How to Research Your Family Heraldry

Surname-based organizations and societies


Genealogy is a fascinating pursuit. It allows us to discover not only where we come from, but also who we are. One aspect of genealogy that is often overlooked, however, is heraldry. Heraldry is the study of coats of arms and family crests. It is an important aspect of genealogy because it can tell us a great deal about our ancestors and their history.

What is Heraldry?

Heraldry is the study and use of armorial bearings, or coats of arms. These were originally worn by knights in battle as a way of identifying themselves. Over time, they became more elaborate and were adopted by noble families as a way of showing their status. Heraldry is an important part of genealogy because it can provide clues about a family's history and lineage.

Why Research Your Family Heraldry?

Researching your family heraldry can be a rewarding experience. It can help you discover more about your family's history and provide a sense of connection to the past. It can also be a fun way to connect with other people who share your last name.

Understanding Coats of Arms

Coats of arms are complex symbols that are made up of various elements. The main part of the coat of arms is the shield, which is typically divided into several parts. Each part may have its own design or symbol. Above the shield, there may be a helmet or crest. This is often topped with a crown or other decoration.

Other elements that may be included in a coat of arms include supporters, which are figures or animals that hold up the shield, and a motto, which is a short phrase that represents the family. The colors and patterns used in a coat of arms are also important, as they can convey specific meanings.

Researching Your Family Heraldry

If you are interested in researching your family heraldry, there are several steps you can take. The first is to gather as much information as possible about your family history. This can be done by talking to family members, looking through family Bibles and other documents, and researching online.

Once you have a basic understanding of your family history, you can begin researching your family's coat of arms. There are several websites and resources that can help with this, such as the College of Arms in London and the Heraldry Society. These organizations can provide information on the history and meaning of different coats of arms.

It is important to note, however, that not all families have a coat of arms. Coats of arms were originally granted to noble families, so if your family was not part of the nobility, they may not have had one. It is also possible that your family had a coat of arms that has been lost over time.

Interpreting Your Coat of Arms

Once you have discovered your family's coat of arms, you can begin to interpret its meaning. This can involve researching the symbols and elements used in the coat of arms. For example, certain animals may have specific meanings in heraldry, such as strength or loyalty.

The colors used in a coat of arms are also important. Different colors can have different meanings, such as red representing bravery or blue representing truth. The patterns used in a coat of arms can also be significant, such as chevrons representing protection or waves representing travel.


Researching your family heraldry can be a fascinating and rewarding pursuit. It can provide insight into your family history and give you a sense of connection to the past. While not all families have a coat of arms, those that do have a rich history and tradition that is worth exploring. By understanding the symbols, colors, and patterns used in your family's coat of arms, you can gain a greater understanding of your family's values and beliefs.