Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Forward ....

So, having looked back to review a bit of what’s happened in this blog and to me in the year now past, it’s time to look forward to what’s coming up in the new year.

First off, of course, I intend to continue to meet my self-established goal of posting a minimum of twice per week. There will times, I expect, where I will exceed this goal, as I have in the past.

Included in the early posts for the new year will be some of the heraldry that we found while wandering the streets of Florence, Italy, last September. (Well, we figured we’d already spent the money for airfare to go from here to Europe to attend the Congress in Stuttgart; why not take a few days more and play tourist someplace special before coming home. It came down to a choice between Florence and Vienna. Sorry, Vienna! Maybe next time.)

Though probably not traveling quite so far from home as Europe in 2011, I already have several speaking engagements booked. All of them are more or less local (Texas is a pretty large place, so “local” may include a wider area than many think), and I get to talk about heraldry at all of them. (You can find a more complete listing of where I’m and what presentations I’ll be giving on my website at

And I hope to be able to make the time to work on a couple of new heraldic projects, as well as getting back to work on a couple of others, in the coming year. One new one is intended to be a short article of the changes in depiction of the crest of the Winslow arms over the years. The crest is a tree stump putting forth new branches, and it appears to me that the depiction has gone from an original intent of having the shield of the arms “hang” from the crest by its strap (or gige) to something that eventually became something that looks like a halo or a bicycle inner tube encircling the stump. Weird, huh?

The second new one is a bigger project, an illustrated booklet of the coats of arms along the gallery façade of the exterior of the Church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, along with as much information as I can glean about the armigers whose arms they are. (They don’t let you take photos inside the church, and their tourist booklets focus far more on the art in the church than the heraldry, but I could photograph the gallery that extends along two sides of the exterior, and it’s a pretty impressive collection of arms.)

Among the projects I want to get back to work on is the continuing search for coats of arms with camels on them, in preparation for an update to, or expanded second edition of, my book Camels In Heraldry. (Information on the current edition can be found at

So, that’s some of what I’m looking forward to heraldically in the coming year. I hope you’ve enjoyed your visits here, and I also hope that as you come back to this blog you will continue to find what I write about here to be interesting. Thank you for dropping by, and I look forward to your visits in the coming year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Looking Back ....

Well, here we are at the end of another year, and our thoughts naturally turn to looking back to see what’s been accomplished in the last twelve months.

In addition to keeping to my initial resolution for this blog when I first began it, that of posting at least twice a week, I feel good about having met that goal. And I hope that the one hundred and some odd posts this year have been at least occasionally interesting and informative to you.

The number of visitors to this blog has been increasing at a slow but steady pace, and I appreciate those of you who drop by and take an interest in what I’ve said here. It’s been interesting to me to see where the visitors come from: from every continent except Antarctica (so far); from large countries (e.g., Russia) and small islands (e.g., the Canary Islands). Thank you all for dropping by.

I’ve also had the chance to do a bit of traveling about this last year, and to talk about heraldry (well, okay, and sometimes genealogy) when I did so. From “An Introduction to Heraldry for Genealogists” locally here in Texas and farther away in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to “The Herald’s Visitations: An often overlooked genealogical resource” down in Houston (immediately following the worst winter storm I have seen since moving to Dallas), to “The Winslows: An American Family and Its Coat of Arms” at the XXIX International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in Stuttgart, Germany. (You can find a more complete listing of where I’ve been and what presentations I’ve given on my website at It’s been a great opportunity to me to be able to go to all these places, to see some old friends, and to make some new ones. And, let me not forget, to see some new displays of heraldry everywhere I went, from British mortars at Yorktown to a three-dimensional achievement of arms in front of the New Castle at Stuttgart. (Not to mention the vast amount of heraldry which can be found in Florence, Italy, about which I will be posting some, but not nearly all, in the near future.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Heraldry at the Castle, Heidelberg

The castle overlooking the city of Heidelberg has a long and complex history. It has stood in ruins for a very long time, and the state is in the process of restoring parts of it and turning it into a tourist attraction. What’s great about that for the heraldry enthusiasts is that the place is chock full of coats of arms, from inlaid tables to fireplace mantels to stained glass windows to deeply carved and painted renditions on the ceilings.

Now, when I say deeply carved, I mean exactly that! The image above is only one of a number that I was able to photograph while we toured the castle.

It’s probably a bit too “foo-foo,” as my wife would say, for me to try installing at home, but it sure is impressive to see in a large room or a long hall. Indeed, it was almost humorous to watch all of the heralds among our group walk into a new room or hall and immediately look up and wander about never seeing our feet, attempting to be careful not to bump into each other, trying to take all the heraldry in!

