General Information Lyon Court
TRACING OF ANCESTRY, FAMILY HISTORIES ETC.
We have to explain that this Department does
not undertake to make researches, though the Public Registers and other
collections of the Lyon Office will be made available at Search Fees for
each particular search in the Register of Arms or in the Register of
Genealogies and in the Heraldic and Genealogical MSS, or other collections
of the Department. For this a searcher may require to be employed at a
NAME, SEPT, OR TARTAN
This Department does not undertake to supply
individual replies to questions regarding (a) Name (origins, etc.); (b)
Sept; or (c) Tartan; for which reference should be made to the appropriate
chapters of reliable books. Those under mentioned can usually be consulted
in any large public library.
"Heraldry in Scotland" by J. H. Stevenson
(James Maclehose & Sons, Glasgow, 1914).
"Scots Heraldry" by Sir Thomas Innes of
Learney (Oliver & Boyd, 1956 & Johnston & Bacon, 1978).
"Simple Heraldry" by Sir lain Moncreiffe of
that Ilk and Don Pottinger (Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd., 1953).
Clans, Septs and Regiments of the Scottish
Highlands" by Frank Adam, ed. Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (8th edition,
Chapters XIII, XV, XVI, and List of Septs, pp. 554570, Johnston and Bacon,
"The Highland Clans" by Sir lain Moncreiffe
of that Ilk (Barrie & Rockliff, 1967).
"Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopaedia" by
George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire (Harper Collins, 1994).
"Heraldic Standards and other Ensigns" by
Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg (Oliver & Boyd, 1959).
"Scottish Family History" by Margaret Stuart
and Sir James Balfour Paul (Oliver & Boyd, 1930). Introduction regarding
nature, form and sources for family histories, useful to both inquirers and
family historians, and Index of published Family Histories to 1928.
"Scottish Family Histories" held in Scottish
Libraries, by Joan P. 5. Ferguson (Scottish Central Library, Edinburgh
1960, and revised edition compiled by Joan P. 5. Ferguson assisted by
Dennis Smith and Peter Wellburn, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh,
"The Surnames of Scotland" by George F. Black
(New York Public Library, 1946).
Burke’s Peerage and Burke’s Landed Gentry
give the genealogies of many Chiefs and landed families. The Court and
Office of the Lord Lyon deals only with tartans and Septs when these
matters are brought up on Petition (or steps incidental to Petitions) for
judicial or official pronouncement, on which the relative Government dues
are exigible, and detailed evidence and proof is required. People normally
wear only the tartan (if any) of their surname, or a "district tartan"
connected with their residence or family’s place of origin.
bearings, being for distinguishing persons of, and within, a family, cannot
descend to, or be used by, persons who are not members of the family. The
surname indicates the family to which a person belongs. A person named
Macdonald cannot bear a Ross coat of arms, or any part of it.
coat of arms fulfils within the clan or family the same purposes as the
Royal Arms do in a Kingdom. There is
no such thing
"family crest" or "family coat of arms" which anyone can assume, or a whole
family can use.
bearings, of which the Crest is a subsidiary part, are a form of individual
heritage property, devolving upon
one person at
from the grantee or confirmee, and thus descend like a Peerage. They
indicate the Chief of the Family or Clan, or the Head of each subsidiary
line or household descending from members who have themselves established
in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland a right to a
subsidiary version of the arms and crest, containing a mark of difference
indicating their position in the Family or Clan. This is not a "new" coat
of arms; it is the
ancestral arms with a mark of cadency, usefully showing the cadet’s place
within the family.
shows a few of the variations only, but illustrates how the undifferenced
arms descend to, and demonstrate, the successive Chiefs
clan or family, and how subsidiary brancharms descend to, and represent,
each head of a cadethouse. Hundreds of variations are available, and use
of the different
ones own bookplate or silverware identifies where
you, and your own heirs, belong within the family. It
is, as well as being beautiful, a valuable system of identification.
The parts of
the armorial bearings consist of:
(a) The Shield, bearing the
(b) The Helmet, with its
which sits on top of the
(c) The Motto in a scroll;
(d) The Mantling or cape,
which kept the sun off the wearer’s armour in hot weather;
(e) Very rarely, two
Supporters on either side of the shield, which are external attributes of
the arms of Peers,
Chiefs and a very
few other persons of special importance, including
Knights Grand Cross
It is illegal to assume and purport to use
your Chief’s arms without a due and congruent recorded difference. Anyone
who does so merely publishes their own ignorance.
There is no such thing as a "Clan coat of
arms". The arms are those of the Chief, and clansmen have only the
privilege of wearing the strapandbuckle crested badge to show they are
such Chief’s clansmen.
One cannot have a crest without first having
a shield of arms, because the crest was a later addition. Misuse of crests
arises from misunderstanding of the badge rule under which junior members
of the family may wear in specified manner their Chief’s crest as badge.
The Crest of the Chief is worn by all
members of the Clan and of approved Septs and followers of the Clan,
within a strap and buckle surround bearing the Chief’s motto. This is for
personal wear only, to indicate that the wearer is a member of the Clan
whose Chief’s crestbadge is being worn. The badge or crest is not
depicted on personal or business stationery, signet rings or plate,
because such use would legally import that the teapot, etc., was the
Those who wish to use arms in any personal
sense must petition for a Grant of Arms or—if they can trace their ancestry
back to a direct or, in some cases collateral, ancestor—a "cadet
matriculation" showing their place within the family. Forms of Petition and
sample proofsheets relative to such applications can be supplied if
When a grant, or matriculation, of arms is
successfully obtained, an illuminated parchment, narrating the pedigree as
proved, is supplied to the Petitioner, and a duplicate is recorded in the
Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland and/or the Public
Register of Genealogies and Birthbrieves.
Application for such a Confirmation, by Letters Patent or Matriculation,
from the Lord Lyon King of Arms is the only way to obtain a genuine coat of
British Commonwealth. Anyone domiciled in Her
Majesty’s overseas realms or in The Commonwealth (except those of English,
Welsh or Irish ancestry, who should approach Garter King of Arms in London
or The Chief Herald of Ireland in Dublin) can apply to the Lord Lyon King
of Arms of Scotland, H.M. New Register House, Edinburgh EH1 3YT, for a
grant or matriculation of arms.
Foreign Countries. Arms are not granted to
nonBritish citizens (though those of Scottish ancestry can apply to the
Lord Lyon King of Arms for cadetmatriculations, as above described).
Moreover, even if not of direct armigerous descent, foreigners of Scottish
descent can often arrange for a cousin in Scotland, or in one of Her
Majesty’s overseas realms, to get arms established by the Lord Lyon King of
Arms, and thereafter themselves to obtain a cadetmatriculation. Each party
is in such cases supplied with an illuminated parchment.
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