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Robert TAYLOR and Dorothy ATCHERLEY, More, Shropshire

This is the tale of two couples – Robert TAYLOR and Dorothy ATCHERLEY, both of More, Shropshire (Salop).

With the recent release of historical parish registers from Shropshire, I’ve been looking at my ATCHERLEY family who originate there. Unlike most of my family lines this one has been well researched and published. However, there have been a couple of suppositions which have always troubled me. And these newly released documents have only strengthened my concerns. I need to work this out as I need to work out if my Dorothy is an ATCHERLEY or not, and if she is, which branch does she belong to.

At issue are a couple (or I believe two couples), Robert TAYLOR and Dorothy ATCHERLEY of More, Shropshire. Most, if not all people who research this family list the Rev Robert TAYLOR, his wife Dorothy ATCHERLEY and their 9 or 10 children as the family from whom many are descended.

We have a marriage for Rev Robert TAYLOR and Dorothy ATCHERLEY at Wem, Shropshire on 28 May 1782. Robert TAYLOR is identified as being from More, Shropshire and is identified as a Reverend. Dorothy is listed of this parish ie Wem, though born in Myddle. And I can find one child, Richard who was baptised at More 28 Dec 1790.

However, on the page in the register facing Richard’s baptism, we have listed the baptism of Anne, daughter of Robert TAYLOR, clerk and his wife, Dorothy on 10 Aug 1792. The interesting thing here is Robert being identified as a clerk. Nowhere else in the register is anyone elses’ profession listed. To me this suggests that this was done to differentiate this Robert TAYLOR from someone else of the same name, the obvious candidate being Rev Robert TAYLOR. All the other children listed to Robert TAYLOR, clerk, have his profession listed in their baptism record.

So, I believe we have two distinct couples. One of whom we have a marriage record, and which identifies the bride as Dorothy ATCHERLEY. I can find no marriage for Robert TAYLOR, clerk and Dorothy his wife. This is problematic as it means we have no way of identifying Dorothy’s maiden name. However, I believe we have a clue to this in the name of their first child, Robert Atcherley TAYLOR, baptised in More on 18 Jan 1784. Was he given his mothers maiden name as a middle name? Or does it mearly indicate some connection to the ATCHCERLEY family which was recognised by giving him this name?

Children of Robert TAYLOR, clerk and Dorothy:

  • Robert Atcherley Taylor, born 18 Jan 1784 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Dorothy Taylor, born 28 Jul 1785 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Jane Elizabeth Taylor, born 04 Oct 1786 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Joseph Taylor, born 31 Dec 1787 in More, Shropshire, England; died 1789 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Joseph Stedman Taylor, born 30 Jan 1789 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Ann TAYLOR, born 10 Aug 1792 in More, Shropshire, England; died 1850 in Dungog, NSW, Australia; married Thomas John Wilkes 20 May 1816 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England.
  • Whitney Taylor, born 27 Oct 1794 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Henry Taylor, born 26 Nov 1797 in More, Shropshire, England; died 1797 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Susan Price Taylor, born 20 Oct 1799 in More, Shropshire, England.
  • Mary Ann Taylor, born 12 May 1804 in More, Shropshire, England; died 1804 in More, Shropshire, England.

So, my conclusions?

  • There were in fact two couples named Robert TAYLOR and Dorothy ATCHERLEY living in More and having children at the same time.
  • One Robert TAYLOR was a Reverend of the parish.
  • Second Robert TAYLOR was a clerk.
  • Both were married to women named Dorothy.
  • The one married to Rev Robert was definately called Dorothy ATCHERLEY, born in Wem.
  • The one married to Robert the clerk was definatly called Dorothy, probebly ATCHERLEY, born in Myddle.
  • This would require two different Dorothy ATCHERLEY’s of roughly the same age and therefore two different branches of the family.

