As a graduate of the Institute of Heraldic Studies and Genealogy in Canterbury, our speaker and committee member Chris Broom has a passion for heraldry, and believes it to be underrated in family history research. We are still familiar with many signs and symbols in the modern world – think of brand logos, even our own AVSFHG logo!
His talk examined heraldry’s origins, language, use in research and how to learn more about it. It has been traced back to use on the battlefield to identify soldiers whose faces were hidden by armour and visors – symbols on shields can even be seen in the Bayeux Tapestry. It then began to appear in jousting, where the ‘herald’ was literally the ‘Master of Ceremonies’, who would identify the competitors, announce them and record the results.
The use of armorial seals on documents (to represent a signature) led to cases of identity theft, when someone would make a seal imitating that of another person. In one famous case, both John of Gaunt and Geoffrey Chaucer appeared as witnesses in a dispute over a person’s identity.
Auditors were thus appointed to better regulate the use of seals, which led to what was known as the Historic Visitations of 1530-1688. The Auditors would go around the country, asking noble families for evidence of their entitlement to a particular seal. All this work has now been transcribed.
The College of Arms is responsible for regulating and granting of arms, and the Queen has ultimate responsibility. Anyone ‘of eminence’ can petition for a coat of arms, it costs around £7,000 and takes two years to grant!
Chris has traced the pedigree from 1505-1875 of the Rabett family, who hail from Bramfield Hall and, not surprisingly, feature rabbits on the arms! Some members of the Leiston branch of that family were present at the meeting. Chris also demonstrated how he was able to trace the symbol of the Bostock family, from which one of our own members, Elizabeth Tipping, is descended. Chris explored the colours and commonly used symbols in coats of arms, and presented several case studies. We looked at that of the Theberton family Doughty Wylie; Chris showed us the different reference books and online resources he uses to identify and trace a coat of arms. He then showed us photos of the real thing in Theberton Church, so we can go and look for ourselves!
Chris Broom’s website is https://www.chance-encounters.co.uk/