Getting Started Research Tips

What Can the British College of Arms Do for You?

The British College of Arms is a little used but highly important and rich resource for genealogical information for people with British ancestors. Here’s what they can do for you.

Listen to the Genealogy Clips podcast on YouTube or iTunes.

The British College of Arms is a little known and little used genealogical resource for American genealogists. Yet, it has one of the richest collections of British genealogical records available, with some of them being primary source family trees begun 600 years ago or more and added to ever since. Genealogy has always been an important part of life for the British royal and noble families. They needed to prove their ancestry for inheritance purposes, as well as to get more prestigious positions and titles and to increase their respect among their peers. A good genealogy could also secure a quality marriage for the child of a noble family. That is why these genealogies began being collected in medieval times and put into the custody of the College of Arms. The British College of Arms continues this work, and more, today. This is what the British College of Arms can do for you to help you enhance your own British genealogy, and how to go about getting their assistance.

1. Genealogical Research

Ralph Bigland, a knight and member of the College of Arms in the 18th century, believed genealogy was interesting for all families, not just royal or noble ones. He began collecting the family history information from regular British families and keeping them at the College.

Officers at the College of Arms conduct genealogical research today for families with British ancestry across all levels of society. Sometimes, the research is requested to see if a family has a hereditary right to bear arms, but more often, it is simple genealogical curiosity. The College can offer unique research services that other genealogists can’t, because they have access to this rich records resource going back over six centuries.

2. Registering Pedigrees

You don’t have to be part of a noble family to get your pedigree registered at the College. They register pedigrees from all families with British connections to preserve them for future generations to research. You will need to work with an officer at the College, who will put your pedigree in the proper format the College uses, and who will advise you on the documentary proof you need to get to make your pedigree qualify for registering.

3. Granting of Arms and Proving the Right to Arms

The College grants new arms for people who have done extraordinary work on behalf of the United Kingdom, as well as for people who can prove they are descended from someone who was once subject to the British crown. This means people all over the world can apply for a new coat of arms to be issued to them if they can prove their connection to Britain. The College also researches family trees to see if your family currently has a hereditary right to bear arms. The laws concerning inheriting the use of arms are complex in Britain, and the College can figure it out for you using their extensive genealogical resources.

Whether you live in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, the College of Arms can assist you in a wide variety of genealogical projects if you have British family connections. Just contact them through their website, by postal mail, or by phone and let them know what you need. They will guide you from there, and lead you on your next big genealogical adventure.


Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has helped genealogy researchers for over 25 years. He is also a freelance photographer, husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild.