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Heraldry is the design, use, regulation, and recording of coats of arms [wapens]. Originally, coats of arms were granted to individuals, not families. However, sometimes the right to bear a coat of arms was inherited by the descendants of the person whom it was granted to.
Since 1581, when the Dutch people renounced Phillip II as their king, the Dutch have not had a monarch to grant coats of arms to deserving individuals. Coats of arms have been granted to Dutch nobles since 1815 by Royal Decree and registered by the High Court of Nobility. Since 1945 anyone may establish a coat of arms and have it registered with the Central Office for Genealogy, in ’s-Gravenhage.
If one of your ancestors was a public official such as an alderman, sheriff, mayor, or notary there is a great chance that he used a seal of his family crest. Many of these can be found in the Muschart Collection (compiled by R. T. Muschart), available at the Central Office for Genealogy at http://www.cbg.nl/.
Various authors have prepared armorial, or heraldry, books. An armorial is a collection of descriptions of coats of arms and the families that bear them. It also briefly describes their entitlement to that coat of arms. It may note early bearers of the coat of arms and sometimes notes their relationships to one another, birth dates, and other genealogical information. Each armorial differs from the others and includes different names. Some minor noble families are not included in any books. The following sources are of particular interest in the Netherlands:
- Rietstap, Johannes Baptist. Armorial Géneral (General Armory). 2 vol. Gouda: G. B. van Goor Zonen, 1887. Reprint. Berlin: J. S. Stargardt, 1934. Reprint. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1965. (FHL book 940 D6r; films 1045393 items 2–4 and 1045394.)
- Vorsterman van Oyen, A. A. Stam– en Wapenboek van Aanzienlijke Nederlandsche Familien met Genealogische en Heraldische Aanteekeningen (Genealogical and Heraldic Book of Notable Families in the Netherlands). 3 vol. Groningen: J. B. Wolters, 1885–1890. (FHL book Q949.2 D24o; films 1181546 and 1181547 item 1.)
The Family History Library has collected many armorial and heraldry books. These are listed in the Place search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
NETHERLANDS – HERALDRY
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – HERALDRY
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – HERALDRY
Sources with information about noble ancestors may also be listed under:
NETHERLANDS – NOBILITY
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – NOBILITY
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – NOBILITY