Future Research

  • Marriage for Robert TAYLOR, clerk and Dorothy c. 1783 in Shropshire – possibly More or Myddle. (Not in More – Marriages 1756 – 1821)
  • Baptism for Dorothy ATCHERLEY c. 1760 in Wem or elsewhere in Shropshire. (Not Wem)
  • Check for missing pages in registers and record missing years.

Movember Monday – Hamilton Lewis O’DONNNELL (1847 – 1920)

Image Hamilton Lewis O'Donnell (1847 - 1920)

Hamilton Lewis O’Donnell (1847 – 1920)

I’m doing a month long meme for November – Movember Monday!! Each monday of the month in support of Movember, I will be posting about a moustached ancestor!! Come on over to the Inside History Hairy Mancestor page and let people know about your post!

Hamilton Lewis O’DONNELL was born on 13 Oct, 1847 in Omagh, County Tyrone, Ireland. His parents were Hamilton Lewis O’DONNELL and Emily Jane TODD. On his birth record, his surname is spelt O’DONNEL.

Sometime after his father’s death in 1865, his mother and his siblings came to Australia in 1872, arriving in Port Henry, Corio Bay, Vic, Australia.

On the 11th Mar, 1872, he married Annie BROWN in Geelong, Vic, Australia. After spending some time in the Mount Moriac, Vic, Australia area, where the first two children were born, the family moved to Shepparton, Vic, Australia where the next two children were born. After that, it was off to Nine Mile Creek, where the next five children were born. Their final children, twin girls were born at Bunbartha, Vic, Australia. The family were then based around the Shepparton/Mooroopna area.

In 1903, Hamilton is listed as living at Tallyagaroopna, Vic, Australia, where his occupation is listed as “village settler”[1]. He then works as a farmer in 1909[2] until 1914 where he is listed as undertaking home duties in Bubbartha, Vic[3]. In 1919, the year before his death he is listed as a pensioner living at Clive St , Shepparton, Vic, Australia. He was still at this address when he died on 8 Mar, 1920.

On the various Electoral Rolls where he is listed, his name is spelt as Hamilton Louis O’Donnell. There are others on the rolls who spell their names as Hamilton Lewis O’Donnell. This person is presumed to be the child of one of our Hamilton Lewis O’Donnells’ siblings ie a nephew.

[1], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia..

[2], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia.

[3], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia.

Climbing Your Family’s Gum Tree

Image of Pop, Me, My Sister and Nan c. 1974

Pop, Me, My Sister and Nan c. 1974

Cassmob over at Family history across the seas has issued a geneameme challenge to encourage Aussie bloggers to celebrate Australia Day 2014. Normally, I’m not one for these types of things, but this one tickled my fancy. So here goes:

My first ancestor to arrive in Australia was:

Thomas WOOTTON – arrived 12 Jul 1824 on the Countess of Harcourt.

I have Australian Royalty (tell us who, how many and which Fleet they arrived with):
Yes!! It took me a while, but I FINALLY found a couple (literally):

  • Thomas WOOTTON – arrived 12 Jul 1824 on the Countess of Harcourt
  • Mary O’DONNELL – arrived 25 Dec 1837 on the Sir Charles Forbes
  • Thomas BLANDTHORN – arrived 24 Sep 1847 on the Joseph So(a)mes – this is an Exile ship, so some might argue the toss.

I’m an Aussie mongrel, my ancestors came to Oz from:

England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France, Italy

Did any of your ancestors arrive under their own financial steam?

Most of mine came out as free settlers, who paid their own way. Some came out semi-assisted as part of organised emigration schemes.

How many ancestors came as singles?

All my early ancestors came out as singles.

How many came as couples?

The earliest couple were Hezekiah GREGORY and Susannah Philip(a) INCH who arrived 28 Aug 1841 on the Globe. And then Septimus DAVIS and Lucy CHURCH who came with their adult children from Chew Magna, Somerset to Australia in about 1851.

How many came as family groups?

The earliest couple were Hezekiah GREGORY and Susannah Philip(a) INCH and their young children who arrived 28 Aug 1841 on the Globe. And then Septimus DAVIS and Lucy CHURCH who came with their adult children from Chew Magna, Somerset to Australia in about 1851.

