The Origin of the Discipline: Medieval Heraldry

Heraldry is an auxiliary science of History which is frequently used in the context of genealogical studies. The origin of this term comes from the male name "herald" which probably appears in the 12th century. It takes on meaning through the function that is assigned to this individual in the Middle Ages: the herald is a public officer, responsible for announcing solemn publications or important messages, and physically describing the knights who compete in tournaments in order to that we can identify them.

Indeed, a major part of society did not necessarily know (or only approximately) how to read and write at that time: the codification of appearance then held an essential role, that of a real "visual language". This practice is already found among warlords in a military context, from the end of the 11th century, then gradually spread to all bodies of society, without any exception from the 13th century until the 19th century. It founds and stabilizes heraldry as a discipline: by extension it then designates the science of coats of arms (or "weapons") and coats of arms.

"To each his own weapons": coats of arms and coats of arms, symbols of an identity.

  • "Weapons" are the emblems painted on a shield, they represent or symbolically evoke a natural or legal person and are the intellectual property of the holder (house, family, city, corporation etc.). They are subsequently incorporated into the composition of the seals: they become true signs of social identity.
  • "Coat of Arms" refers to what is graphically depicted on a coat of arms object. They include a whole panoply made up of the shield (the subject) and its possible exterior ornaments (crown, support, order collar, crests, tenants, etc.) which often represent the titles of the holder, or the offices he exercised.
  • The "coat of arms" is the description, in heraldic terms, of all the elements that make up a coat of arms.

The choice of figures is fundamental and codified: from the pattern to the color, these identity markers serve to represent the holder or to mark his property. It is therefore a question of being not only "visible" but above all recognizable by all, thanks to the choice of a unique emblem. Coats of arms and coats of arms become hereditary and are subject to regular modifications: their complexity over the centuries is linked to family ties (marriages, alliances) and social ties (offices held) that each individual or group accumulates and transmits to their heirs, over the generations.

Heraldry and genealogy today: identification and research of coats of arms.

For several reasons, the research and study of armorial objects is part of the professional skills of the genealogist, and makes it possible to deliver valuable information on a person or his lineage.

The documentary background represented by coats of arms and arms is considerable: nearly a million coats of arms have been identified in Europe to date. Identifying weapons therefore makes it possible to place the support that hosts them in a historical, geographical and therefore social context. They are everywhere: documents, books, furniture and tapestries, clothing and jewelry, monuments and various objects, it is not uncommon to notice their presence on any kind of testimony of the past.

The History Researcher firm offers you:

  • Coat of arms identification on any medium
  • Coat of arms search
  • Historical study of coats of arms bearers
  • Coat of arms research from its blazon
  • Occasional genealogical research