From the Irish Roots Cafe and Hedge School
Sources for this article found at:
1)Hedge School entry for Irish Heraldry and Coats of Arms
2)The Irish Book of Arms, detail, contents
How Heraldic Records Can Help
Everyone wants to see the coat of arms
attached to their family name. Understandable.
This is true even though the man that
was issued those arms was no relation
to your family. (This is true even if heraldic
law says you have no right to them at all.)
When I compiled and updated the Irish Book
of Arms, it was interesting to note the most
numerous family names found in this resource:
Butler: 17 Hamilton: 15
Smith & Smyth(e): 13 Moore: 12
Bourk(e)+ Burke+ DeBurgh: 11
Fitzgerald; Boyle; Brown(e): 10 each
Barry: 9 Coote; Nugent; Stewart: 8 ea.
Following the above names, are those of
Plunket; Dillon; Annesley; Talbot; Gore;
Wilson; Percival; Lloyd; King; Knox; and
Jones, each with 6 or 7 listings each.
Obviously there are no names with ‘O’ or
‘Mac’ shown on the list of the top 20 most
numerous armigerous families.
Some family names with multiple listings,
or coats of arms shown, are not related
at all. Others are related but are younger
branches of the family. Slight changes in
coats of arms were common over the
When you see two completely different
coats of arms for the same family name
it may mean they are of completely
different origins, of course.
In either case, you need to research
your family to see if you are related
to the PERSON that was granted the arms.
Now, the heralds job was to document
the armigerous families from generation
to generation. Give proof that they were
who they said they were.
You’ll find some entries in the heralds
work recording origins from outside
the country. Sometimes this is plain
politics. The Fitzgeralds may have
wanted to come from Italy originally
because it was trendy ? The Queen
of England even traced a distant
ancestor to the great Irish High King
Brian Boru. This of course, gave her
some ‘right’ to rule over the Irish ?
Now, if a book was written in the 17th
century, then the information for that
generation would likely be correct, for
people were alive who could directly
dispute it !
What You May Discover
To make a quick summary of what I
have found, you may find out which
family line was ‘royalty’ or ‘armigerous’.
You can also find mention of younger
branches of the family, names of
wives and children for several generations.
That is a rare find for dates back to the
New Resources, old documents
When compiling the Irish Book of Arms, I included
the illustrated arms and genealogical notes found
in these resources. Some are worn and tattered:
Included in the Irish Book of Arms:
1. The Irish Compendium (1722)
2. The Peers of Ireland by Kimber(1768)
3. The Irish Peerage by DeBrett (1806)
4. The Visitations of Ireland (1897)
5. The original Irish Book of Arms
6. The archives of the Irish Genealogical Foundation.
More to learn
There is much more to learn, and I may
continue this article next week. Please do
check out the sources given at the top of
this entry, it continues the story.
The Irish Book of Arms, Genealogy & Heraldry
($29.95) 1,000 illustrations in color and black
& white. 8 1/2 x 11. (0940134-86-1)
About the Author
Mike is a one of a kind resource. He has authored
12 hardbound books; 34 Irish genealogy county
books, 20 CD’s/videos, 300 podcasts, 7 broadcast
series’, and 1,000+ articles. He also publishes rare
works like ‘The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters’;
and ‘Missouri Irish’.
Mike also sings in Irish Sean Nós style, ranking #1
in the U.S., and #2 in the world, as a celtic artist
with the Irish Roots Cafe:
(Reverbnation 2012 May-August.)
His next appearance is at the Louisville, KY Irish
Fest, the weekend of Sept. 28th.