How to Obtain a Coat of Arms (if you are British)

If you are a British citizen, you probably can obtain a coat of arms. An article in the Mirror web site at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/ampp3d/missed-out-new-years-honours-4897332 will help you find out if you’re eligible.

Citizens of other countries also might be eligible for a coat of arms but the article in the Mirror only covers Great Britain. However, you cannot claim a coat of arms as your own simply because someone else of the same last name had a legitimate coat of arms. In most cases, each individual must obtain his own, personal coat of arms. In most cases, there is no such thing as a “family coat of arms.”

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In the 1970s, my father fell for someone selling a book of “The Waggoners of the World,” complete with the Waggoner coat of arms. I don’t think he cared about the coat of arms, but was hoping the book would help him in his genealogy quest. I’ve no idea where the compilers got the list of names and addresses, but it looked like a compilation from phone books or city directories. The coat of arms doesn’t have a lion, but rather a unicorn rampant. Sounds fanciful to me! The book is very careful to say that any particular person with the surname may or may not be entitled to use the coat of arms, depending on whether they’re related to the original family, and depending on the country in which they live. I thought the book was rather a scam, and hope he didn’t pay much for it!

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In Canada, the Heraldic Authority of Canada, an office of the Governor General of Canada, is responsible for creating and registering Canadian coats of arms. Any person or group can get a coat of arms as long as they meet the specified requirements.
Our family association has such a coat of arms which can be found in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada at http://reg.gg.ca/heraldry/pub-reg/project.asp?lang=e&ProjectID=2470

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The article in the Mirror covers Arms issued by the College of Arms in England, which is only one part of Great Britain. For Scotland, Arms are granted quite separately by the Lord Lyon, and the criteria for applicants are different – see http://www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/CCC_FirstPage.jsp.

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Per the College of Arms website: Honorary arms may be granted to U.S. citizens and to citizens of countries within the Commonwealth where Queen Elizabeth II is not Head of State and where there is no national heraldic authority. They must meet the same criteria of eligibility for a grant as subjects of the Crown, and in addition they must record in the official registers of the College of Arms a pedigree showing their descent from a subject of the British Crown. This may be a recent forebear such as a parent or grandparent who lived in the same country under the British Crown; an emigrant from Britain, Ireland or anywhere else where the British monarch was Head of State; or a more distant ancestor such as inhabitant of the north American colonies before the recognition of American independence in 1783. http://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/services/granting-arms

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