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Resources - FAQs

The following frequently asked questions have been compiled and presented by the , in a structured manner to field your queries directly regarding heraldry and the Society. Before contacting the RHSC with your query, review the questions below, and if one maps to your question, click on the question and the page will take you to a response to the question selected.
  1. What is the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada?
  2. Do I need to be invited to become a member?
  3. Why should I join the RHSC?
  4. What would I get out of the Society as a member?
  5. Where did the "Royal" come from?
  6. Do I have to live in Canada to join the RHSC?
  7. Do I have to live in a certain area to join a particular Branch?
  8. What is Heraldry?
  9. Do I have to have a coat of arms to join the RHSC?
  10. Is there a roll of arms of the members of the RHSC?
  11. Can I register my coat of arms with the RHSC?
  12. Have I got a 'family coat of arms', and if so, how can I discover what it is?
  13. What is my family crest?
  14. Can I search for my family arms on the Web?
  15. Does the RHSC offer courses on heraldry and examinations?


  1. What is the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada?

    The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, or RHSC, established in 1966, is a non-profit society whose mission is to promote and encourage the understanding and correct use of heraldic emblems and of heraldry in general among Canadians through publications, lectures, and other events. The Society — which enjoys the high patronage of the Governor General of Canada — currently maintains Branches based in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, Edmonton, and Victoria, which permit members living in and near those cities to participate in its activities. It holds an Annual General Meeting that rotates among those cities, and permits members of the branches to meet the current officers of the National Society, to vote in national elections and on matters of national importance, and to hear various presentations, both instructive and amusing. It also maintains an educational programme that leads to certificates of different levels, culminating in the Licentiate of the Society that gives the right to the postnominal letters LRHSC. Finally, it maintains this website, which sets out a good deal of information about the society, its activities, and its members, as well as about the state of heraldic practices in Canada generally, and provides a venue in which they may communicate online with one another about anything that interests them.  Return


  2. Do I need to be invited to become a member?

    No. Of course, individuals may be encouraged to join the Society through an invitation by an existing member to one of our functions with the intent to pique your interest in the Society and its members. Neverthless, anyone with an interest in heraldry who has a desire to learn more, and who wishes to associate with other individuals who share similar interests can join by applying for membership online.  Return


  3. Why should I join the RHSC?

    Joining the RHSC provides you with numerous opportunities to learn more about heraldry, to apply your heraldic skills to one or more interesting projects in the Society, to meet the leading heraldists (or students of heraldry) and heraldic artists in Canada, and periodically, to meet and exchange ideas with the Canadian heralds, including the Chief Herald, who are all either ordinary or extraordinary officers of the Canadian Heraldic Authority. Like the leading heraldists and heraldic artists, most of the heralds — who as such are officers of the Canadian Crown — are Fellows of the RHSC, which played a leading role in the foundation of the Authority in 1988. (On the Authority, see below under Question 11) Lists, and in many cases brief biographies of the Fellows and Honorary Fellows of the Society are included on the Society's website.  Return


  4. What would I get out of the Society as a member?

    There are three benefits that one can derive from being a member of the Society. First among these is the satisfaction derived from keeping the noble tradition of heraldry alive and flourishing in Canada. Secondly, to keep abreast of the latest developments in heraldic usage, knowledge, and creativity in Canada, by receiving the Society's publications. These include its journal Heraldry in Canada / L'Héraldique au Canada, its visually stunning Gonfanon, its online academic journal Alta Studia Heralidica and finally, if you join a Branch, its newsletter as well. And thirdly, you will have many opportunities to cultivate new business and personal connections with individuals who may not normally be part of your usual circles of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Members of the Society include business and political leaders, professionals, military personnel, artists and others from various walks of life.  Return


  5. Where did the "Royal" come from?

    Her Majesty The Queen graciously gave her assent to the use of the word "Royal" in the name of the Society in 2002, in recognition of our services to the country. It was in fact a Jubilee honour, granted like many others during the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty's reign as Queen of Canada (and of course of her other realms).  Return


