Presentations

The following list contains the titles of many of our presentations, along with a brief synopsis of the topic being presented for each one. If you would be interested in having one or more of these illustrated lectures presented to your organization, please contact us (see contact information here).

Don't see a presentation here that matches your particular interests? Please feel free to contact us (see contact information here) and tell us. We regularly create or tailor presentations to meet the specific interests of a group.


An Introduction to Heraldry for Genealogists

"At the outset there is a curious fact in the relationship between the two subjects [of heraldry and genealogy]. While students of Heraldry do take to Genealogy and acquire a considerable knowledge of it, those who begin as genealogists seldom if ever take any interest in Heraldry. This is most unfortunate because the two subjects are necessarily connected." (L.G. Pine, Heraldry and Genealogy, p. 145)

This presentation illustrates the connection between genealogy and heraldry, and demonstrates with examples and applications how heraldry can become "the genealogist's most colorful tool" (even when it's in black and white). Included are a brief overview of the history of heraldry from its earliest days into the 21st Century, the various parts of an heraldic "achievement" and what clues they may offer to a genealogical researcher, methods of identifying coats of arms, and where to look for (and ways to use) heraldry. Also discussed are a couple of common misconceptions about heraldry.


The Heralds Visitations, an Often Overlooked Genealogical Resource

"No genealogist whose interests lie in sixteenth and seventeenth century England can afford to neglect visitation pedigrees. Used with discretion, they are an indispensable section of the genealogist's library." (G.D. Squibb, Visitation Pedigrees and the Genealogist, p. 25)

The heralds visitations of England and Ireland recorded not only who could bear certain titles of rank and coats of arms (and in some cases, who couldn't), but also family lineages. This presentation introduces the heralds visitations, when and why they were performed, the process involved in making them, the genealogical and heraldic information their records may contain, and where the published visitations, their indexes and related records may be found.


Interpreting Blazon, the Language of Heraldry

"Or a bend engrailed gules." Wait, say what? The specialized language of heraldry, while seemingly cryptic, is really a remarkably concise way of describing coats of arms without requiring a picture. This presentation will help to make the technical jargon, called "blazon," with its unusual words and specialized grammar, comprehensible to the non-herald genealogists who may encounter it in the course of their research.


Coats of Arms: Meanings and Myths

Heraldry has been called "the genealogist's most colorful tool." But what do the colors and figures in heraldry actually mean? Is red really "the blood of a martyr"? Does a unicorn truly stand for "purity"? This presentation will help you to discover the truth about what the colors, lines of division, and charges or symbols on a shield may mean.


The United States of America: The search for a national coat of arms

The coat of arms of the United States of America, the shield found on the breast of the bald eagle on the Great Seal on the reverse of the $1 bill, was only one of a number of designs suggested by different committees and individuals as the young nation searched for a national emblem. This presentation looks at the history of those committees and the evolution of their designs into what finally became the coat of arms of the new nation. Also presented are some of the uses to which the national coat of arms is put today, as well as some of those government entities which incorporate or use in modified form the U.S. arms in their own heraldic emblems.


The Gore Roll: A colonial American roll of arms

The Gore roll of arms is the earliest known American roll of arms, depicting 99 coats of arms dating to the early 18th Century. Created in Boston, Massachusetts, by carpet and coach painter John Gore and his son, Samuel, and possibly his grandson, Christopher Gore, the roll is a remarkable record of the heraldry of individuals who lived in or passed through pre-Revolutionary War Massachusetts. This presentation surveys the history of the roll, its authors and their place in Boston society, the coats of arms found in it, and some of the other places where those arms may be found even today in and about the city of Boston.


The Westford Knight: Heraldic evidence of pre-Columbian Scots in America?

In the little town of Westford, Massachusetts, stands a stone monument next to a rock ledge. The monument was erected in 1976 and memorializes "Prince Henry First Sinclair of Orkney," his voyage to North America in the year 1398, and the death of one of his party in 1399 near Prospect Hill in Westford. The stone ledge next to the monument is said to bear an "armorial effigy ... memorial to this knight". What is the Westford Knight? Is it in fact a medieval effigy of a knight bearing a coat of arms? Or is it just patterns in glacial striations? This presentation looks at the evidence and the arguments, pro and con, about this controversial heraldic figure.


On-line Resources for Heraldic (and Thus Genealogical) Research

Increasing numbers of heraldic, and therefore genealogical, resources are becoming available on-line. This presentation surveys some of the more useful on-line websites and sources, discusses their relative strengths and weaknesses for genealogical research, addresses how to search these sources and find new ones, and also notes types of websites to avoid.


One Approach to Publishing Your Family History

As genealogists, we know how important it is: preserving and sharing not just the names and dates, but the stories, the events in the lives of the people in our family trees. But it is such a daunting task that too many times it never even gets started. How do you begin? What do you write? What about pictures or other personal touches? How do you print and publish? This presentation discusses one successful approach to writing and sharing these stories, as well reviewing some of the many printing and binding options available to fit anyone's budget.


Finding Your New England Ancestors

Genealogical research in the six New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut) can sometimes be seen as easier to do than in many other regions in the United States: "These people killed themselves to make sure there was a paper trail." (Michael Comeaux, Assistant Archivist, Massachusetts State Archives, quoted in The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, p. 72.) But that strength, the many records available, can also make genealogical research in New England challenging, because it can take a lot of hunting to locate all the specific records that may relate to New England ancestors. This presentation covers some of the peculiarities of genealogical research in New England and surveys many of the most useful places to start looking for genealogical records and information available there.


The Boke of St. Albans: An Introduction

The Bokys of Haukyng and Huntyng; and also of coot-armuris, popularly known as The Boke of St. Albans, published in 1486, is a book of three treatises written to guide "gentill men and honest persones" in the arts necessary to an English gentleman; hawking, hunting, and heraldry. It is a seminal work as well as a glimpse into the late medieval mindset on both heraldry and the larger world of which heraldry was seen as a proper part. Printed only ten years after the introduction of the printing press to the British Isles, it is the first treatise on heraldry written in English, and had a direct influence on other heraldry books published more than a century later. This presentation gives a history of the Boke of St. Albans and its author, reviews its heraldic sections: the Liber Armorum or "Book of Arms", and the blasyng of armys, and discusses its place in history.

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