Thursday, December 31, 2009

An Old Year Ends

Well, this should be the last post of the year, and year’s end is always a time for reflection.

It was almost a full year ago that I first began this little blog about heraldry. The very first entry was posted on January 19, 2009, and we all have come a long way since then. I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to keep to my commitment to post at least twice a week, and have been able to exceed it some weeks.

I’ve been surprised at the wide geographic spread of those of you who drop by the blog. As you can see from the ClusterMap of where visitors to the blog come from, the readership comes from literally around the world. (None of the tools I have available to keep track of traffic to the blog gives me any information about any of my readers more specific than the internet service provider being used and city, region or country.) I have to admit, the visitor from Fiji was a bit of a surprise, until I found out (on Facebook, if I remember correctly) that a regular reader had been vacationing there.

We’ve gone from a beginning readership of 18 visits (not necessarily visitors; someone coming back would have appeared as a separate visit) last January to our current volume of over 600 visits a month. I don’t think that this number will cause any of the large blogs to worry that I’m about to knock them out of their ranking, but it’s very impressive to me, and certainly beyond my expectations when I began.

The latest traffic data I have to look at for the blog has visitors staying from well under a minute (just checking to see if there’s anything new, I assume) to over an hour (someone was apparently catching up from the earliest posts). The average visit length as of the time I write this is just a little over three minutes.

We’ve recently added two more “Followers” of the blog, bringing our total to fourteen, only two or three of which are members of my family. ;-^) These are folks who have signed up to receive automatic notifications when something new has been posted.

In the face of all this growth from just a year ago, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of you for dropping by, for reading what I have to say, for leaving the occasional comment or for emailing me about a post. I hope that you have found, if not every single one, at least some of the posts to be educational, entertaining, and/or thought-provoking.

For the future, I will continue to try to meet my self-imposed goal of posting at least twice a week, try to keep the posts interesting and educational, and will continue to add useful and interesting websites to the lists of links down the sidebar in the hope that this blog will become a resource for you.

Thank you for helping make this year just past and wonderful one for me, and I look forward to your dropping by the blog in the coming year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Saint Nicholas - A Follow-up

Carol Myers of the Saint Nicholas Center wrote and sent a link to the Center's page of coats of arms from around the world with St. Nicholas or one or more of his attributes on them.  The page, with links to pages of arms from individual countries, is

She writes, "St Nicholas Center, a non-profit with US tax-exempt status, exists solely to spread the word about St Nicholas and to help people understand who Santa Claus/Father Christmas really is. We provide information about the saint, customs from around the world, and a large variety of resources for churches, schools, and families to use to celebrate his feast day. There is also a section for children with on-line activities."  The entire site is very interesting, with a lot of information about St. Nicholas, and well worth the visit.

More "Christmas" Coats of Arms

Traveling back in time from the Santa Claus of the last post, we come to his historical predecessor, Saint Nicholas.  Like most saints, Saint Nicholas has attributes which, if known to the viewer, will help to specify exactly which saint's image is being viewed.  In St. Nicholas' case, he is usually shown wearing a bishop's mitre, often carrying the crozier of a bishop, sometimes holding a Gospel book, and usually shown with either three bezants (gold balls) or three gold coins (referencing the story of his anonymous donation of dowries to three impoverished girls), or three children, or three boys in a pickling tub.  (This last comes from a miracle performed by the Saint, but the story is a tad gross and not really related to heraldry.  If you want to know more about this, or other stories of St. Nicholas, please feel free to visit, e.g.,

Anyway, there are a number of coats of arms with a depiction of Saint Nicholas on them.  The two shown here are the arms of the towns of Ergersheim, France (on the left) and of Waal, Germany.

Finally, and my favorite of all of them, are the arms of Sint Niklaas, Belgium (shown here in two variations; the one on the tile comes from the Saint Nicholas Center's website at  I'm not sure about the turnip.  I have to assume it has less to do with Saint Nicholas than it does with the town or region in which Sint Niklaas is located.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

Christmas is nearly here, with all of the joy (and the stress) that can come with it. But it’s also a good time to be pondering about the things that we are grateful for. In my case, right now, I’m grateful for the many friends and acquaintances I have made in the heraldry societies to which I belong. And one of the reasons that I belong to these heraldry societies is because of the many coats of arms that these friends and acquaintances share with others in these societies (and, by extension, me). Some of which I find interesting or unusual enough to then share with you.