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Little More Heraldry in the Holy Spirit Church

The other special bit of heraldry in the Holy Spirit Church in Heidelberg that I’d like to share with you was affixed to one of the long walls inside the church.

These were a display of memorial stones that you often find in the floors of European churches. The ones here are generally pretty worn; on some the lettering and coats of arms are still kind of visible, while others are nearly featureless, with the remainder somewhere in between. (On one of the individual stones that I looked at, you could make out the lettering on the right (sinister) side, but that on the left (dexter) side was too worn to decipher.)

Still, there was a nice variety of arms depicted on the stones (on some of them, though, you could only see where a coat of arms should have been but which has been worn down until it is impossible to make out what it was), and I appreciate the fact that the church has tried to preserve them when they made renovations and restorations to the building instead of either tossing them out or cutting them up and “repurposing” them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

(New) Herald in the News!

An article published today (Sunday, December 19) on at notes the promotion of our good friend, Elizabeth Roads, to the title and rank of Snawdoun Herald in the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.  (The photo of Mrs. Roads below was taken at the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences in St. Andrews, Scotland in 2006.)

A quick review of the listing of the officers of the Lyon Court at leads me to believe that Charles Burnett, Ross Herald, has retired, as he is no longer listed on that page. (I have since confirmed that this is the case.  He reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.) His retirement has created an opening for Mrs. Roads' promotion.  Her promotion now leaves an opening for a new pursuivant at the Lyon Court.  (And that opening almost makes me wish that I lived in Scotland.  I'd apply for it!)

Congratulations to Elizabeth Roads, Snawdoun Herald!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holy Spirit Church, Heidelberg

One of the other things that I was hoping to see in our day at Heidelberg is the Holy Spirit Church there. And, in fact, if you knew what you were looking for, you could find it very easily from the heights that the castle there sits on. Yeah, it’s that “little” building in the center in this photo.

I was looking for it, not because I knew that my great-grandfather had attended there, but because I had found a number of individuals of the same (very rare) surname, Lischett, who had attended there, and I pretty much figured that if their name was Lischett and they lived in or around Heidelberg, they also pretty much had to be a relative.

I was fortunate in that our tour group walked right past the church on our way to lunch. And I saw that it was open. So I ate my meal a little faster than everyone else, and hot-footed it back down the street to the Holy Spirit Church, where they not only let me inside but said (after I asked; I always ask first) that I could take photographs. So I did. For the next 45 minutes or so, until the rest of the group was ready to head down to the river for our boat ride up and down the Neckar River.

Have I mentioned before that you can find heraldry everywhere? I seem to recall mentioning it once or twice before. And it was equally true here. One of the coolest bits of heraldry was an old painted wall inside the church that had been uncovered during some restoration work.

It is, obviously, no longer complete, but it is also an old armorial of arms. I haven’t had the time yet to do it, but I hope to be able to sit down fairly soon with all of my photos of this wall (not all of it is in the photo above), stitch a few pictures together, blow them up to their fullest size, and see how many of these coats of arms I can identify. Unsurprisingly, the guidebook I bought about the church is aimed at the general tourist, and not those of us with an interest in heraldry, and so it doesn’t give as much detail about the arms as I might have wished, but there is a paragraph giving a little general information. They are the arms of the southern Odenwald knights, the Kraichgau, who called themselves the “Upper Donkey” Society, a 15th Century tournament society. (Another set in the northern Odenwald were the “Lower Donkey” Society.)

How cool is that? Wander off looking for relatives, and find a painted armorial of knights.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another Heraldic Mystery

Well, it's happened again!  I mean, I know I've said it before, and on a regular basis I run across something that proves it to me again.  "You can find heraldry everywhere!"  And it's true.

We were out Saturday visiting a favorite antiques mall just because we hadn't been there for a while.  And in wandering the aisles looking at what they had, I ran across -- wait for it -- more heraldry!

This time it was a large (20" x 20") poured concrete or ceramic plaque (either way, fairly heavy), with five coats of arms.  And a label that said "Swedish", which after a brief review of the arms and the names, not to mention the wording on the scroll beneath the central arms, I doubted.  (And, sure enough, after buying it, bringing it home, cleaning it up a little, and then doing a little bit of research on the web, it turns out to be Flemish; the towns represented are in the provinces of East Flanders and Antwerp.)