Did one person lead the way and others follow?

Only the above example DAVIS family. Some of the adult children came out first, and parents and siblings followed.

What’s the longest journey they took to get here?

England to here.

Did anyone make a two-step emigration via another place?

Yes, Henry James HARPER was on the William Bryan which was the first ship to bring people to establish New Plymouth in New Zealand in 1841. He then came to Australia in 1845.

Which state(s)/colony did your ancestors arrive?

NSW and later Victoria

Did they settle and remain in one state/colony?

Yes, pretty much.

Did they stay in one town or move around?

Over time most spread out.

Do you have any First Australians in your tree?

Not that I am aware of.

Were any self-employed?

Yes, most were farmers, tradesman and small business owners.

What occupations or industries did your earliest ancestors work in?

Miners, farmers, publicans, timberman, shop owners

Does anyone in the family still follow that occupation?

Not really

Did any of your ancestors leave Australia and go “home”?



What’s your State of Origin?


Do you still live there?

Nope, now in NSW

Where was your favourite Aussie holiday place as a child?

North Sunshine, Vic with my grandparents.

Any special place you like to holiday now?

Not really

Share your favourite spot in Oz:


Any great Aussie adventure you’ve had?

Won a week long trip to the Northern Territory and it was AWESOME!!!

What’s on your Australian holiday bucket list?


How do you celebrate Australia Day?

Not especially

Public Trees and Sharing Research

Image of Hamilton Lewis O'Donnell and Annie Brown

Hamilton Lewis O’Donnell and Annie Brown – supplied by a previously unknown cousin!

Over at Gathering Dust, Sharon asks some questions about cousin-baiting and public trees.

I think the first thing you have to realise and come to terms with when doing any research, but especially genealogy research is that you only have control over the quality of your own research. Yes, some people on Ancestry are ancestor collectors or have some sloppy research. But I don’t think that means they are lazy. They might just not know any better!! I’m also trained as an historian and I even have a post grad degree in family history research, but I also deeply respect many of the “amateur” genealogists out there who know waaaay more than me, and they don’t have any formal qualifications at all.

I’ve found some crap research on Ancestry but I’ve also found some good stuff. As with ALL research, I take none of it as “fact” until I’ve done my own research and found evidence to back it up. It is only ever a starting point.

I’ve made some great contacts with distant relatives via Ancestry. Sometimes their trees aren’t great, but often they provide more of the “colour” than just straight facts. For that reason I’ve put my tree in as many places as I can find. It’s not like the information will ever be out of date!! And I’ve had contact from people years after I’ve put info up on a site.

My methodology for using Ancestry is this. I have a scaled back version of my tree. My main lines and only those of close cousins. I only have the bare bones because I don’t want to be going through hundreds of hints for my thirds cousins sister-in-laws great aunts husband by marriage!! But what I put up is still backed by heaps of evidence.

I then copy this to my “real” tree on FTM which has alot more people and more periferal lines. Only verified info goes into the real tree while stuff I believe is true but needs verification sometimes resides in my public Ancestry tree. The underlying assumption of my research is that unless backed by evidence, it’s only a theory to be followed up.

But one thing I do hate, is people who copy stuff from public trees into private trees. It’s not the copying I mind (but that’s another topic – if it’s on the internet, people will copy it!!!), but that they seem willing to use other peoples research but not share their own. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people with private trees copy my stuff but completely ignore me when I try to contact them to see if they have more detail on the person whose information they copied.

My general theory in all things is that information wants to be free. By that I mean it wants to be out there, flying free with the birds!! I know alot of people don’t want to share their research because they worked hard for it and spent money for it. But what’s the point of doing it all if no one sees it? How many people have had years of research chucked in the bin because their kids didn’t care and they were unwilling to share it with those who hadn’t worked hard enough to earn it?