  6. Do I have to live in Canada to join the RHSC?

    No. Membership is open to all who have an interest in heraldry, regardless of citizenship, nationality, or geographic location. In fact, we have members of the Society resident in the UK, USA, Hong Kong and from as far away as in Australia.  Return


  7. Do I have to live in a certain area to join a particular Branch?

    No. All Branches are available to all members, and many members belong to more than one Branch. Even if one is geographically unable to attend Branch functions — including (The Blazon (B.C.-Yukon), Hogtown Heraldry (Toronto), The Heraldist (Ottawa)) — are often considered to be well worth the additional low membership fees. Of course, the most convenient physical "interface" with the Society members are the Branch functions and events, and therefore, would be of benefit to become a member of a Branch in your area if one is exists. If there is non in your area, you are encouraged to organize one.  Return


  8. What is Heraldry?

    Heraldry properly designates the profession and expertise of the heralds, which traditionally included almost everything to do with the distinctive culture and activities of noble knights. Today heraldry is principally concerned with the study, design, regulation and use of armorial emblems and insignia: marks of identity and status whose form still reflects their knightly origins, but which have long been borne by many people and corporate bodies quite unconnected to knights. The most important of the emblems in question is the one technically termed the 'arms' or 'coat of arms': a design of fixed elements, arrangement, and colours now most commonly represented covering the surfaces of pictorial shields and functional banners. The term 'coat of arms' is also now loosely used of the whole assemblage of armorial signs (including a mantled helm, crest, and motto, and sometimes supporters and a compartment) that is technically called the 'armorial achievement'. In Canada, all heraldic emblems still constitute both a form of property and a form of public honour, and their possession and use are regulated by law as well as custom. A more detailed overview on the nature and history of heraldry and heraldic emblems can be found by clicking What is Heraldry? located on our website.  Return


  9. Do I have to have a coat of arms to join the RHSC?

    No. Many of our members, executives, and even presidents have not had coats of arms, only the interest in furthering heraldry both personally and culturally. Often, members who were not 'armigers' or 'armigerous' (as persons possessing heraldic arms are respectively designated and described as such) have petitioned for a grant of their own armorial bearings from the Canadian Heraldic Authority (which alone has the right to do this in Canada), after learning more about Canadian heraldry and the practice of heraldry in Canada. This is entirely optional, however, and the only requirement for membership in the Society is an interest in heraldry.  Return


  10. Is there a roll of arms of the members of the RHSC?

    A full roll of arms — a list of armigerous members with representations and (or) descriptions of their arms — was published soon after the foundation of the Society, in 1967; after that, updates and corrections appeared in Heraldry in Canada / L'Héraldique au Canada every few years. However, since 2004, the Society has published its members' armorial bearings online on this website, and the online Roll now includes over 300 personal arms. Click here to view the online Roll of Arms. Members are encouraged to submit their armorial bearings for inclusion in this roll, after a minimum membership term of two years.  Return


  11. Can I register my coat of arms with the RHSC?

    No. The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada is not a registering body. Arms and other armorial emblems are granted by (or, if already granted, registered with) the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Ottawa, which is part of the Office of the Governor General. The latter, as deputy head of state, was in 1988 empowered by Letters Patent from The Queen to exercise Her Majesty's powers as Queen of Canada in respect of the regulation of heraldic matters generally, and did so by establishing the Canadian Heraldic Authority under a Chief Herald of Canada. Nevertheless, a number of the members of the RHSC will happily offer advice and counsel on the procedures for obtaining a coat of arms to those interested in petitioning the Canadian Heraldic Authority.  Return


