Do you want a free Coat of Arms for your One Name Study?

+10 votes
This site makes Coat of Arms and offers a free .GIF of the ones he has, as long as he gets credit for it. He also has a little history of each one.
asked in The Tree House by Richard Devlin G2G6 Mach 8 (85k points)
I like to believe we encourage a high standard of professionalism in Wikitree.

No matter how tempting the colourful illustrations appear in internet web pages, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COAT OF ARMS FOR A FAMILY NAME, though those designs labeled "... family coat of arms" probably did, or even worse, still do belong to somebody in a family of that name.

People these days do enjoy, and are perfectly entitled to create a logo on a shield shape for something like a One Name Family Study. This could be a fun thing to do if properly researched and representative of the founding members of the family in some way. Best to describe its creation and purpose on the category page for the One Name Study and enjoy it as the logo it is, without pretending to some aristocratic heritage for the family named.

Historically and legally, a Coat of Arms is personal property, if that is not understood, think of it this way - a coat is a garment that can be only worn by one person at a time. Its as simple as that.

Your "Arms" were the special design on the linen garment you wore over your armour so people would know who you were. Quite useful in battle and in the lists.

The design of every Coat of Arms and the name of the individual who used it was recorded; it was that individual's proof of identity and pedigree.

From a family history point of view, the old records of "Visitations" by officials appointed to police the use of Coats of Arms now provide a valuable genealogical resource.

A person entitled to bear heraldic arms is described as armigerous. The arms of a man are recorded on a shield shape, those of a women on a lozenge. The extra supporters, motto and crest etc. are added as the overall "achievement of arms".

Quoting from their web page - The College of Arms is the official heraldic authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the Commonwealth including Australia and New Zealand. "Coats of arms belong to specific individuals and families and there is no such thing as a coat of arms for a family name. From their origins in the twelfth century to the present day arms have been borne by individuals, and by corporate bodies, as marks of identification."

In Scotland it is the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms which regulates Scottish heraldry.

It would be interesting to research the Devlin arms of cross and stars, to see who those arms originally belonged to.
Well said Valerie.
I agree with Valerie.  I don't believe WikiTree should promote the business and the link to it should be removed.   They should advertise them as a family logo and place a big permissions caveat on them

Here are some FAQs
Valerie I wish you had written this as an answer and not a comment, I would pick it as best answer!
Absolutely,  I agree this is an excellent answer. I personally hate these faux arms stuck onto everyone of that surname,
Tres Bien !

3 Answers

+16 votes
Best answer
Please keep in mind that not everybody on this site is of British extraction and that the particularly British approach to coats of arms in these answers does not really apply to everybody here. There are multiple different traditions when it comes to arms, culturally German nobility for instance did not have personal arms, only the same coat of arms for the family. In fact, coats of arms were not a privilege of nobility, there were numerous non-noble families carrying one. Current law in Germany allows everybody to design and carry coats of arms as long as they don't infringe on already existing arms. Similar situations exist in many countries where privileges of nobility were abolished.
answered by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (440k points)
selected by Richard Devlin
Wow! That's fascinating, Helmut.  I learn something new every day :o)

(of British extraction - my DNA results say so LOL)

Although most of the arms I see on here are falsely used ie on people who have British ancestry but certainly weren't armigerous  that will  be because of my own focus.

After reading this answer I found this Wikipedia article which mentions the non noble use of arms in other European countries. As it says "By definition, the term is alien to British heraldry"


Understood Helmut Jungschaffer - that is why I wanted to bring up the point that it is OK for people could design their own "coat of arms" without the need to use something that belongs to others.

Even the German legal situation regarding arms would not allow somebody to just pick some already existing ones and use them, so I would not advocate for any "arms shops" - after all, if one's family never used arms and then somebody claims to have arms for that family name, more likely than not they would be of another family with the same or similar name and it would be an infringement of that family's rights.
+26 votes

Actually arms belong to the family and not to the name. There may be several families with the same name and they each may have a different coat of arms. Each person can only use the coat of arms for the specific family they are descended from. You cannot just pick and choose which arms you want to "own".

According to the usual description of the law of arms, coats of arms, armorial badges, flags and standards and other similar emblems of honour may only be borne by virtue of ancestral right...

And since many One Name Studies may cover several different families of descent all with the same name, there will not be just one coat of arms, but several or many!!

answered by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (466k points)
Where the design of a coat of arms is shared by a family, that used by each person in that family is "differenced" or "labeled" in a prescribed manner.
They do not belong to the family. They are granted to an individual and may be passed to another individual.
Lynda, A coat of arms cannot be passed to just any individual but to someone who is in the line of descent!! Even today, if you wish to take up a coat of arms, you have to prove that you are descended from that person or individual - hence the "family" is the correct word to use.

The meaning I take from your words is that - any individual from any family can take up the coat of arms - which is not correct.

The college of Heralds may have the authority to pass a coat of arms to another individual, but that usually only happens if the first family's line of descent has become extinct. At least, that is my understanding.
Tres Bien !
+24 votes
After taking a course on Heraldry, it really opened my eyes to how badly commercialized the "family coat of arms" propaganda machine has become.  All the different symbols on arms mean something.  I will give the website credit for listing decent sources, some of those books are the same ones I used as textbooks.  I would recommend "A Complete Guide to Heraldry" by Arthur C Fox-Davies as a good start for anyone interested in the subject. You can download it and several other good texts on heraldry off of
answered by Kellie Rhodes G2G6 Mach 1 (10.9k points)
Tres Bien !

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