Even more than normal research, genealogy relies on a community of people who are willing to share not just their research but their skills and knowledge on how to research. I feel privileged to be a recipient of that tradition and I feel a duty to reciprocate by sharing what I’ve learned – both data and skills.

Movember Monday – Henry Vincent CANET (1878 – 1953)

Image of Henry Vincent CANET (1878 - 1953)

Henry Vincent CANET (1878 – 1953)

I’m doing a month long meme for November – Movember Monday!! Each monday of the month in support of Movember, I will be posting about a moustached ancestor!! Come on over to the Inside History Hairy Mancestor page and let people know about your post!

Henry Vincent Canet, born 10 Oct 1878 in Tallygaroopna, Vic, Australia[1]; died 09 Feb 1953 in Fitzroy, Vic, Australia.  He was the son of Robert Canet and Elizabeth Ann Montgomery.  He married Cecile Alice May O’Donnell 02 Oct 1918 in Shepparton, Vic, Australia.

He married ALICE CASSANDRA BARTLETT 1907 in Tallygaroopna, Vic, Australia, daughter of John BARTLETT and Cassandra GREY. She was born 1884 in Branholme, Vic, Australia. They had one child named Ernest CANET but both mother and child died. Henry’s second family did not know much about the first family other than he had kept his first wife’s favorite hat (it had flowers around the brim) and a small photo of his son. It was about 10 years after his first wifes’ death before he remarried. Searches have been conducted of all deaths from 1854-1980 for Canet. There is no entry for any wife or child.

He married Cecile Alice May O’DONNELL on 2 Oct 1918 in Shepparton, Vic, Australia, she was the daughter of Hamilton Lewis O’DONNELL and Annie BROWN. She was born 15 Jan 1897 in Bunbartha, Vic, Australia, and died 25 Jul 1984 in Qld, Australia.

Henry Canet played for Tallygaroopna Football Club over many years. There are two team photos from 1907 and 1908 which feature Henry. In the photo from 1907 he is the one behind the man in white, he has a mustache. His brother, Bert (Albert) is also in the photo. Henry also loved to play cricket and played for Shepparton.

In 1896 he is listed in Wise’s Victoria Post Office Directory as a carpenter. In 1903 he is living in Main St, Tallygaroopna, Vic, Australia and his occupation is listed as being a cycle agent[2]. In 1904, he is still working as a cycle agent[3]. In 1909 he has moved to Wyndham St, Shepparton, Vic, Australia and is listed as an agent based at Tallygaroopna Railway Station[4]. He is still there in 1914 and 1919[5]. In 1919 he is listed as living at a different address to his wife, who is in Corio St, Shepparton, Vic, Australia.

He is listed in Wise’s under the Bicycle and Motorcycle agent section. Of interest are other Canet’s also mentioned in the same directory. His brother, A

lbert is listed as a grocer in Tallygaroopna and his mother, Elizabeth is listed as a confectioner in Tallygaroopna.

"SALE OF AIR RIFLE." The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 5 Jun 1925: 15. Web. 11 Nov 2013 .

“SALE OF AIR RIFLE.” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 5 Jun 1925: 15. Web. 11 Nov 2013 .

Henry also was a builder/carpenter for a time. He had a Service Station in Shepparton and was the local motorcycle mechanic. Family lore says there was an outbreak of scarlet fever in Shepparton and Henry drove the local doctor to all of his calls, as he was one of the few who owned a car. Later they had a Deli in Carlton, Melbourne.

Some time before 1924, the family moved to Fitzroy, a suburb of Melbourne, Vic, Australia. In 1924 he is listed with his wife as living at 442 Geor

ge St, Fitzroy, Vic, Australia and working as a cycle manufacturer[6].

From 1923 to 1928, Henry is listed in the Sands & McDougall Postal Directories as a “cycle manufacturer” at 431 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. His business was on the corner of Brunswick & Cecil Street’s.

In 1925 he had a run in with the law when he was fined for selling air rifles to two underage boys. He was able to escape with a warning and a small fine. The article regarding this incident provides the name of his business, the Blue Bell Cycle Works. Family lore says that he constructed cycles for Malvern Star.

