In catalogues, malls, and books, we often see Grants of Arms attributed to the Keating family. Many of us have at least one copy of these “traditional” arms somewhere in our house. Are we entitled to them, however? In Irish heraldry, Arms are granted to an individual and his or her descendants. (Traditionally, only the male line can bear the arms, but more recently the female line as well, providing that they retain their last name.) This means that unless you can prove descent from the individual who was originally granted the arms by the College or Heraldry in Dublin, Ireland, you are (by Irish tradition and law) not entitled to carry those arms.
Now, having said that, in the United States, there is no official College of Arms. Except for trademarked images and a few governmental seals (the Presidential Seal being the most famous), we can use whatever we darn well want. We can use the "traditional" Keating arms, we can slightly modify it, or we can disregard it altogether, and create our own. We may even decide to register it with the trademark office. (I’m not sure what the legalities of this are.)
Although a bit of a traditionalist, I’ve never felt completely comfortable using the “traditional” arms, as I’m not sure that I’m (by tradition) entitled to them. And, while I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a set of arms unique to myself or to my family, I would feel more comfortable if it was “official”. A quick check of the web gave me the address of the Office of The Chief Herald of Ireland. Lo and behold, for a fee, anyone with the proper credentials can obtain an official Grant of Arms.
In order to apply for arms, you have to prove that you “have significant links with Ireland, either through ancestry or otherwise.” (You could also become a citizen of Ireland, or reside normally in Ireland. Both options, while tempting, are not currently likely for myself.) While it sounds as if the requirements are fairly lenient (Bearing the name Keating may even be enough…), it would probably be best to be able to prove desecendency through official paperwork (birth certificates, death notices, census, etc.)
Once you’ve proven descent, a Herald of Arms will contact you to discuss possible designs. This is where things get fun. What elements will go into your official arms?
I’m in the process of obtaining a Grant of Arms, either for myself, or for my father. As I gain more details from the process, I’ll add to this page.
(Okay, first step is setting aside the money for the arms, which I still haven’t done. More later…)
(Much of the information on this page was obtained from the website of the Chief Herald of Ireland. Look there for more information.)