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Many New Zealanders are descendants of ancestry who were among the nobility of the British Isles. Nobility, the British landed gentry and royalty were granted and entitled to bear coats-of-arms through:
- The performance of heroic deeds
- Notable achievement
- Elevation to prominent positions in the government of England.
These grants were documented through the England visitations of heralds.
Heraldry or armorial books describe coats of arms and those individuals that were entitled to bear them. They may also note earlier bearers of that coat of arms, relationships, birth dates, and other genealogical information. Each armorial will differ from others and will include different names. Some of the more minor but noble families are not included in any books.
The following sources are of particular interest:
Cockayne, George Edward. The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain & The United Kingdom. London, England: St Catherine Press, 1910. (Family History Library book Ref 942 D22cok; films 990316-973317.)
Humphrey-Smith, Cecil R. Armigerous Ancestors. Canterbury, England: Family History Books, 1997. (Family History Library book 942 D5hcr.) This is a catalogue of sources for the study of the Visitations of the Heralds in the 16th and 17th centuries with referenced lists of names.
The Family History Library has collected many publications on heraldry. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Place Search, under:
GREAT BRITAIN - HERALDRY
GREAT BRITAIN - GENEALOGY
Sources with information about noble ancestors may also be listed under:
GREAT BRITAIN - NOBILITY
ENGLAND - NOBILITY
Such families are often subjects of published genealogical books and articles, biographical dictionaries, and encyclopedias.