Sunday, September 13, 2015

Heraldry and the Smith Coat of Arms

I started with a bookplate that was proudly passed on to the family by my great grandfather Charles Edward Villiers Smith.  On that bookplate was the Smith family coat of arms and I became intrigued with heraldry.  I recently learned a lot about the rules that govern the design of a coat of arms and discovered that, although the families portrayed are correct, the order in which they are displayed on the bookplate are slightly incorrect.  The rules of heraldry are very intricate, and when portrayed properly, can tell a lot about the family pedigree.  There is much information on the Internet and in books that explain the rules and symbols, but I am not knowledgeable enough to write a lot on the subject.

The following coat of arms shows a descent from six families in the correct order.  Each cell on the shield shows the arms of a particular ancestral family.

Reading from left to right as you would a book the arms on this shield represent the families of:
1.  Smith
2.  Orlebar
3.  Boteler of Biddenham, second son
4.  Hervey
5.  Chernocke
6.  Boteler of Biddenham, first son

This second version is the one that is on my great grandfather's bookplate and was handed down to him from his father and ultimately from his grandfather.

This is exactly like the old bookplate and was first used by Boteler Chernocke Smith, my gr-gr-gr-grandfather.  The first problem is that the shield is divided in thirds, which is incorrect.  It should be in half with the husband's arms on the left half and the wife's on the right half.  Another thing is that the right third does not even make sense.  Even if it was half of the shield, his wife was not of that family, although he was descended from that family.  Finally the arms of Hervey and Orlebar should be reversed to properly reflect the pedigree and rules of heraldry.  So it is a muddle, but it is what it is.

The families represented in the four small cells are:
1.  Smith
2.  Hervey
3.  Orlebar
4.  Chernocke
The entire right third is Boteler of Biddenham

All renditions of my family arms have a crest on top, which is an oak tree with golden acorns.  The motto on a ribbon across the bottom says "Non deficit alter."  Translated from the latin it means, "Another is not wanting."

At one point in history coats of arms were carefully guarded and registered.  Families had to prove to men from the College of Heralds that they were entitled to bear arms.  They did so with pedigrees that were carefully recorded and became the Visitations that are so useful today to genealogists researching medieval English ancestry.  Later as the culture changed it became less legally important and registration was expensive.  Family arms can still be registered if desired, but it is still very expensive.  My family did not register their coat of arms, and that may be why they are a bit wonky.

No matter, my gr-grandfather was proud of his family heritage and his coat of arms, even though he left England at age 19 and was a pioneer in Nebraska where he married, raised a large family, and is buried.