There are many sources from which descriptions or illustrations of Arms may be found, ranging from Armories such as ``Burke's General Armory'' to Town Guides and privately printed family works. Many of these illustrations and descriptions have found their way into print through their continued use by a family over many generations. Many are not recorded with the College of Arms or, if they are, they have variances from the original because they were informally differenced.
The importance of the documentation collected during the Herald's Visitation should not be underestimated, providing as it does, one of the few medieval documents with sometimes quite extensive, pedigrees. That is not to say, however, that they should be blindly accepted as "proof positive" that the family tree actually was as recorded and there are a number of reasons why that may be so. These are more fully explored in the following page which investigates in more detail the "The Evidence in Heralds' Visitations Relating to Ballard Genealogy".
At the bottom of the page you will find some of the Ballard Arms that have been documented. You will note that even where arms clearly relate to the same family there may be minor differences between family members. Each description of arms or a crest is illustrated and where there is a pedigree icon you can click on it to link to the copy that I have. Where the arms are indicated as being sourced from the College of Arms then these are the authoritative Arms as laid out in a letter that I hold from Dr.Conrad Swan, York Herald.
In case you have ever wondered what that seemingly inscrutable description of a coat of arms is all about here is a quick overview based upon one of the Ballard arms,
The basic shield is known as the field and anything placed upon it is a charge. The principle charge is named first and then lesser charges that are on the field and then devices (essentially another name for a charge) which are placed on the principal charge. Certain charges, like the Griffin, can be shown in a number of different
Analysing the blazon for Ballard of Highbury; "Sable a Griffin passant Ermine ducally gorged Or between two quatrefoils in chief and a crescent in base of the last", we get:-
|The colour of the field||Sable (black)|
|then the principal charge, its characteristics and the relevant colours||a Griffin passant ermine ducally gorged or|
|then the lesser charges on the field||between two quatrefoils in chief and a crescent in base of the last|
So let's go down to the next level:-
|a Griffin passant ermine||"a Griffin" - I'll assume you know what that is
"passant" means three feet on the ground with the right foreleg raised.
"ermine" is a fur, basically white with little "ermine spots" on it.
|ducally gorged or||"ducally gorged" is the heraldic term for wearing a Duke's coronet but it is around the neck and not on the head, "or" is gold in colour.|
|between two quatrefoils in chief||"between" - well, the Griffin is placed between ..
"two quatrefoils" - basically a four leaved plant, think of the four leaf clover or the shamrock.
in chief means in the top one third of the shield and describes where to place the quatrefoils.
|and a crescent in the base of the last||and finally there is a crescent in the bottom one third of the shield and its colour is "of the last" colour mentioned, which was "or" (gold)|