Registration or Recording of Arms

Registering Arms in the Roll of Arms: The Committee continues to evaluate applications for registration in the Roll of Arms. Arms eligible for inclusion in the Roll of Arms include arms of any settler in the colonies, or in the United States, who possessed arms rightfully borne in his or her mother country, which arms must date from before 1900 (the settler can be a more recent immigrant, but the arms must be old). Those wishing to apply for registration of a coat in the Roll of Arms should use the form available here:

Application for registration in the Roll of Arms (PDF)

The person submitting an application need not be related to the subject of the application.  Applications must prove the subject’s right to the arms. This ordinarily involves both proving a genealogical connection between the subject and his (or her) claimed family of origin in Europe, and proving that family’s right to the arms by long-accepted use or by specific grant or sanction. Although the Roll of Arms was originally intended partly as a social document, sanctioning the use of enrolled arms by modern representatives of the subjects (and in earlier decades the Roll of Arms included arms newly granted by foreign governmental bodies, which are no longer eligible for inclusion—see below), it has always been primarily an historical and genealogical document, providing a basis of reference on American colonists or immigrants with proved connections to armigerous families in Europe.

Bookplate of Committee member the Rev. Arthur Adams

Bookplate of Committee member the Rev’d. Arthur Adams.

Recording Modern and Assumed Arms (individual or corporate): Since 1933 the Committee has also recorded coats of arms which are not eligible for inclusion in the Roll of Arms. At that time, the Committee began recording assumed arms—that is, arms created and used in colonial or recent times without known sanction by any heraldic authority. Since 1972 the Committee no longer includes in the Roll of Arms any arms granted or confirmed in the 20th century to the use of Americans by foreign heraldic authorities; these also are now recorded separately by the Committee. Those wishing to apply for the recording of arms of these types use the appropriate form:

Application for recording Arms historically or newly assumed by an individual (PDF)

Application for recording Arms historically or newly assumed by a corporate entity (school, church, organization, etc.) (PDF)

Application for recording Arms recently granted or confirmed by a foreign governmental authority (PDF)

Applications for recording arms granted or confirmed by a foreign heraldic authority should include copies of relevant foreign documents. Applications for recording historically assumed arms (at least prior to about 1825) should document as carefully as possible the appearance of the arms on dated documents or artifacts, or their description in dated textual sources. Statements in a late 19th-century or early 20th-century reference or genealogy that a certain colonist’s family bore a particular coat of arms cannot be credited without corroborative evidence of actual use of the arms.

Given that the United States has never had laws regulating the creation and use of coats of arms, and that Americans represent many different heraldic traditions in our diverse ancestries, the Committee does not require that the newly created arms it records adhere to any particular traditional conventions governing design. The Committee will only record a submitter’s shield and crest, not other heraldic elements (supporters, caps and helms, medallions) traditionally associated with ranks and honors in some countries. However, such elements may be recorded if they are documented in armorial artifacts of American provenance prior to the mid nineteenth century.

Completed forms, with accompanying documentation, should be mailed to the secretary of the Committee for review. A $50 fee for recording or registering arms, payable by check to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, should be submitted with the application. The Committee welcomes inquiries by those uncertain of the appropriate category under which to apply, or with any other questions.