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British and American Coats of Arms



    British and American Coats of Arms
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About the Data
Here you'll find the indexed images of the pages from seven books originally published by the Genealogical Publishing Company. The information you'll find ranges from illustrated compilations of coats of arms to definitions of terms used in heraldic research. In all, approximately 137,000 individuals are referenced.

Included among the seven books is a comprehensive guide to all coats of arms known to have been used in the United States since its earliest colonial days as well as the best-known reference work on British heraldry (John Bernard Burke's The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales). Some of the books list lines of descent connecting the earliest known holder of a coat of arms to a recent descendent. This detailed connection makes it easier than ever to determine if your family history should include a particular coat of arms.

Heraldry, or armory, was established in Europe during the latter half of the twelfth century. The symbols incorporated into a coat of arms served to distinguish armored participants in war and tournaments. Initially, arms were a sign of greater nobility but by the mid-13th century they were used by many classes.

Before incorporating a coat of arms into your family history, it is important to note that sharing a surname does not necessarily mean that you share the right to a coat of arms. There is, for example, no such thing as a coat of arms for all people whose surname is Spencer. A coat of arms can only be granted to an individual and, as such, arms are associated with specific lineages rather than surnames. Similarly, many families with different names may share the same coat of arms. To claim a coat of arms as part of your family history, you must trace your lineage to the individual to whom the coat of arms was granted.

In order to discover whether an inherited right to arms exists, it is necessary to trace your male-line ancestry back as far as possible and then examine the official records of the heraldic authority concerned. For England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the heraldic authority is the College of Arms and for Scotland the heraldic authority is the Lyon Office.

While the contents of each volume varies, you have the opportunity to find the following in this data set:

  • Illustration and/or description of coat of arms
  • Illustration and/or description of crests
  • Definitions of terms used in heraldry
  • Links between mottoes and the families that used them
  • Details of a family's immigration to the United States

Books Included in this Data Set

This data set contains indexed images of the following seven books:

Bolton's American Armory
Charles Knowles Bolton

This comprehensive guide includes virtually all coats-of-arms known to have been in use in the United States since its earliest colonial days.

The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales
John Bernard Burke

Considered the supreme reference work in British heraldry, this book was hailed as a monument by leading authorities at the time of publication. The range of this definitive work is encyclopedic. It contains approximately 70,000 descriptions of coats-of-arms of British families listed alphabetically by the owner's surname. You'll also find an extensive list of mottoes, a glossary, a dictionary of heraldic terms, and lists of the Royal Armory and Orders of Knighthood.

"This is regarded by the genealogical and heraldic researcher as one of the greatest works of the Burke series...The book contains the most comprehensive collection of arms...it is the finest source available and it is the most used book in any genealogical and heraldic reference collection." - Library Journal (October 1962).

Crozier's General Armory
William Armstrong Crozier
This esteemed book contains descriptions of nearly 2,000 coats-of-arms.

Virginia County Records. Vol. V: Virginia Heraldica A Registry of Virginia Gentry Entitled to Coat Armor"
William Armstrong Crozier

Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland
James Fairbairn
This register of all crests known to have been in use in Great Britain and Ireland is the definitive book in its field.

Complete American Armoury and Blue Book
John Matthews

An Ordinary of Arms: Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland
Sir James Balfour Paul

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