Researching Ancestral Arms

One of the first questions many Americans ask when they first become interested in heraldry is, “What is my coat of arms?” The answer is, “You probably don’t have one.” Although probably millions of different coats of arms have been created over the centuries, these still account for only a small proportion of the people who have lived in Europe and European-influenced areas of the Americas and other continents during that period. 

To determine whether you do have a right to an existing coat of arms, you must start with solid, objective genealogical research. You work backward, proving and documenting descent from father to son–in almost all heraldic traditions arms descend only in the legitimate male line unless some specific legal action is taken to the contrary. Only when you can prove your descent from a specific individual who can be shown to have borne arms can you honestly lay claim to those arms.

But how do you know if a specific individual bore arms? The answer depends on the country in which he lived. Follow the links below for resources to help determine whether your ancestor was entitled to arms in his country of origin.  

NOTE: Remember that the appearance in any of these resources of someone with the same family name as yourself is NOT proof of your right to his arms. You MUST be able to prove your direct descent in the male line from that specific person to make such a claim.

This page is still under construction as we create more guides for various national heraldic traditions.



International Heraldic Societies and Organizations