A Dunton Family Tradition Since 1996

Volume VI  Issue 4 Fall 2001
Now in the 6th Year

Pssst! Want to Buy Your Family's Coat of Arms?
by Richard W. Eastman

In many shopping malls across America, you will see pushcart vendors selling reproductions of coats of arms, claiming to be the "proud history and heritage of your family name" or similar words. These merchants sell coats of arms on parchment paper, suitable for framing. They also may sell coats of arms on t-shirts, sweatshirts, golf jerseys, stationery, coffee mugs or even key chains.

Similar "businesses" exist on the Web. A number of Web sites proclaim that they can sell you "authentic" copies of your family's coat of arms. One Web site says, "What is your Name? What was it's origin? Was it taken from the name of a village? Was it taken from the Bible? A clan name? An Occupation? An ancient landmark? Who were your historical namesakes who bore your fine family name in the homeland of your ancestors?" Sometimes they also claim to sell "gifts of lasting heritage."

I have one thing to say to these con artists: "Balderdash!"

Actually, that's not my first choice of response, but, after all, this is a family newsletter. The study of coats of arms is called heraldry. Those who control the issuance of arms are the heralds. Typically, each country in Western Europe as well as in England, Scotland, and Ireland has an office of the heralds, sometimes called the Kings of Arms. The heralds are empowered to decide who is authorized to display a certain coat of arms. If you do not have authorization from the heralds, you are not authorized to display any coat of arms.

Most Americans seem ignorant of one very basic fact: in Western Europe and in the British Isles, there is no such thing as a "family coat of arms." A coat of arms is issued to one person, not to a family. After that person is deceased, his eldest heir may apply for the same coat of arms. Again, when he dies, his heir may apply. The rules for determining who is eligible to display a coat of arms are very similar to the rules for becoming King or Queen of England. However, even the proper heir cannot display the coat of arms until he or she has received authorization (been confirmed) by the heralds. At any one time, only one person may rightfully display a coat of arms.

According to the American College of Heraldry, "While Americans are usually fascinated by the beauty of heraldry, they are rarely familiar with its meaning and traditions and, therefore, often misunderstand and even abuse this rich cultural heritage. They seldom understand that a coat of arms is usually granted, certified, registered or otherwise recognized as belonging to one individual alone, and that only his direct descendants with proven lineage can be recognized as eligible to inherit the arms. Exceptions to this rule are rare."

The American College of Heraldry also says, "It is highly inappropriate for one to locate the arms of another person sharing the same surname, and to simply adopt and use these arms as one's own." My interpretation of this is that, if you are displaying an unauthorized coat of arms, you are impersonating someone else.

The College of Arms in England (the heralds for English, Welsh, Northern Irish, and Commonwealth families) says, "For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past."

Despite these warnings, many vendors are making money by preying on Americans' ignorance of the topic. The pushcarts you see in shopping malls typically are franchise operations. One pushcart owner told me that he paid $6,000 for a "franchise" to sell this stuff. The so-called franchise did not include a protected territory; another franchisee was free to set up business in the same area. For the $6,000 investment, the franchisee receives a computer with a database containing thousands of surnames and so-called "family coats of arms," a high-quality printer, a supply of parchment paper, and a supply of coffee cups, key chains and other paraphernalia. 

These franchisees reportedly receive no training in the study of heraldry. The ones I have talked to didn't recognize the term "College of Arms."

The Web sites aren't much better. The ones I have looked at seem to have carefully-worded claims. Instead of saying, "your family's coat of arms," they will say something like "your historical namesakes." Okay, "namesakes" doesn't mean "ancestors," but it still will be misleading to many people. When a Web site proclaims, "your historical namesakes," most people will think that means "my family." However, if argued in court, the wording on the Web site would probably be considered correct. In short, I doubt if these companies will be shut down for misrepresenting their wares as they are very careful in their choice of words.

The next time someone offers a copy of your "family's coat of arms," ask them for the documentation. They won't have any. If a friend of yours is displaying a coat of arms on his stationery or on his fireplace mantel, I suggest you simply walk away smiling. There's no sense in upsetting a good friendship. But don't be as gullible as your friend. And please, please do not display your "family's coat of arms" on your genealogy Web site unless you have been confirmed by the heralds, Okay?

