Frequently Asked Questions.
Q. The coat of arms I want is not
on your site. Will you put it there please?
A. Probably - if I live long enough. I have about half a million written descriptions (blazons) of coats of arms. So far I have made graphics of only several thousand. If you are really interested, for a small fee you can order a graphic file from http://www.araltas.com/graphics.html
Q. There's more than one coat of
arms on your site for my name. How do I know which is the right one
A. In most cases I have included the location of the family whose coats of arms are displayed, where this information is available. I don't know your personal descent, but if you do, you should be able to work it out. Remember that many names arose separately in different places. The only way to know for sure is to trace your ancestors. If you have already done so, you can order a detailed coat of arms search from http://www.araltas.com/research.html which will give you as much detail as is recorded for coats of arms for your surname and this may help you pick the most appropriate.
Q. My child is doing a school
project and needs a picture of a coat of arms. Can you send it please?
A. If it's already on my site, your child may use it. If not, you'll just have to order it at http://www.araltas.com/graphics.html
Q. I don't like the coat of arms
for my surname.
A. Don't blame me, I only drew it - someone else picked it.
Q. I saw a coat of arms on another
site and it doesn't look anything like / is somewhat different from
the one on your site. Why?
A. There are several reasons.
Artists differ - heraldry in not
an exact science and much is left to the artist in drawing any coat
of arms. The look of the symbols, shape of the shield, the level of
ornamentation and even the shades of colour used can vary quite a bit.
The other site may be displaying a different coat of arms for the same name. For many names, multiple coats of arms are on record.
The other site may be displaying a totally incorrect coat of arms (not an uncommon happening).
Q. I have noticed that you show
the same coat of arms for several families. How can this be or are
the graphics just placeholders?
A. Again there are several reasons.
Someimes, when creating a coat of arms graphic, especially a fairly simple one, I will plug the description into my database to see if there are other families who bore the same arms. If so, I can quickly create graphics for multiple surnames at the same time - very efficient and labour saving. Remember I generally show only the shields on my websites and although these may be the same, other aspects of the coat of arms will probably show differences - crest, motto, etc.
Q. But ... why do multiple
families have the same coat of arms if they are meant to be unique identifiers?
A. Once again, there are several reasons.
Poland, for instance, had a
"clan" system under which multiple differently named
families bore the same arms.
In Ireland, native names have been anglicised into several, often quite different looking, forms, for example McAneaney, Nanny and Bird are all the same name and would have borne the same arms.
The same arms, especially simple ones, came to be used by different families in different regions / countries.
Even within the same region / country the same arms have been used by different families / individuals. For example "Argent a lion rampant Gules" (white shield with rampant red lion) has been used in England by Ashley, Aslie, Atwood, Baldrington, Beaumont, Blomer, Bokenham, Brunfold, Buckingham, ... and that's only the first two letters of the alphabet.
Q. What is your source for the
such-and-such coat of arms on your site and can you send it to me?
A. Often when people ask me this I get the impression that they are trying to catch me out. It takes time for me to go back and root out the precise source for the arms on my site and time is money ... so if you want the source documentation, please order a detailed search at http://www.araltas.com.research.html. So as not be accused of avoiding the question entirely, here is a list of the main sorce documentation that I use.
Families", Edward Mac Lysaght - First Chief Herald of Ireland,
Irish Academic Press, 4th Edition 1985, reprinted 1991
"The General Armory (of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland)", Sir Bernard Burke - Ulster King of Arms Heraldry Today, 1884, Reprinted 1996.
"Ordinary of British Armorials" by John W. Papworth, completed by Alfred W. Morant. 1874 reprinted 1985
"Armorial General" J.B. Rietstap, 1884, Heraldry Today, Reprinted 1988
"Bolton's American Armory" by Charles Knowles Bolton.
