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Heraldic Coats of Arms & Seals (Scotland)

Nature of Source

Genealogical information contained on coats of arms (shields or escutcheons) and heraldic seals of the armigerous (those entitled to bear arms). Coats of arms evolved from the battlefield as a means of identification and were later displayed at jousting tournaments. As the military use declined, coats of arms became the new  status symbol for the wealthy and well-connected. In modern times they are mostly confined to ceremonial use.

By the time of Henry III of England, the use of coats of arms had gained in popularity and had also become inheritable, so the need to regulate the system became a necessity. The Lyon Court in Scotland was established in 1318 and The College of Heralds in England in 1484 to create rules concerning the displaying and inheritance of arms and the registration of arms.

The complete display of armorial bearings such as the shield, helmets, crests, mottos and supporters is known as an Heraldic Achievement. Please note the crest forms a part of the Achievement and should not be, as is often the case, described as the coat of arms or shield. Companies, organisations and corporations also have the right to display arms. In Scottish arms, the motto is at the top and in English arms the motto is under the shield.

The various sections of a shield can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shield_points.svg .The shield or coat of arms is made up of a field of colours (known as tinctures), metals or furs. The shield can then be geometrically divided with an ordinarie such as a cross and finally charges such as animals and shapes can be placed on the shield. The description of the components of a coat of arms has its own heraldic language and is known as blazoning. To do so, first describe the field i.e. the colour, then the ordinarie i.e. the geometrical division and lastly the charges. Drawing a coat of arms from a description or blazon is known a tricking.

Seals were used by members of an armigerous family to seal documents such as charters. The seal would contain the coat of arms and the owners name and are useful for medieval identification of a person.

Arms are inherited through the male line and the heir or heirs to the arms must prove direct decent from the armiger. In Scotland, all arms must be matriculated (registered) with the Court of the Lord Lyon and differentiated from those of the original armiger, except where they pass to the eldest heir. The head of the family is entitled to wear the arms undifferenced but sons known as cadets must difference his arms to show his position in his generation. The eldest son charges his arms with a temporary mark of cadency known as a label of three points. Other sons charge their arms through the use of bordures. This ensures that no two living men share the same arms.

Sometimes arms are altered through a process called marshalling in the following circumstances. If a heraldic heiress (an armigerous woman without brothers) whose father has died marries an armigerous man, the arms of the wife's family are represented as an escutcheon of pretence (a small shield) placed in the centre of the husband's arms. The shield of a son of this couple represents his mother's family shield in the form of quartering (the son's shield is divided into four quarters). Further quartering takes place if further heraldic heiress are introduced into the family. If a man already in possession of arms with each quarter occupied by different arms marries an heiress he can vacate an existing quarter and replace the space with the arms of the heiress thus saving space. Alternatively he can create a quarter which is itself quartered and known as a Grand Quarter. If the wife was not a heraldic heiress but from an armigerous family, the marital coat should bear her arms impaled with those of her husband (split down the middle).

Beware that marshalling is often inaccurate as are works such as Burke's The General Armory and remember that coats of arms belong to a family and not a surname.

See also
Heraldic Coats of Arms & Seals (England)
Inquisitions Post Mortem
Pedigrees and Family Histories

Other Scotland Resources
Census Returns
Clan & Tartan Records
County & Local Histories
Court Records
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Electoral Registers or Burgess Rolls
Emigration Records
Hearth Tax
Kirk/Church Sessions
Land Tax Assessments & Returns
Maps & Gazetteers
Militia Lists
Monumental/Memorial Inscriptions
Newspapers, magazines & journals
Old Parish Registers-Baptisms (OPRs)
Old Parish Registers-Burials (OPRs)
Old Parish Registers-Marriages & Proclamations (OPRs)
Passenger Lists
Pedigrees and Family Histories
Poor Law Records
Registers of Deeds (Books of Council and Session)
Retours of Services of Heirs
Sasines, Registers of
Statistical Accounts of Scotland
Statutory Registration-Birth
Statutory Registration-Death
Statutory Registration-Marriage
Surname Origins and Distribution
Valuation Rolls & Stent Rolls
Wills/Testaments and Inheritance

Where Found

The Court of the Lord Lyon (The court is the heraldic authority for Scotland and deals with all matters relating to Scottish Heraldry and Coats of Arms. It maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies. The library has many birth briefs and books on clan membership and tartans. The court adjudicates over clan succession disputes and determines which septs belong to which clan. Free searches of Coats of Arms is available at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk)
ScotlandsPeople Centre (The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research. Holdings include the Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland from 1672 to until 100 years before the current calendar year from the Court of the Lord Lyon. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)

Period Covered

1318 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

The coat of arms belongs to an individual and the legal heirs and not a family name. It is unique to that person. They can be handed down from the person granted the arms through the generations to the legitimate male line. It is therefore possible to trace a person and his family through the generations. Marriages are sometimes displayed through the process of marshalling (see below) and can provide further family connections.