In 1931 he is still in the cycle business but is now living at 88 Cecil Street, Fitzroy. Henry remained at this address until his death on the 9th Feb, 1953.

[1] Dept of Justice, State of Victoria, Births, Deaths and Marriages, State of Victoria, Birth Certificate.

[2], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia..

[3] Wise’s Victoria Post Office Directory, 1904

[4], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia.

[5], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia.

[6], Australian Electoral Rolls, 1901-1954, Australian Electoral Commission. [Electoral roll]. Microform mc N 451-mc N 457. National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australia..

Trove Tuesday – Selling Sly Grog – Anna CUMMING (1821-1891)


Selling Sly Grog – Anna CUMMING – 12 Feb 1876 – Bendigo Advertiser – 12 Feb 1876

Anna CUMMING was born 1821 in Culling, Aberdeenshire, Scotland[1]; died 03 Sep 1891 in Bendigo, Vic, Australia[2].  She was the daughter of  George Cumming and  Mary Robertson. The facts about her birth are supposition at this point in time as I have very few facts to cross-check with.

Anna was the wife of George Douglas WATSON, born 29 Mar 1820 in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, Scotland and died 03 Jan 1863 in Sandhurst, Vic, Australia.  He was the son of George WATSON and Jean LOTTIMER.

Her children were:

  • Thomas Watson, born 1853.
  • George Douglas Watson, born 1855 in Emerald Hill, Vic, Australia; died 1855.
  • George Cumming WATSON, born 20 Mar 1857 in Sandhurst, Vic, Australia; died 20 Sep 1937 in Bendigo, Vic, Australia; married Lucy Maria HUGHES 10 Mar 1885 in Sandhurst, Vic, Australia.
  • Anna Watson, born 1859 in Sandhurst, Vic, Australia; died 1891.

In 1874, Anna purchased a small cottage, possibly the one she was living in at the time of her death. This cottage was located in Sheepwash Road, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia and was a 4 room weatherboard cottage with a stable[3].

During her life, Anna was the proprietor of a number of licensed premises in the Sandhurst area. Most of that time she appears to be a law abiding citizen, with her name appearing numerous times in various sources, being granted or transfering liquor licenses. However, in February 1876, she seems to have come acropper of the law. The article on the left of the page seems to imply that she was made an example of by the magistrate.

It seems that her ongoing licence to trade was rejected, due to the premises not meeting requirements. However, she continued to trade and was fined a significant sum of money as a result of the infraction.

The article highlights an interesting question, what is a nice Presbytarian lady like Anna, who seems to have strong links to the Kirk, doing running pubs?


Anna CUMMING – 12 Feb 1876 – Selling Sly Grog – Source: Trove

In 1886, according to the Bendigo Advertiser, she was granted the licence for the Glasgow Arms Hotel in Williamson St, Sandhurst[4]. This pub was located on the corner of Williamson and McLaren St, Sandhurst, Victoria. It had 7 rooms, was built of brick and also had a stable. Her Will also lists an interest in the Junction Hotel. No location is known for this establishment.

At the time of her death she had considerable property assets. It appears she had strong connections with the Presbytarian Church, as one of the executors of her will was the Rev. James NISH. He was a pioneering clergyman in both New South Wales and Victoria and was based in Sandhurst during the 1860s. He was crucial to the establishment of several Presbyterian congregations in both colonies. Also mentioned as an executor is Mr Henry O’NEIL, a mining investor.

[1] Dept of Justice, State of Victoria, Births, Deaths and Marriages, State of Victoria, Sons Birth Certificate.

[2] Death Certificate, Dept of Justice, State of Victoria, Births, Deaths and Marriages, State of Victoria.

[3] Information from Bendigo Council Rates Books via Carole Douch.