Anyway, in the center of the plaque are the arms of Segelsem (which should be Zegelsem, and whose arms have an eye in chief where the rounded upside-down triangle is on this depiction), and then around it in clockwise order beginning in chief, the towns of Lede, Zwijndrecht, Ninove, and Doel.  You can find these arms on the Heraldry of the World website, with the exception of Lede, for which no image appears.  (There is an image of the current Lede arms on Wikipedia, but the arms there - Azure three Tau crosses or - do not match the arms on the plaque.)

The scroll under the Zegelsem arms, Geen rijker kroon dan eigen schoon, which Babelfish roughly translates as "No richer crown than own clean," is a sentiment that (if I am understanding it correctly) I can certainly agree with.

The real mystery (to me) comes when we look at the two dates on the plaque: 1924 and 1949.  Clearly this plaque is memorializing something, but I have no idea what.  A fairly extensive search on the web has turned up no connections between the five towns and those dates.  Yet there must be some reason for these arms and those dates.  Someone appears to have put a lot of work into creating this plaque.  I'd love to know why.  (Ah, good, another research project to do in my "copious free time.")

In the meantime, I'm going to make a frame for it and hang it in my office where currently the large eagle on a cactus with a rattlesnake in its beak, bordered with the arms of the individual states of Mexico, currently hangs.  I'm not sure where I'll move Mexico to yet.  (So much heraldry; so few walls!)

We will now return you to our continuing posts about the heraldry we found on our European trip in September.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Day in Heidelberg

There were five different choices for day trips during the recent International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences held in Stuttgart, Germany, one of which was an excursion to Heidelberg. I, frankly, leapt at the chance to go on this trip, since my great-grandfather was born in Heidelberg and had emigrated from there to the United States in 1881 at the ripe old age of 14. So it was an opportunity to visit the “auld sod,” as my father would say, and at the very least see some of the things that would have been familiar to my great-grandfather during his youth there.

One part of the day trip was an excursion by boat up and down the Neckar River which the city flanks, giving the visitor (like me) a nice overview of the city itself, and a great view of the ruined castle that overlooks the town. (Not to mention the bridges, public buildings, churches, etc., etc., etc.)

On the front of the main cabin of the boat someone had painted a very nice rendition of the coat of arms of the city of Heidelberg. Indeed, I don’t recall seeing many paintings of heraldry that felt quite so vibrant. It’s a beautifully done piece of work, and the unknown artist is to be congratulated. In my not always so humble opinion, anyway.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Heraldry in the Old Castle, Stuttgart

Many of you may already know of one of the books I have written, Camels In Heraldry. (If you don’t, and/or are interested in seeing more about this book, there is information about it at Of course, I did not believe even at the time that I finished it that the book was a complete listing of every coat of arms (or crest, or supporters) that contained a camel. And, naturally, I’ve found a few more coats with camels since then. (Indeed, I am slowly working on what will either be an update or a supplement to the original volume.)

And, in fact, wandering among the display cases of glass, both armorial and not, I ran across yet another coat of arms (and crest) with a camel!

The arms are given on the glass as those of Barbara Zeilnerin (the arms on the other side of the glass are those of her husband, Lorenzo Biller, and do not contain a camel), made in Hall, Tyrol 1560-1580.  The arms may be blazoned as Gules a camel statant argent crowned or, and the crest might be blazoned as Issuant from between a pair of buffalo horns gules, a legless demi-camel (or a camel's head, neck and back) argent crowned or.

I find the coat of arms particularly interesting because the arms to not seem to be canting; that is, they are not a pun on the surname. The majority of arms with camels that I have found are cants, where the surname is Camel, Cammell, Kamel (in German), Chameau (in French), and so on. But I cannot find such a pun on the name Zeilnerin. I may have to do some research to see if I can find out anything more about the coat of arms and why it contains a camel.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Heraldry in the Old Castle, Stuttgart

This entry and the next one come courtesy of the glass collection in the Württemberg State Museum located in the Old Castle (Altes Schloß), in Stuttgart, Germany. They’ve got a wonderful collection of glass, with some pieces dating back to the Roman empire. But, of course, those pieces contain no heraldry.

One of the things that I particularly enjoy looking at is the ways in which different artists will emblazon (draw) the same coat of arms. In one particularly nice example of this, in the glass collection at the Old Castle are two tall glasses displayed right next to each other, both with the double-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, its wings emblazoned with the coats of arms of the various states of which it consisted, but each done by a different artist.

The most noticeable difference between the two depictions is the arms of Bavaria (Bayern), which in the glass on the left are the usual lozengy (or even fusilly) bendwise, while the one on the right is strictly lozengy. There are other differences between the depictions of the various arms between the two glasses, but mostly these are in the detailing. Still, it can be both entertaining and educational to compare how different artists draw the same coat of arms. And isn’t that part of the fun of heraldry?