"Crozier's General Armory" - William Armstrong Crozier
"Virginia County Records. Vol. V: Virginia Heraldica A Registry of Virginia Gentry Entitled to Coat Armor" - William Armstrong Crozier
"Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the Families of Great Britain and Ireland" - James Fairbairn
"Complete American Armoury and Blue Book" - John Matthews
"An Ordinary of Arms: Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland" - Sir James Balfour Paul
"America Heraldica" Edited by E. de V. Vermont, 1965
"The Irish Book of Arms" by Michael C. O'Loughlin, reprinted 2000
"Scottish Clan and Family Names - Their Arms, Origins and Tartans" by Roddy Martine revised edition 1992.
I'm sure most of these books are
available in your local library, so if you want to check up on my
research, you can probably do so there.
Some of the coats of arms have come to my attention from other sources, such as my own delvings in the Genealogical Office in Dublin. Sometimes people will kindly send me copies of grants of arms or bookplates which they have discovered themselves.
Q. The arms you show for Smyth are
wrong they are really those of Smith. Can you correct that?
A. Spelling was never the strong point of some of the record keepers of the past. Names such as Smyth and Smith, Feild and Field, etc. were constantly being used interchangeably. You may believe that your family has used the same spelling for centuries, but trust me, it's probably not true. One of the strangest examples of this I have come across is the case of an Irish family most commonly found as MacEneany. There are at least 36 different variant spellings. Most strange is the case of six members of the same family whose tombstones all bear a different spelling. Four are buried in the same cemetary i.e. Peter MacEneaney (the father), Mary McAneaney (the mother), Francis McAneney and Patrick McEnaney (sons). The other two children were buried in a different cemetary under the names of Catherine McEneany and John Bird (the word "ean" is Irish and means "bird", thus the pseudo-translation). Not only that, but even in Irish there are two forms of the name, Mac an Dhéaghanaigh and Mac Conaonaigh. Other Englisg forms include McAnaney, McAnany, McAnanny, McAnneeny, etc. McEnany, McEneeny, etc., McNeeny, McNeany, McNanny, McNenny, McNeny and so on. Even if your family has used a particular spelling for hundred of years, the coat of arms may have been granted or assumed before your particular spelling was adopted. Coats of arms are as old as surnames themselves - perhaps older.
Q. Why do you seem to have more
Irish coats of arms than anything else.
A. I am Irish and I live in Ireland, therefore I know more about Irish name than those from any other country. For that reason I am probably most expert at tracking down arms and histories for Irish families, which are often disguised under weird and wonderful spellings. As you move away from Ireland my expertise diminishes and although I can tell you what arms are recorded for Mrowczewski, I haven't a clue as to how the name oiginated, etc.
Q. Some of the graphics on your site are really poor quality. Why?
A. I've been creating these coats of arms graphics since 1990. In the early days I didn't have fancy software or a clipart collection to work with and so the older files were not as good quality wise as what I make today. Also, in general, the graphics files on this site are of smaller size and lower resolution than what I can produce to order. This is to save on bandwidth and diskspace. If you order a graphic or print from me, the quality will be much better than what you see on this site. Check out The Roll of Arms or The Gallery for high quality samples.
Q. Someone told me that a coat of
arms can onlt belong to an individual and that there is no such thing
as a family coat of arms. Is this true?
A. Yes and no. For my views on this subject, see Heraldry 101.
Q. I emailed you with a question
about a coat of arms and you never replied. Why?
A. I am really, really busy - honest. My time is very limited and other things must come first. It would be nice if my heraldry addiction paid well, but it doesn't, so I have to work to put bread on the table, and that occupies most of my time. While I try to answer all queries, please understand that my paying customers will always get my attention first. If you are a paying customer and haben't heard from me, that is a different matter and something must have gone wrong in the system. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your order details.
Q. Can you design and register a new coat of arms for me / my club / my business?
A. I do offer a design service and you can find details here. I do not undertake "official" registration of coats of arms, mainly because most heraldic authorities prefer to deal with the holder of the arms rather than any third party. However, I happily vest all coyright in the customer and that is probably better protection than registration.