2010-05-30 11:38:07 UTC
History Of Your Family Name". Turning to the appropriate page, 45, reveals a whole-
page ad for a "Magnificent Scroll With The History Of Your Family Name" (also in
caps), with an invitation to collect 12 tokens from the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail to
claim this "wonderful gift or keepsake".
The accompanying copy claims: "The scroll will...reveal whether the surname
ultimately has Anglo-Saxon, Viking or Norman roots, or whether it comes from some
different background, perhaps from further afield. Our scrolls are based on more than
30 years or research covering surnames from a variety of origins."
OH NO! I groaned when I saw this rubbish. It is no different to the kind of "Surname
bucket shops", as I call them, that you find in shopping malls or online and that will sell
you these worthless pieces of paper.
What is worse is that the advert showed a scroll for the name, BARKER, and as well
as a potted history of the name, it also described arms and a crest for the name. Well,
we all know full well - or should - that there is no such thing as a "family coat of arms"
or family crest. I am particularly sad that a major newspaper group - I have myself had
numerous letters published in the D. Mail - should allow themselves to take part in
such a charade. I have written a letter (reproduced below) to the Mail on Sunday but
whether they will publish it is doubtful!
Others may wish to follow my lead to make them aware of what the genealogical world
thinks of such offers.
"As a serious genealogist, I will not be taking up your offer of a scroll with the history of
"The people who produce these things are known to proper researchers and family
historians as "bucket shop genealogists" and are not to be taken seriously.
"If folks just want something pretty to hang on their dining room wall, all well and good.
But they should be aware that many of these so-called surname histories are often
poorly researched and inaccurate.
"Moreover, I note that the example you showed of the surname, Barker, included a
description of a coat of arms and family crest.
"Your readers should be made aware that there is no such thing as a family coat of
arms or crest, or arms for a particular surname. Arms are granted, with a few
exceptions, only to individuals and their heirs in the direct male line.
"You give the impression that everyone with the surname, Barker, is entitled to use the
arms. This is absolutely not the case. Though there are some Barkers who were
granted arms, the vast majority of people of the name will not be entitled to them.
"Indeed, someone using the arms without authority - say, on headed notepaper - with
intent to gain a financial advantage could be guilty of a criminal offence.
"I suggest you should have consulted the College of Arms before proceeding with this
offer. Their officers (known as heralds) would have explained the rules of heraldry to
Genealogical researcher, writer & lecturer
Newbies' Guide to Genealogy & Family History: www.genuki.org.uk/gs/Newbie.html
"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about,
and that is not being talked about."