On my recent trip to London, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my hotel was only a few steps from the College of Arms on Queen Victoria Street. This is the organization that grants coats of arms to individuals in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth Countries and to their descendants. I snapped a few pictures of the building, even though the place was closed on the Sunday I was there.
You can see my photographs at http://blog.eogn.com/photos/college_of_arms. Click on any of the small images to see a bigger picture.
If you have been granted a right to display arms from England, Wales, Northern Ireland, or one of the Commonwealth Countries, you have received permission from the heralds who work in this building. I will warn you, however, that the heralds do not grant coats of arms to "everyone of a certain surname." Coats of arms always belong to individuals, not to families. For any person to have a right to a coat of arms, they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past. At any given point in time, only one person has a right to display a given coat of arms.
While there are laws about displaying someone else's coat of arms in the British Isles and many others countries, there are no such laws in the United States. Displaying arms that do not belong to you may be in bad taste everywhere, but is perfectly legal within the United States.
For more information about the College of Arms, look at the College's web site at http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk. You may be interested in the College's newsletters that are available on that site.
If you wonder whether or not your family has a right to display a coat of arms, take a look at the first question on the FAQ (Frequently-Asked Questions) page at http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/Faq.htm.
You can read some of my past articles about the so-called "family coat of arms" here.