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Overheard on the Message Boards: Robinson Coat of Arms
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

May 15, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I am interest in the Robinson Coat of Arms. My side of the family came form Scotland to England. How do I find out what the coat of arms looks like? -- Nick

A: Coats of arms, sometimes better known as heraldry, are a misunderstood offshoot of genealogical research. In reality it is its own specialty and really has nothing to do with genealogy, though some of the records generated in heraldry may be useful to genealogists. Over the years, the two fields of study have become blurred.

While the rules of who was entitled to a given crest and coat of arms vary from country to country, in England the rules are specific. A coat of arms was assigned to a specific individual rather than an entire family.

No coat of arms for a surname.

Coat of Arms for a Surname

Many people have been led to believe that a coat of arms is claimable by anyone who shares a surname. There are no surname coats of arms. Each coat of arms is assigned to a single individual. Through an accepted line of descent, usually a male line of descent, a descendant six or eight generations down the line may be entitled to that same coat of arms. The rest of the family however, is not.

This ruling is especially true for English families, and is reiterated in the College of Arms Web site. Other countries may vary, so it would depend on what country you could trace your ancestry back to as to whether or not this applies to your Robinson research.

With that said there are some sites that will sell you a coat of arms for the Robinson surname. Sometimes people enjoy these coats of arms because they were created for someone named Robinson, even if the current generation is not really entitled to the arms. You can find many of these sites by typing in a search term of heraldry or coat of arms to any of the general search engines. Just remember that while they will display an arms it may be only one of those given to individuals with the surname of Robinson because of the rules mentioned above.

You will find a Coat of Arms for someone with the Robinson surname by visiting Free Coats of Arms online.

Want to Learn More?

There are a number of valuable Web sites and books available on this topic

In Conclusion

There are no family crests or family coats of arms. Instead there are arms given to specific individuals, which may be passed down through the family, usually to the oldest son.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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