[4] List of Licences granted by the Sandhurst and Eaglehawk Annual Licencing Court, 1886 as published in the Bendigo Advertiser. List provided on the Bendigo Family History Group website –

Trove Tuesday – Letters from Soldiers – Jack CANET

Letters from Soliders - Jack CANET

Letters from Soldiers - Jack CANET - via Trove

My first Trove Tuesday post has been prompted by the discovery of a series of letters written by John (Jack) CANET originally of Tallygaroopna, Victoria, Australia but who at the time of writing was based in Brunswick, Victoria, Australia, written while he was stationed in England during World War One.

Jack was the brother of my great grandfather, Henry Vincent CANET. While I searching for articles about Henry CANET I found these letters (Henry is mentioned in a couple).

The letters were sent to various family members, mainly Henry and his (and Jacks) mother, Elizabeth Ann MONTGOMERY. It appears that they felt the letters would be of interest to members of the communities to which Jack was a part of, Tallygaroopna and Brunswick. In all the letters, a number of other people from these areas who were stationed overseas are also mentioned.

The Story

The letters tell the story of Jacks’ journey from Australia, to England via Africa. He mentions having stopped briefly in Durban and Cape Town, before travelling and landing in Free Town, Sierra Leone. He goes into quite a bit of detail about his time in Free Town. Some of the language used reflects the racial attitudes of the time, so if you read them, be warned. From Free Town he travels for several weeks to finally land at Plymouth, England. From there he and his fellow troops travel by train to Exeter, Bristol, Swindon before finally stopping at Tidworth, the location of his army camp.

The letters then go onto describe life in camp, visiting various sights around the country, including meeting up with other men from Tallygaroopna at Salisbury Post Office before a day on the town. He also talks about possible deployment in France and machine gunner training.

The letters are listed in here in the order in which they appear to have been written, rather than by publication date.

What The Letters Tell Us

About Jack:

  • His address in Australia – 30 Smith Street, West Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
  • The route and method of travel from Australia to England
  • The unit Jack was serving with and where it was based
  • That he was athletic and enjoyed physical activity
  • That he liked to travel and did so whenever possible
  • He attempted, unsuccessfully, to make contact with his father’s family while in England
  • Who many of his relatives were
  • Liked to write really long letters (lucky for us!)

In General

  • That many people from Tallygaroopna joined up and they kept in touch while overseas
  • That the following people known to Jack were serving overseas, they met up while there and where they were stationed:
    • Lester O’BRIEN
    • Billy LEWIS
    • Bert RENNICK
    • Bob RENNICK
    • Bob (Robert) CANET
  • Information about where the other soldiers were stationed and what units
  • The living conditions of the soldiers – 30 to a hut, sports days, leave, quantity and quality of food (better quality but not enough)
  • Local train fares in England
  • Henry CANET address – Wyndham Street, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia
  • The some locations were incorrectly transcribed – there is no Sidworth, but there is a Tidworth near both Salisbury and Perham Downs – always worth checking things on a map

In Conclusion

Even though Jack isn’t a direct ancestor the letters make a fascinating reading. And while there aren’t any earth shattering revelations, there are a few tidbits to fill out the picture about great grandfather Henry CANET – some addresses and who he was on good terms with. And there are many bits of information for non-related family historians.

Using Heraldry in Genealogical Research

Jane_StocktonHeraldry and genealogy have had a long symbiotic relationship. Heraldry requires a knowledge of ones genealogy and heraldry has often been used as evidence to support genealogical conclusions.

Seton calls heraldry the:

“Shorthand of History”, the pictorial chronicle of days gone by, the evidence of gentle blood, the record of important alliances… and not unfrequently, the unerring guide in cases of disputed succession.”[1]

This is a good summary of the role played by heraldry in general, and in genealogical and local history research in particular. As the franchise for entitlement to heraldic devices widened, so did the usefulness of heraldry as both historical evidence and as a research tool.