This time, it being “the season” and all, here are a couple of “coats of arms” shared by one of the other members of the American Heraldry Society relating to Santa Claus “or rather, his annual ‘helpers’.”

The first is from a website entitled “Santa Claus Oath” (, a website dedicated to a couple of extraordinary Santas. The website notes that they were creating an “historically accurate” coat of arms for the Oath, though I not sure what they mean by “historically accurate”, because, frankly, I haven't seen any historical coats that look like this. What they did try to do was to include in the achievement charges and elements meaningful to them, and these are described in greater detail on the web page given above.

The second coat of arms comes from The Royal Order of Santa Claus (, which appears to be a part of The National Santa Claus Registry. The coat of arms is pretty much self-explanatory, with both secular and religious elements portrayed. I find the use of a “Santa” cap used as a “cap of maintenance” might be to be rather appealing.

In any event, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and hope for you to have the very best of holidays. And may your lives be filled with heraldry!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Cool Heraldic On-Line "Booklet"

Bruce Patterson, Saint Laurent Herald of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, sends out a period email with various items of heraldic "news" from north of the border.  In the most recent one, he gives a link ( to what is a pretty neat little on-line "booklet", a short series of web pages on a single theme, "Heraldic Symbols in the Senate Speaker's Chambers".  In addition to some general background information on heraldry, and a picture of the Speaker's Chambers (this picture here),

the site's got individual pages on the history, and arms and crests, of the first twelve Governors General of Canada which appear around the Chambers, as well as the three Royal cyphers there.  It's a really well-done site about a little known place with some great heraldic adornment that most of us would otherwise never see.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wearable Heraldry from Canada

Here’s a couple of humorous heraldic tee shirts that I purchased in far western Canada and far eastern Canada during a couple of trips there.

The one on the left, which I found in Victoria on Vancouver Island, is pretty much self-explanatory. It’s also a very comfortable shirt to wear. It seems to be softer than most of my other tee shirts, so I really enjoy wearing this one. And, sometimes, springing it on my heraldry enthusiast friends!

The one on the right, which, as it notes, I purchased in Quebec, is a take-off on the Ferrari logo, keeping the colors of the shield and the Italian tricolor above the shield, but substituting a moose for the rampant (or forceny) horse, and the word “Quebec” for “Ferrari”, though retaining the typeface. It was one of those that, when I saw it, I just knew that I had to buy it! It was simply too funny to pass up.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Historical Wearable Heraldry

This one is a tee shirt that I bought when I was in Boston, Massachusetts last year, on a triple mission: taking a vacation; getting pictures of family grave markers; and getting pictures of heraldry (mostly from grave markers) that appear in the Gore roll of arms. (Some information about the Gore roll of arms, an 18th Century roll of arms created in Boston, can be found at:

The site, King’s Chapel and the King’s Chapel Burying Ground, was a two-fer. There are, both in the burying ground outside and within the Chapel itself, coats of arms which can also be found in the Gore roll. Inside, there are several coats of arms which were once placed on the tombs of folks in what is now effectively the basement of the Chapel. They were moved upstairs into the Chapel itself after laws were passed against mixing the dead with the living (for fear of disease, I presume), and the tombs were bricked up.

And outside in the burying ground is the table tomb of two of my ancestors, John and Mary (Chilton) Winslow, which also has a plaque of the Winslow arms on it, which arms also appear in the Gore roll.

The shirt, of course, gives some basic information about the Chapel, and bears the arms of the Hanoverian kings of England.

All in all, it’s a pretty cool place, and if you ever find yourself in Boston, I highly recommend a visit! (And maybe you can pick up an heraldic tee shirt for yourself.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wearable Heraldry for the Head

Last post I noted the gimme cap that I bought in Cambridge with the arms of Harvard University on it. Today, I’m showing of three more caps, two with coats of arms and one with a town seal that is only semi-heraldic.

