Family history and 
one name study 
Glenister arms
The modern herald's view

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The definitve statement

For further information about the historic use of arms I wrote in May 1990 to the College of Arms, London, the authority on all matters relating to arms and heraldry

I received the following reply from Mr Thomas Woodcock, Somerset Herald:

A search has been made in the College's official records and I must at once report that there are no entries of your surname and the arms are a slight variation of those recorded in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century for a family named Gloucester. These arms are blazoned "gules on a chief indented of five points or a lion passant sable". This coat is identical to that used by the family of your name except that a chief occupies the top third of the shield whereas per fess is a division across the centre of the shield. In many representations of arms it might be difficult to tell whether the division of the shield was a large chief or a high per fess division.

The entries which attribute these arms without a crest to a family named Gloucester commence with an entry in a roll of arms known as the Colour on Collour Roll of circa 1450. This is in a manuscript numbered Vincent 164 on folio 222. It is followed by shield number 2183 on the Domville Roll of circa 1480. The arms then appear in a manuscript of circa 1520 numbered L1 on page 287 and another manuscript of the same date numbered L2 on page 226. The arms are also in an early sixteenth century manuscript known as Prince Arthur's Book in part 4 as shield number 120. Unfortunately none of these entries give more than the name Gloucester. The arms are not those of the City of Gloucester so they must relate to a family with the surname but no pedigree was subsequently entered.

Between 1530 and 1689 the Heralds went round the counties of England and Wales approximately every 30 years recording the arms and pedigrees of families of gentry resident in each county. This system was known as the Heralds' Visitation and the Heralds visited Hertfordshire on 1572, 1634, and 1664. On none of these occasions did a family of Glenister establish a right to arms.

Since 1672 the complete text of every grant of arms has been kept in a consecutive series of volumes now numbering 154 and each containing between one and two hundred grants. There is no grant to anyone of your surname. Before 1672 the College relies on the notebooks of the Kings of Arms and Heralds which record approximately ten thousand further grants. Again there are no Glenister grants. Between approximately 1550 and 1700 the Heralds organised funerals and records of these funerals form part of the College's official records. No funeral was organised for anyone named Glenister.

Since the end of the Heralds' Visitation system it has been for the families to come to the College of Arms to record their pedigrees. Approximately twenty thousand have been recorded but there are none for families of your name.

I have no doubt, however, that the arms were taken from some manuscript armory which attributed them to Gloucester and they were simply misappropriated by a family of your name. The very simple crest of "a lion passant" tends to support this view as crests granted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tended to be much more complicated and the Gloucester family did not have a crest.

This seems to be a definitive rebuttal of any official grant of arms! I have no doubt that various Glenisters "adopted" (or, to use the Herald's word, "misappropriated") arms at various stages.

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