Heraldry is a useful tool in a number of ways in genealogical research:

  • Dating tool – providing evidence for dates of the lives of individuals, families, and events.
  • Identification of individuals and branches of families and relationships between branches of families, including geographical spread (especially useful in Scotland).
  • Information on marriages – including hints to their political, social and economic role
  • Information on women
  • Biographical
  • Marriages
  • Children

The basic role of both heraldry and genealogy is to identify and place individuals within the context of their families and if done well, within the wider historical context in which they lived. Despite its perceived exclusivity to royalty and the nobility, many untitled families through the centuries have been granted arms making heraldry a valuable research tool for the family historian.

If you are interested in finding out more detail, check out:  Stephen Friar, Stephen. Heraldry for the Local Historian and Genealogist. (Stroud: Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1997). This is the book for using heraldry as a source for local and family history.

2.0 Heraldic Documents

Heraldic documents are those where heraldry is the central focus of the document. Most of the document types listed here had legal significance, thus lending weight to the validity to their contents. This makes them valuable general historical and genealogical documents, especially for periods or areas where other types of legal documents are lacking.

2.1 Visitations

Visitations were conducted by heralds starting in 1450 and continued into the 17th century. Over 150 visits were made under a variety of commissions to all counties in England and Wales[2].These visitations initially were focused on recording the names of those with the right to bear arms and to record the arms in question. This was often accompanied by narrative genealogies used to support claims to armergious status. During later visitations the focus shifted towards recording more detailed tabular/tree genealogies with the recording of arms becoming a more secondary task.

Early visitation records cover only titled families (and their non-titled descendents), but as arms and status became more fluid in the 16th century, many families of non-titled origin who had prospered in trade or land, applied for and had their arms recorded during the visitation process. This greatly increases the usefulness of the visitation records to genealogical research.

Many of the original visitations books remain there to this day, with copies held in the British Library. Many of these works have been transcribed and published by the Harleian Society and are a valuable resource for family historians as they are much more accessible than the originals at the College of Arms or the copies at the British Library. Many have been made available via the web (see link above).

2.2 Rolls of Arms

Rolls of arms are lists of heraldry (painted, drawn or written in blazon). These documents recorded people in attendance at specific events, associated with a particular institution or place, or general rolls which were compiled as reference works (detailing heraldic themes by colour or charge using examples of real world arms).

2.3 Grants of Arms and Pedigrees

These documents record the granting of arms to a specific individual or group (corporation, educational institution etc). Often details of the life of the person are recorded, such as offices held, achievements, participation in important events and sometimes mention of parents or other relatives if they were of note.

After the cessation of the visitations, many amateur family historians and professional genealogists continued to research family lines. The results of this research was often deposited for preservation and recording with the College of Heralds. These pedigrees were often done in support of a petition for granting of arms.

2.4 Funeral Certificates

Funeral certificates date from the late 16th century to the early 18th century. They were documents created by the heralds which record the details of those who were given heraldic funerals. Heraldic funerals were elaborate, formalized displays organized by the family of the deceased. The funeral certificate would contain information about the heraldry of the deceased individual in addition to details about their death, place of burial, marriage information and details of children.

3.0 Non-Heraldic Documents

These documents reference or include heraldry, but have a different primary focus.

3.1 Manuscripts and Legal Documents

Many manuscripts (family histories, institutional records etc) and various legal documents often contain a heraldic element. Documents such as wills, deeds, indentures, contracts and other agreements often include heraldry as part of the identification of the involved parties or as validation of agreement in the form of seals.

3.2 Court of Chivalry Case Law

The Court of Chivalry is a civil court dating back to the 14th century. Its jurisdiction was the use and misuse of heraldic devices. There is an extensive archive of cases available at The Court of Chivalry 1634-1640 website. Each record contains a great deal of biographical information on plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses.

The Court of Chivalry was also covered (to varying degrees) in the newspapers of the day from the 18th century onwards. These often give details of attitudes and tidbits of information (often gossip) not seen in the official proceedings.

4.0 Churches

Heraldic evidence in located in churches provides a more local and often, more personal focus on the role of individuals and families within their community.

