COURT OF THE LORD LYON
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 professional fee.
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 undermentioned 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.,
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. 554-570, Johnston and Bacon,
"The Highland Clans" by Sir lain Moncreiffe of
that Ilk (Barrie & Rockliff, 1967).
"Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia" by George
Way of Plean and Romilly Squire (Harper Collins,
"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, 1986.)
"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
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.
Armorial 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.
The Chief’s 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 as
a "family crest" or "family coat of arms" which anyone can
assume, or a whole family can use.
Armorial bearings, of which the Crest is
a subsidiary part, are a form of individual heritage
property, devolving upon one person at a time by
succession 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 ancient ancestral arms with a mark of cadency,
usefully showing the cadet’s place within the family.
The scheme shows a few of the variations
only, but illustrates how the undifferenced arms descend to,
and demonstrate, the successive Chiefs of the clan or
family, and how subsidiary branch-arms descend to, and
represent, each head of a cadet-house. Hundreds of
variations are available, and use of the different shield
on ones own book-plate or silverware identifies where
you, and your own heirs, belong within the family. It
is, as well as being beautiful, a valuable system of
The parts of the armorial bearings
(a) The Shield, bearing
the basic device;
(b) The Helmet, with its Crest, which sits on top of
(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 of Orders.
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
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 strap-and-buckle 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
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 crest-badge 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 tea-pot, etc., was the
ACQUISITION OF GRANTS AND
MATRICULATIONS OF ARMS
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
proof-sheets relative to such applications can be supplied
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 arms.
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.