If you would like to learn more about the serious study of heraldry and any rights you might have to display coats of arms, there are a number of Web sites devoted to the truth. Here is a short list of some of the more reputable ones:

None of the above sell printouts on parchment paper, t-shirts or key chains. Some of them do sell books and magazines devoted to the study of heraldry, however.

Here are some Web sites selling questionable merchandise. If you care about accuracy, please avoid:

There are many other such sites on the Internet; some of them appear to be franchisees of the ones I have listed. Any site that purports to sell "your family coat of arms" is a rip-off.

Richard W. Eastman publishes a free weekly eNewsletter dedicated to the subject of genealogy.  There are two different methods to subscribe or to unsubscribe from his newsletter:

Method #1: to subscribe, to cancel an existing subscription, or to read back issues, go to:

Method #2: To subscribe or to cancel an existing subscription, send an e-mail to newsletter@rootscomputing.com with either a subject of subscribe or a subject of unsubscribe. The message text is unimportant; only the subject line is used. An automated process will then add or delete your e-mail address from the newsletter mailing list.

Links to Other Duntons on the Web

These links are simply a series of Web addresses containing information about Duntons.  These links are not necessarily of a genealogical orientation.

Submit obituaries, marriage, military service, special events, birth announcements and prayer requests to keep us all up to date!

Benjamin Davis Koeppe was born on the 5th of Sept 2001, in Omaha, Nebraska. His parents are Fred and Karen Koeppe.   Grandparents are Virginia Bayne, of North Platte, Nebraska;  Russell Bayne, of Eddyville, Nebraska; and June Koeppe, of Kearney, Nebraska.  He joins his brother Alex at home.

Submitted by June Margaret Dunton Koeppe

The biggest news of this day is regarding the attacks against the United States here on our shores.  These attacks, although geographically specific, were against the concepts of freedom and democracy.  These ideals are global in nature and affect many people worldwide.

For a page of general informational links pertaining to the attacks and how you can help, please visit http://www.VictorySeeds.com/news/attack.shtml.

What's new cousins???  Let us know for the next issue.


After just sending out a mass email to our family mailing list notifying them of the newsletter update, about 2/3 of the messages bounced back.  Some people's Internet Service Providers (ISP) seem to have gone out of business and many more appear to have changed email addresses.

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New information has been added to the "Archive Page".

  • New images associated with Long Island Railroad Images

  • Article about Frank Fuller Dunton

  • Biographical information on A. Davidson Dunton

  • Biographical information on Dr. William Rush Dunton, Jr.

  • Biographical information on George Dunton Widener

  • Biographical information on James G. Dunton

  • Biographical information on Loren Dunton

  • Obituary of Robert Gilley Dunton 

  • New photographic images uploaded

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"Life On The Farm"
Being a brief, regular accounting of the events from life on the Victor Hugo Dunton farmstead in Oregon

Life here on the farm was very typical this summer.  Sara was home from college, our gardening and farming went as best as can be expected in light of very odd weather conditions, and the harvest has commenced.

We are right in the middle of our food canning and drying and seed harvest.  And then, Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, we were awoken with the news of an attack against the United States of America.

If you are a regular visitor to this site and specifically this column, you know how I have studied not only family genealogy, but the historical settings in which they lived.  You also know my feelings regarding the future.  Simplified, it is that the future is not guaranteed.

Throughout history, we see repeated instances - cycles - of prosperity and abundance as well as economic hard times and shortages.

Living relatives remember what life was like during W.W. II.  It was a time of unity, strong patriotism, and hardship.

As recent as 1999, with the threat of a catastrophe associated with computer system crashes, people prepared for the worst.

While I am not a proponent of running to the store and hording, I do believe that it is every adult's responsibility to ensure the security of themselves and their dependants.  

This is not simply making sure that you are financially responsible and saving for the future.  Look in the front of you phone book for an example plan.  There you should find information about preparing for uncertainty.

This information applies to flood, earthquakes, hurricanes, or attacks.  This plan should be just another side of your comprehensive plan that includes your estate planning, financial planning, insurance planning, and physical security planning.

We hope that you are safe, integrate some form of preparedness planning into your life.  The peace of mind is a great result of this form of self-implemented insurance.

Mike Dunton - 9/15/01

You can see and read more about our farm and our garden seed company at:


Victory Seed Company

Note:  If you are a gardener, contact us at www.victoryseeds.com/contactus.html, tell us where you read this, and we'll mail you out the current catalog, free of charge.

If you have an interesting story that you'd like to share, PLEASE submit it.

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