Heralds' Visitations 15th-17th Centuries
See G. D. Squibb, "Visitation Pedigrees and the Genealogist" in Genealogy
Magazine Vol.13 No.8 (Dec.1960). This has subsequently been published
by Phillimore (1965) and Pinhorns (1978).
In the 15thC the Senior Heralds, known as Kings of
Arms, were given the right to grant arms. The heralds began to comile registers
both of the arms already in use and those they had granted. Early in the
16thC conditions became more stringent when certain property requirements
had to be proven before a grant of arms would be approved.
From 1530 onwards, at intervals of about 30 years,
the Heralds made tours of the country to examine gentlemen's claims; they
took account of records of previous visitations, family muniments and traditions
before allowing a claim.
The Herald was empowered "to put down or otherwise
deface at his discretion" all unlawful arms, crests, cognizances, and devices.
"in plate, jewels, paper, parchment, windows, gravestones and monuments
or elsewhere wheresoever they be set or placed".
They could also summon before them any person who
had unlawfully "usurped and taken upon him any name or title of honour
or dignity as esquire, gentleman or other".
Visitations continued until 1686. The Harleian Society
has printed copies of visitation pedigrees, although some of them are suspect!
Nevertheless, many of them are genealogical records of value.