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Heraldry and Coats of Arms
Some family names in Ireland with coats of
arms (though arms were generally in fact,
granted to individuals not ‘families’. The
Irish lay claim to a wider ownership. That
is a discussion for another day.)
The Irish Book of Arms
The following excerpt is taken from my work
in the book entitled “The Irish Book of Arms”.
“It is in the 18th century that we begin
the research into the printed pedigrees
and armories of families in Ireland. In
the Irish Compendium (1722); the works
of Kimber (1768); and the deBrett Peerage
(1806); the power structure in Ireland
was being confirmed as legitimate. There
are, of course, other works that we have
not included in this study, but for our
purposes it is a good starting point in
the study of Irish heraldry.
By the Numbers
Let us now take a look at the family
names found most often in part two of
this book. The names and number of
occurrences are set down below:
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’ on the list of the top 20 most
numerous armigerous families.
Change in land ownership
As the governing authorities had spilled
much blood in the 17th century, lands had
changed hands greatly, as documented in
Penders ‘Census of 1659’ and elsewhere.
Consolidation of power and prestige was in
full force in the following century. The
era of titles and nobility was in full swing.
What better way to document the status of
‘noble’ families than in the publication of
peerages for all of Ireland? The fact that
they may have been more British than Irish
was precisely the point, the old guard had
Researchers will note that nearly every
illustration from the 18th century in this
volume is dated, and tied to a specific
individual. This is a valuable bit of
information. How many coats-of-arms are
actually verified as to owner and date ?
The names of the holders of these arms
(first and last names), will be of use to
family researchers. ”
Arms at Irish Festivals
We see great interest each year in ‘coats of arms’
at Irish fests around the country. It might
prove rewarding to understand what these arms
really were, before hanging them in the hallway
of your home and claiming them as your own !
That is the reason why I compiled the
‘Irish Book of Arms’ so many years ago.
The Great Tartan Fraud
‘Irish Coats of arms’ may be considered a
legitimate field of study. I must note
that the Irish did not have family tartans
associated with their names or clans.
Modern books have been written assigning
tartans to Irish families, and they are pure
(‘Clan’ Tartans are a proud Scots tradition.
Attempts by tartan manufacturers to install
such a tradition in Ireland in modern times
have no historical basis in fact. Buyer beware.)