Further References

General Heraldry Books


Boutell, Charles & Brooke-Little, J.P. Boutell's Heraldry: Warne Publishers, 1978

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Brooke-Little, J. P. An Heraldic Alphabet: Robson Books, 1997 (Available online at the Internet Archive)

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Elvin, Charles Norton. A Dictionary of Heraldry: Heraldry Today, 1969 (1889) (Online edition available from the Internet Archive)

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Fearn, Jacqueline. Discovering Heraldry: Shire Publications, 2006 (Preview available from Google Books)

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Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles. The Art of Heraldry: an Encyclopedia of Armory: Bloomsbury Books, 1986 (1904)

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Fox-Davies, Arthur, Charles. A Complete Guide to Heraldry: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007 (1909) (Available online at the Internet Archive)

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Franklyn, Julian, and John Tanner. An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Heraldry: Pergamon Press, 1970

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Friar, Stephen. A New Dictionary of Heraldry: A & C Black, 1987

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Friar, Stephen. Heraldry for the Local Historian and Genealogist: Sutton, 1996

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Friar, Stephen & Ferguson, John. Basic Heraldry: A & C Black, 1999 Buy Now on Amazon
Friar, Stephen. Companion to Heraldry: Sutton Publishing, 2004  Buy Now on Amazon
Friar, Stephen. The Sutton Companion to Heraldry: The History Press, 2004  Buy Now on Amazon

Innes of Learney, Thomas, Sir. Scottish Heraldry: A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Modern Application of the Art and Science: Oliver and Boyd 1956

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Moncreiffe, Iain & Pottinger, Don. Simple Heraldry: Cheerfully Illustrated: Bartholomew & Son, 1979 Buy Now on Amazon

Oliver, Stefan. Introduction to Heraldry: Apple Press, 1986

 

Oliver, Stefan & Croton, Guy. Heraldry: Understanding Signs and Symbols: Park Lane Books, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Pastoureau, Michel & Garvie, Francisca. Heraldry: Its Origins and Meaning: Thames & Hudson, 1997 Buy Now on Amazon

Slater, Stephen. The Complete Book of Heraldry: Lorenz Books, 2002

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Slater, Stephen. The History and Meaning of Heraldry: Southwater, 2004  Buy Now on Amazon
Slater, Stephen. The Story and Language of Heraldry: The Development of Coats of Arms and Heraldic Symbols, with 575 Illustrations: Southwater, 2013  Buy Now on Amazon

Slater, Stephen. The Illustrated Book Of Heraldry: An International History of Heraldry and Its Contemporary Uses: Lorenz Books, 2013

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St John Hope, W.H. An Introduction to Heraldry: David & Charles, 2001 (Preview available from Google Books)

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Woodcock, T & Robinson, J.M. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry: Oxford University Press, 1988

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Publications that match an individual to a coat of arms, listing families in alphabetical order with descriptions (blazons) of the arms they used (armorials)

 

Burke, Bernard. The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales: Heritage Books, 2009, (1884) (Available online at the Internet Archive)

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Burke, John. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, vol 1: Henry Colburn, 1832 (Available to download from the Internet Archive and to view at Google Books)

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Burke, John. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, vol 2: Henry Colburn, 1832 Buy Now on Amazon

Burke, John A General And Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerages of England, Ireland, and Scotland: Extinct, Dormant, and in Abeyance: H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1831 (Available to download from the Internet Archive and to view at Google Books)

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Burke's Family Index: Burke's Peerage, 1976 (Listing of all families that appeared in Burke's publications between 1826 and 1976)

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Fairbairn, James. Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993 (1800) (Volume I available from the Internet Archive)

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Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles. Armorial Families 1890-1929: David & Charles, 1905 (Some volumes are available at the Internet Archive, a database version is available online at ancestry and the CD at S & N Genealogy Supplies)

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Humphrey-Smith, Cecil. Anglo-Norman Armory: Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, 1986

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Humphrey-Smith, General Armory Two: Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, 1974 (Includes A W Morant's additions and corrections to Burke's)

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Indexes of arms by design (ordinaries) with the names of families to whom they have been attributed

 

Balfour Paul, James, Sir. An Ordinary of Scottish Arms: An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland: Green & Sons, 1893 (Available as a searchable database at WorldVitalRecords and online at the Internet Archive)

 

Balfour Paul, James, Sir. An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. 2d ed: W. Green & Sons, 1903

 

Fairbairn, James. Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993 (1800) (Volume I available from the Internet Archive)

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Foster, Joseph. The Dictionary of Heraldry, Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees, Bracken Books, 1989 (1902) (Includes arms from heraldic rolls)

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Garter's Ordinaries (Collection of manuscript volumes held at the College of Arms arranged by the design of the crest or arms)

 

Papworth, John. Ordinary of British Armorials: Heraldry Today, 1874

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Woodcock, Thomas (eds). The Dictionary of British Arms, (Vol.1 & Vol.2) Heraldry Today, 1996 (Concentrates on pre-visitation arms recorded prior to 1530)

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Compilation of pedigrees

 

Barrow, Geoffrey B. The Genealogist's Guide: Research Publishing Co., 1977 (Whereabouts of printed pedigrees extracted from various sources containing post-1903 pedigrees and some missed by Marshall)

