Heraldry research can assist genealogical research
Guest writer John Lehman
Recently a message was sent to our website Coat of Arms Database asking a very pertinent question or rather a set of them: “If a coat of arms belongs to an individual, why would people search or be interested? Even if you find a family name, you don’t know who it belonged to. Why should people should be interested? Explain about what your site has to offer.”
How does Coat of Arms Database assist genealogists?
Let us address each portion individually. The only tangible proof for many people in the world they ever existed is in the faces of their children. It is a physical manifestation of DNA combining from two sets of parents to create a third human being. Children are real. They have individual lives and pursuits of career or choices they will make, based on a multitude of inputs from their biological and or adoptive parents. It is important to remember wars, natural disasters, economic downturns can result in a great deal of information being lost or misunderstood. But by their existence children prove a long line of ancestors preceded them. However that is only a small portion of who they are or who you might be. There is a depth to everyone’s familial history, a gravitas if you will. It just takes time and effort to unearth it, and understanding of times and history to make it come alive.
For those searching for their ancestors it can be a daunting task. Where do you start? What do you know about your personal history? And why is a coat of arms belonging to a person with a similar surname as yours have any relevance in your life? It is a long list of questions which are not usually easy to find answers to. But like the physical manifestation of your existence, oftentimes the only proof the possible ancestors of your history existed is in the preservation of their coat of arms.
Because the tradition and societal creation of Heraldry goes back to the 12th century, there are many countries who kept records of who were granted arms which means there are long extended historical documents available for those who are searching for their family history. Those records or Heraldic Rolls were not only a listing of notable and noble families, but they also served a dual purpose as an informal genealogical history for those families. Many coats of arms or ‘devices’ were crafted for one member of a family. As that family grew or enlarged, the coat of arms would be passed down to their children. Each generation would then augment or differentiate the original design to show their inclusion or for a possible foe to realize they are not facing a father or grandfather across the field of battle. Those differing versions of the surname would then be listed in various Heraldic rolls or books.
Heraldic rolls contain genealogical information
Originally a coat of arms were primarily given to those who were from a military based existence, such as Man-at-Arms who had performed extraordinary service to a lord and were rewarded by being raised to the knightly or martial class. Later it became a way of recognizing a commoner’s service to their country, kingdom or principality. And finally in English heraldry starting in roughly the 17th century, it was the ability to show you were economically well off to be able to have a coat-of-arms.
What does all this mean to you? A registered coat-of-arms of a possible ancestor gives you a tangible and real location in history. It gives you a place to start searching for historical records. It allows you the gift of knowing there was an existence of your family at a historical period of time.
The names listed in the coadb.com database don’t exist in a vacuum. They have a time, a location and a culture they are tied to. With each instance of their anchor points in history, their exists, records which branch out to other records such as wills, ship manifests and immigration pages and documents which then can be traced to those ancestors lives. A historical coat-of-arms help give meaning and definition to past lives lived. It can help illuminate the dark recesses of history, and make a family and their journey have context.
As an example, there is a family who has a long history in Texas. Their great-great grandchildren wished to know more about their family’s history. Because Texas at the time was a newly created Republic, immigration records were extremely important. As a result the now State of Texas has kept and maintained most of its earliest records as best they could, through the absorption into the United States, The Mexican-American war, and most notably the American Civil War.
- The family found their ancestors immigration records which included a ship’s manifest denoting their original home of record.
- Which then led back to a small village called Crowhurst, Surrey.
- Where it was found the family had been prosperous enough to have a coat-of-arms registered.
- Which lead their descendants to discover the family had been in England since the middle half of the 15th century.
- Finding of their coat-of-arms in the Surrey Roll of Arms, which then opened up numerous historical avenues for research.
More importantly it helped to narrow their focus and find direct ancestors… And just as importantly, living descendants in the region.
Coadb.com is not a place to start your search for your family. It is however a powerful aid in your search. Our names and coat-of-arms are brought to you by laborious research through published historical registers and numerous Heraldic rolls. We have endeavored to show the oldest origins of each surname. Especially to show how a surname has evolved from a time period when surnames didn’t actually exist to now. Let us be a helpful and powerful tool in your search for your family’s history.
Heraldic research can be a powerful tool