  12. Have I got a 'family coat of arms', and if so, how can I discover what it is?

    You might or might not have an hereditary right to a coat of arms, but if you do not know of one, it is much more likely that you have not, and even if you have, it is unlikely to be a form represented in publications as being associated with your particular surname. The right to a coat of arms and other armorial emblems varies from country to country. In Canada, as in the British Isles and France (the sole sources of our legal traditions in this area), a particular coat of arms represents a particular individual in the context of his or her paternal lineage — the descendants in the male line from the first person to possess the arms — and every member of the lineage aside from the heir of the founder must bear a version of the arms that has been 'differenced' in some way peculiar to the individual. As many quite unrelated lineages bear the same surname, the possession of the same surname as an armiger does not guarantee that one has a right even to a much-differenced version of his or her arms. To establish your right to any version of an existing coat of arms, you would need to trace your ancestry in the male line back to the person who had been granted or first legitimately used its plain form, according to the laws of the country in which he lived. This is extremely difficult for most of us, and as the vast majority of people in Europe were not armigerous (i.e., they did not possess a coat of arms), such a search is unlikely to lead to the discovery of ancestral arms. It is therefore much wiser to assume that no such arms exist, and to petition the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Ottawa for a new grant.  Return


  13. What is my family crest?

    The term 'crest' is often used in non-expert circles as a synonym for 'arms' and 'armorial achievement', but neither of these senses is admitted by heralds or heraldists. The latter employ it exclusively to designate an emblem whose normal position is the top of a helm, which in the context of a pictorial achievement is usually represented above the shield bearing the arms. A crest may also be displayed in this context without the helmet, and in other environments as a badge (especially among those of Scottish descent who wear their Chief's crest, within a buckled strap bearing his or her motto, as a mark of membership in the clan), but crests are bound legally to particular arms, and cannot exist independently of them.  Return


  14. Can I search for my family arms on the Web?

    You can, but not with any likelihood of identifying them correctly. You can search for arms used by some of the various lineages who share your name, but for the reasons explained above, unless you have a very unusual or distinctively noble name (like 'Dacre', 'de la Rochefoucauld', or 'von Fleckenstein'), it is entirely possible that you do not belong to any of them. Just as there are often dozens of lineages with the same surname but completely different arms (equally true of Schmidts, Rousseaus, and Boultons), there are often many other lineages with the same surname who have no arms at all. In consequence, you have to know a good deal about the history of your lineage before you can even guess what arms, if any, you might be able to claim.

    Furthermore, while there are numerous armorials (dictionaries of coats-of-arms), one or more of which might contain arms belonging to lineages sharing your surname, relatively few of these are as yet available on line, and no one has ever combined all of the different regional and national armorials into a single database or online presentation containing all armorial bearings ever borne anywhere at any time. Thus, the Web is not at present a very useful tool for such searches.

    In any case, as explained above under Question 12, you would have to be able to establish a precise genealogical link to be able to claim a right to any version of those arms, and would have to establish a descent within a particular branch of the lineage to claim a particular version of them, further differenced to represent yourself. Although in the traditions of central and eastern Europe coats-of-arms are used without differences by all members of a an armigerous lineage or even (in Poland) an artificial clan, in Canada the Canadian Heraldic Authority has maintained the Franco-British tradition that personal arms are emblems of individual identity within the context of an armigerous lineage. Thus, even if you can establish a sound hereditary claim to arms, you should still apply to the Authority not only for a registration in your name of the arms in question, but for the application of suitable differences to the arms to indicate your particular line of descent from the founding armiger.  Return


  15. Does the RHSC offer courses on heraldry and examinations?

    Yes! It offers courses leading to two levels of written exams. Passing both levels allows the candidate to attempt level 3, which involves writing a scholarly thesis concerning Canadian heraldry and/or assisting in a number of grants of non-personal arms. If (or when) you successfully complete the requirements for level 3, you will be granted a qualification called a 'license', and entitled to the post-nomials LRHSC (Licentiate of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada) which you may set among the letters representing academic degrees. For details on the Heraldry Proficiency Program and its examinations, click here.  Return