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Ferguson, Joan. Scottish Family Histories: National Library of Scotland, 1986 (Whereabouts of Scottish printed pedigrees post-1930)

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Marshall, George. The Genealogist's Guide: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981 (1879) (Whereabouts of printed pedigrees extracted from various sources pre-1903. Browsable images of printed edition available at www.ancestry.co.uk)

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O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigrees: The Origin of the Irish Nation: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1989 (1892) (Available from the Internet Archive)

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Squibb, George Drewry. Visitation Pedigrees and the Genealogist: Phillimore, 1964 (Whereabouts of printed pedigrees)

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Stuart, Margaret. Scottish Family History: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994 (Whereabouts of Scottish printed pedigrees up to 1930)

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Thomson, Theodore Radford. Catalogue of British Family Histories: Society of Genealogists, 1980 (Whereabouts of printed pedigrees, 1975-1980)

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Whitmore, John Beach. A Genealogical Guide: Walford Brothers, 1953 (Whereabouts of printed pedigrees extracted from various sources containing some missed by Marshall and others post-1903)

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Websites

www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/coats-of-arms (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Coats of Arms)
www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/guides/coats-arms (ScotlandsPeople Guide: Coats of Arms)
www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk (Heraldry Society of Scotland. The Society was founded in 1977 with the objective of promoting the study of heraldry and encouraging its correct use in Scotland. The web site includes illustrated articles compiled by members of The Heraldry Society of Scotland. in the use of heraldry, its history, heraldic flags, bookplates and its modern use)
www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/mitchell.html (Heraldry Society of Scotland. Various Scottish rolls of arms from different collections and private ownership)
www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/lyon-court.html (The Court of the Lord Lyon, King of Arms)
www.electricscotland.com/webclans/lordlyon6.htm (Differencing: Information Leaflet from the Court of the Lord Lyon)
www.scotshistoryonline.co.uk/armorial.html (Beginners Heraldry, by Mark Harden of Cowdenknowes)
www.electricscotland.com/webclans/lord_lyon.htm (Scanned copies of the informational leaflets available from the Lord Lyon's office)
www.theheraldrysociety.com (The Heraldry Society)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_heraldry (Scottish Heraldry)
www.burkespeerage.com (Burke’s Peerage. Definitive guide to the genealogy and heraldry of the Peerage and Landed Gentry of the United Kingdom, the historical families of Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations. Online resources include free access to Burke's Family Index, Burke's General Armory and Burke's Colonial Gentry and a Glossary of Heraldry)
www.family-history.co.uk/research-heraldry (Achievements of Canterbury: Heraldry Research)
www.sog.org.uk/leaflets/arms.pdf (SoG Information Leaflet: The Right to Arms)
www.rarebooks.nd.edu/digital/heraldry/index.html (Heraldic Dictionary and guide)
www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk/guide/her.shtml (Heraldry and genealogy includes links and bibliography)
www.heraldica.org (Beginners guide to heraldry)
www.heraldica.org/biblio/annotate.htm
(Annotated Heraldry Bibliography)  
www.heraldry.ws (Free coats of arms for over 8,000 surnames)
www.societies.cam.ac.uk/cuhags/links/her_info.htm (Heraldic links from the Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society)
www.civicheraldry.co.uk (Coats of arms of local authorities in England and Wales)
www.briantimms.fr (Heraldry: Wide ranging site covering many aspects of heraldry)
www.ngw.nl (Heraldry of the World: Coats of arms of cities, states, municipalities, countries)
www.heraldsnet.org/saitou/parker (A glossary of terms used in Heraldry, first published in 1894)
http://elizabethan.org/heraldry/primer.html (A Visual Introduction to Heraldry)
www.harnmaster.us/blazon.html (Heraldic design software)
www.digiserve.com/heraldry/clipart.htm (Heraldic clipart)
www.heraldryclipart.com (Heraldic clipart, symbolism, dictionary and how to blazon)
www.dsl.ac.uk (The Dictionary of the Scots Language: Electronic editions of the Older Scottish Tongue [DOST] and the Scottish National Dictionary [SND])
www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk (Scottish Language Dictionaries: The nation's resource for the Scots language)
www.scots-online.org/dictionary  (Translate from Scots to English)

Online Databases

www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk (The ScotlandsPeople website is the official Scottish Government site for searching government records and archives including The Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland contains all recordings of coats of arms in Scotland from 1672 to the present day)
www.burkespeerage.com (Burke's Peerage & Gentry: Access to genealogical records containing 1 million plus names from various Burke's publications. Entries include Coat of Arms plus the image where available)
Achievements of Canterbury (Armigerous Ancestors Index)
http://thepeerage.com (The Peerage: Place index and surname index containing information on European royal families and on the British Peerage compiled by Darryl Lundy)

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Complete guide to Heraldry & The Art of Heraldry; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1914; Fox Davies Armorial Families; Neve's Pedigrees of the Knights)
Genealogical Publishing Company (CD publications include British and American Coats of Arms and other heraldic related items including Burke's The General Armory, Fairbairn's Book of Crests and An Ordinary of Scottish Arms by Sir James Balfour Paul)
Archive CD Books (Various titles)