4.1 Effigies

Effigies are three-dimensional figures placed in churches, the earliest date to the 13th century. Early examples depict those of the military class who are depicted in armour, including their heraldry on a shield (in some cases a real shield was used). Women are also depicted in effigies, though they wear heraldic surcoats, cotehardies or kirtles.

In addition to heraldic clothing, the head of the deceased often rests on a cushion which incorporates their heraldic devices. Later period effigies and tombs often have additional heraldic display around their sides.

4.2 Brasses

Early monumental brasses were near life size depictions of individuals, often in armour holding a shield. This type of brass relied on the shield to act as identifier for the deceased.

Later brasses, especially in the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, are much more useful as sources for family history. They often depict husband, wife and children, the arms of both spouses and many include the names of spouses, parents, children and details about dates of death and offices held by the husband.

The use of brasses declined after the Elizabethan period as other forms of memorials such as wall monuments and hatchments become more widely used.

4.3 Tombs

Free standing tomb chests from the 13th century on were often had painted (stone) or gilded (enameled brass) shields affixed to them. Weepers often surrounded the sides of the tomb, representing the deceased’s family or eminent individuals who they were related to by marriage or blood. These weepers were sometimes indentified by small shields.

4.4 Wall Monuments

By the late 16th century tomb chests had been superceded by a variety of wall monuments. Wall monuments could be flat brasses, or three-dimensional depictions of families. Both types of monuments used heraldic display as part of the decoration on the monument, often in colour. These monuments include nscriptions detailing information about the individual and/or the family.

4.5 Hatchments

A hatchment is a diamond shaped board bearing armorial display. These are often found attached to the walls of churches or occasionally in private homes. Hatchments were used in heraldic funerals in the mid-19th century and then placed in the local church or other church of significance to the deceased.

4.6 Stained Glass

Many churches have heraldic stained glass provided by local parishioners. Some examples made their way into private homes after the dissolution of monasteries. These glasses are good records of marriages as they were often donated to commemorate the event or on the death of a spouse.

5.0 Heraldic Objects

5.1 Seals

One of the earliest uses and indeed, for runner of heraldry itself was the seal. Developed in 12th century, it became an increasingly important form of validation, performing the same role as the modern signature. They provide important information on the roles undertaken by the owner of the seal, place them in specific places within a datable historical context and reflect changing family alliances.

5.2 Domestic Objects

The heraldry on everyday objects also provides important information to researchers. It can identify the owner of the object, help to give a date for the creation of the object and give information on the social and economic standing of the owner.

Heraldic decoration can be found commonly on the following items:

  • Paintings
  • Horse Furniture
  • Ceramics
  • Gold and Silverware
  • Furniture
  • Home fabrics such as bedding, wall hangings, cushions etc.

6.0 Conclusion

Heraldry supports the study of family and local history in a number of ways:

  • Dating tool – providing evidence for dates of the lives of individuals, families, and events.
  • Identification of individuals and branches of families
  • Relationships between branches of families
  • Geographical spread

In many instances, heraldic evidence may be the only record remaining about a specific individual or event. This is particularly true when applied to women, who are often not represented in written historical records.

Thus, it is of importance that those undertaking any sort of historical inquiry (whether family or local) are aware of the evidence provided by heraldry and have been provided with the necessary skills to make use of this important source of evidence.

Stop by Gould Genealogy who have a large range of heraldic sources for purchase including visitations, hatchments, pedigrees etc.

If you know of other websites or resources related to this topic that might be of interest to people please post in the comments section.

Joint Heraldic and Genealogical Societies

The relationship between heraldry and genealogy can be demonstrated by the number of joint societies for the study of these two areas:

[1] George Seton, The Law and Practice of Heraldry in Scotland (Edinburgh: Edmonton and Douglas, 1863). p. 7
[2] Adrian Ailes, “The Development of the Heralds’ Visitations in England and Wales 1450-1600,” Coat of Arms 5, no. 217 (2009). p. 7