Search our Catalog by Keyword for: genealogy manuals.
Also try these quick and easy genealogy books in the Children's Department:
Please visit A Young Person's Guide to Genealogy for more resources.
As your family's historian, you will spend most of your time tracking down the records produced by and about your ancestors during their lives. Called "primary sources", these documents include birth & death certificates, family bibles, military records, and more. The following resources can help you locate these records:
The library subscribes to these databases:
Try these websites for free genealogy information on the Internet:
Learn about the different types of DNA tests for genealogy and the ethical standards of testing for DNA.
Search our Catalog by Keyword for: genetic genealogy.
Organize and interpret your research with these charts and forms:
When using a search engine like Google.com, try using the following search pattern:
Family Search offers Online Genealogy Consultations. Sign up for a free, 20-minute online research strategy consultation designed to provide you with research guidance, methodology, and next steps. Go to: www.familysearch.org/en/library/online-consultations
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) is a global volunteer organization. The purpose of this site is to help others obtain copies of documents, pictures of tombstones, etc., that can not be obtained easily by those who do not live in the area of their ancestors.
Go to: https://raogk.org/
NOTE: Although a coat of arms was only legally granted to an individual and not a family, understanding the symbols, colors, and patterns used in a coat of arms belonging to your direct ancestor may help you with your family history.
Using Heraldry for Family History
Heraldry’s ordered system of symbols followed certain rules and were used by individuals to indicate their noteworthy achievements and to show important images related to their heritage. This art form began in the Middle Ages and spread throughout Europe in the 12th century.
Heralds recognized and recorded these symbols worn by knights engaged in battles and tournaments. Knights relied on these symbols worn on their surcoats and shields to identify one from another while wearing helmets and body armor.
Arms were the signs and emblems usually located on the shield (and duplicated in embroidery on the surcoat) but could refer to the overall components of a heroic achievement, according to heraldry expert Arthur Charles Fox-Davies. The different components of a coat of arms, as they became known, can include a crest, helmet, shield, and motto. These components may reveal occupations, marriages, birth order, and rank/title. The colors used, the shape of the shield and divisions within it, and the position of the animals in a coat of arms will all have meaning. These combined symbols are a visual code of the lineage and deeds of the owner.
These “Arms” have been compiled in many books which provide detailed images and written descriptions (known as a blazon) to help you interpret the meaning of a coat of arms. Heraldry is not only found in books, but also on tapestries, containers, glass windows, and colonial grave markers.
You can also search Gaston County Library Catalog using SUBJECT search for heraldry.
Some of the print books available at the library include:
If you are researching a Scottish ancestor, genealogist Dr. Bruce Durie recommends searching by name in the online publication An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland (1903). archive.org/details/ordinaryofarmsco01paul
This register contains descriptive recordings of coats of arms in Scotland and is still maintained today by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms (Scottish Heraldry), the heraldic authority in Scotland. www.courtofthelordlyon.scot/
The U.S. has no legal heraldic authority like Scotland and England in which laws exist against misappropriating arms. The non-profit The American Heraldry Society is open to anyone “interested in the study and practice of heraldry.” Its website includes a roll of arms and a country-by-country guide to foreign heraldic societies. www.americanheraldry.org
NOTE: Coat of arms belong to individuals and not to surnames. According to certified genealogist Helen Hinchliff, "Genealogists should avoid adopting coats of arms purchased from mail-order firms or copied from books. Chances are, the former once belonged to someone who had no heirs (and cannot possibly be one's ancestor); and the latter have been inherited by specific, identifiable individuals who have a property right in them that is not generalizable to others who happen to share the same surname."
Hinchliff, H. (1999). A right to bear arms? An examination of commercial offerings for “Henderson of St. Laurence, Scotland.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 87(1), 6–15.
Author: Gaston County Public Library
Title: Beginning Your Family History Research
Revised: 7 December 2022
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