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Heraldry

Arguably, Americans have the richest, if not the oldest, heraldic tradition in the world. Many immigrants' forefathers were armigerous, meaning they had personal coats of arms granted to them or their ancestors by the sovereigns of their home countries. Many of these "old countries" still have an official or quasi-official heraldic system. So chances are that, regardless of your ancestors' origins, you have a fascinating armorial history and tradition, if not a genuine, inheritable coat of arms of your own.

The original recipient of a grant of arms was an individual, not an entire family. This person did not have to be of noble or royal birth, though. Instead, he (and very recently, she) could have been a prominent merchant, soldier or public figure whose coat of arms, or "achievement", was personal property inheritable only by direct descendants.

People called Heralds were, and still are, the experts who, oftentimes in concert with the recipients, devised the design of the coat of arms. In the United States, of course, there is no sovereign or any officially sanctioned system of heraldry. Anyone who wants to own a coat of arms may do so.

This is where a qualified heraldist such as Don can help. He assists in one of two ways, always using the traditional heraldic rules and conventions of the country of origin - - -

If you have already inherited an ancestral coat, he can create an illustration of it, many times returning it to its original form and colors, as over the years many such designs have been misinterpreted by well-meaning artists who lacked heraldic knowledge.

If you want to originate a coat of arms, Don's job is to ensure that the design is a reflection of you - your vocation or profession, hobbies, interests, achievements, geographic origin and personality. Furthermore, he can provide direction as to how to register your new achievement with one of the two organizations in the U S who exist to expand and preserve our own heraldic tradition. This way your children and their descendants can inherit a legitimate symbol of their ancestry.

A final note of caution: Unfortunately, it is widely assumed that there is such a thing as "a coat of arms for my family's name", so that everyone named Smith, for example, is privileged to claim the same coat. There are a number of commercial enterprises that will sell you a coat of arms based upon this general assumption. Purchasing one of these coats and claiming it as your own is roughly equivalent to claiming to be descended from some total stranger whose name happens to resemble your own; there's the very slimmest of chances that the coat is rightfully yours.

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