In France only the noble classes originally had coats of arms. But little was done to prevent the spread of heraldry to French burgher, artisan, and peasant classes. In 1696 the king, to raise money, ordered everyone who bore arms to register them. Even those who did not bear arms were forced to buy them. Arms registrations were documented.
Various authors in France 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 also note early bearers of that coat of arms, sometimes with relationships, birth dates, and other genealogical information. Each armorial will differ from others and will include different names. Some minor noble families are not included in any books. The following sources are of particular interest in France:
Jougla de Morenas, Henri. Grand armorial de France (Great armorial of France). Seven Volumes. Paris, France: Editions Héraldiques, 1934-1952. (FHL Q book 944 D22j; fiche 661990-661993.)
Rietstap, Johannes Baptist. Armorial Général. Two Volumes. Gouda: G.B. van Goor Zonen, 1887. Reprinted Berlin, Germany: J.S. Stargardt, 1934, and New York, NY, USA: Barnes and Noble, 1965. (FHL book 940 D6r; film 1,045,393 items 2-4, and 1,045,394.)
The Family History Library has collected many armorials. These are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under FRANCE - HERALDRY. For information about noble ancestors, look in the catalog under FRANCE - NOBILITY. In addition, such families are often subjects of published genealogical books or articles. See the "Genealogy" and "Nobility" sections.