the Internet
Conduct heraldry research on the Internet with this compilation of links to various sources of heraldic material.

The Heraldry Society
This non-profit society based in London seeks to increase and extend interest in and knowledge of heraldry, armory, chivalry, genealogy and allied subjects.

Journalists' and Authors' Guide to Heraldry and Titles
An online reference for writers seeking to verify their understanding of ancient heraldic terms necessary for discussion of royalty, peerage and nobility, and heraldry.

Primer of Blazonry
This visual introduction to heraldry by Paula Katherine Marmor makes it easy to understand the colors and metals, ordinaries, patterns, partitions, charges, etc. used in heraldry. Don't miss the next buttons at the bottom of each page...

Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family's Coat of Arms?
The National Genealogical Society provides a general overview of heraldry and coats of arms and warns against "pushcart vendors selling reproductions of coats of arms."

Psst! Want to Buy Your Name?
The National Genealogy Society's Consumer Protection Committee tells you how to fight back if you've been duped by a business who creates and markets fake coats of arms.

rec.heraldry FAQ List
Answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning heraldry from the rec.heraldry newsgroup.

The Right to Arms
A detailed explanation of how individuals are granted a coat of arms, from the Society of Genealogists in London, England.

The Society of Heraldic Arts
This nonprofit international guild of heraldic artists, craftsmen and designers provides information on a wide range of heraldic matters, including the translation of heraldic blazons and the identification of heraldic charges.

Swedish Heraldry
A collection of Swedish state and municipal arms, plus links to a number of heraldic organizations in Sweden. Presented in English and Swedish.

Understanding Blazons
An easy-to-understand explanation of blazons (specialised descriptions of a shield) and how to decode them, with step-by-step illustrations and examples.

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