On the left, we have a cap I bought in Quebec in 2008 during the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held there. The cap was bought at the gift shop in the Citadel, the large star fort that once was the main defense for the city, and is currently the home of the Canadian 22nd Regiment. The coat of arms on the Regimental badge is, appropriately enough, the arms of the Province of Quebec.

On the right is the cap I picked up at the Edinburgh Tattoo in 2006, which we attended while at the Congress held in St. Andrews, Scotland. The Tattoo has its own coat of arms, with the white saltire of Scotland and the castle of Edinburgh splitting the chief between them.

Finally, though less truly heraldic, is the seal of the town of Upton, Massachusetts, which some of my ancestors lived in (including my third great-grandfather and his first family, about whom none of his later family seems to have known. His first wife and their infant son both died early and are buried in one of the older cemeteries in the town.  And, yes, for the genealogists among you who are asking, while we were there I got pictures of their tombstones). The seal contains a sheaf of wheat (heraldic “garb”), indicating the primarily agricultural base of the town.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More Wearable Heraldry

This time from another educational institution, Harvard University.

When my wife and I spent a week in Massachusetts last year, hunting down family gravesites and the Westford Knight, among other things, we decided to stay in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston. The B&B we stayed at was located just a few blocks from Harvard Yard, and the Yard was a convenience shortcut to the subway. (No, we didn’t see “poor old Charlie”, the “man who never returned” from his trip on the MTA.)

But you know I just had to check out the gift shops around the university to see if I could find a tee shirt with the well-known Harvard coat of arms. In doing so, I managed to find not only a tee shirt, but a gimme cap, as well, as you can see here.

There’s actually a fair bit of heraldry in and around the university, on the buildings, on signs, in windows. It was really nice to see not only the appropriate use of heraldry someplace here in the U.S., but also the number of different coats of arms so used. If you ever get a chance to go to Cambridge, I recommend taking the time to walk about the campus (and especially the walled Harvard Yard) to see the heraldry there.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wearable Heraldry ... It’s Everywhere!

I thought I’d share with you some of the wearable heraldry I’ve run across and purchased over the years. Most of it I actually found “in situ”; that is, I got in at the location, and didn’t buy it over the internet. And, of course, sometimes just putting on and wearing one or another of these tee shirts, or “gimme caps,” brings back memories of the times and places I was there.

What we have here are two tee shirts with the arms of educational institutions. On the left, the University of Ottawa in Canada, on the right, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

I picked up the UO tee shirt while attending my first International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, held on the campus of the university in 1996. It was a really great introduction to the Congresses, and I’ve managed to attend every one of them since that time. (Though apparently I did cause a bit of a stir among some of the European attendees, by not taking off my cowboy hat upon entering the building, waiting for that until I had reached the lecture room(s). My thought was, well, I’ve got my camera in one hand, the Congress canvas bag with papers, etc. in the other, where was I to put my hat to carry it about? So I left it on my head until I reached my destination and sat down. But apparently this was something which is “not done” on the other side of the Atlantic, and in my travels there I’ve tried to be much more careful so as not to offend.) This Congress was also my introduction to some of the luminaries of the heraldic world: Rob Watt, the Chief Herald of Canada, Frederick Brownell, then State Herald of South Africa, Charles Burnett, Ross Herald of the Lyon Court in Scotland, Henry Bedingfield, York Herald of the College of Arms in London, and a whole lot of others, many of whom have become good friends over the years.

The Trinity College shirt was purchased in the gift shop just across the way from where we were lodging while attending the International Congress held in Dublin in 2002. (This is the same gift shop that is also the entrance to the Book of Kells exhibit and also, which I found even more impressive, the “Long Room”, the long, barrel-arched room, two stories high, that contains all of the oldest books in the Trinity College Library.) We were lodged just across the square at Trinity College in the dorms known as Botany Bay. (And the entire time we were there, I kept hearing Chekov’s voice in my head: “Botany Bay? Botany Bay! Captain, we must get out of here!”) And I also learned that you really need very thick-soled shoes if you’re going to spend much time walking across the “hallowed cobblestones” of the College; they’re pretty hard to walk on, and will really make your feet hurt if you’re not used to them.