Report of the Committee on Heraldry, NEHGS, 1899

Report of the Committee on Heraldry

New England Historical Genealogical Society, 1898

As published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. 53, pp 399ff (Oct 1899)

As there is no person and no institution in the United States with authority to regulate the use of the coat of arms, your Committee discourages their display in any way or form.

Prior to the Revolution, as subjects of a government recognizing heraldry, certain of the inhabitants were entitled to bear coats of arms; but only such as were grantees of arms, or who could prove descent in the male line from an ancestor to whom arms were granted or confirmed by the Heralds.

Females did not regularly bear arms, but the daughter of an arms-bearing father could use the paternal coat in a lozenge. When she married, such arms did not descend to her children (except by special authority), unless she was an heiress marrying an armiger, and then only as a quartering of her husband’s arms.

The mere fact that an individual possessed a painting of a coat of arms, used it upon plate, or as a bookplate or seal, or had it put upon his gravestone, is not proof that he had a right to it.

Proof of right must either be found in the Herald’s records, or be established by authenticated pedigree direct from an armiger.

A coat of arms did not belong with a family name, but only to the particular family, bearing the name, to whose progenitor it had been granted or confirmed; and it was as purely individual a piece of property as a homestead. Hence it was as ridiculous to assume arms without being able to prove the right, as it would now be to make use of a representation of the Washington mansion at Mt. Vernon, and claim it as having been the original property of one's family, unless bearing the name of Washington and being of the line of those who owned it.