Many of the coats of arms in the Armory of the West Country have been taken from the sixteenth and seventeenth century Heralds’ Visitations of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. These visitations also include pedigrees or fragments thereof given to justify claims to gentility and the right to bear arms. The List of Pedigrees is, in effect, a consolidated index of the pedigrees found in the heralds’ visitations of the four western counties. The relevant visitations are detailed in the List of Sources.
Thomas Westcote compiled pedigrees of families prominent in Devonshire. As these pedigrees were compiled within about ten years either side of the 1620 Visitation of Devon, it is not surprising that there is considerable similarity between the heralds’ lists and those of Westcote. There are sufficient differences, however, to make it worthwhile listing Westcote’s pedigrees here.
John Hutchins included nearly two hundred pedigrees in his “History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset.” Several of his pedigrees are derived from the Visitations of Dorset, many others are taken from other sources such as records held by families of the county. Many of the pedigrees cover no more than three or four generations, but a few are more comprehensive. Hutchins’ pedigrees are listed here.
A series of 21 volumes titled “Visitation of England & Wales” was published privately between 1893 and 1921. This series included about a hundred contemporary pedigrees of west country families. Those pedigrees are listed here
Jewer included just a handful of formally tabulated pedigrees in his “Wells Cathedral.” That book, however, and his “Heraldic Church Notes from Cornwall,” both contain a vast number of short pedigrees in narrative form and much other genealogical material related to the coats of arms that he describes.
* * *
All of these pedigrees come with a number of warnings.
First, the lack of accuracy or reliability discussed here.
Second, that there may be pedigrees with no coats of arms included, which may not, therefore, match any name in the main list of arms.
Conversely, many of the coats in the Armory are not derived from entries in the Visitations or from other sources with pedigrees, so there will be no associated pedigree.
The lists of pedigrees contain the names used as titles within the Visitations, Westcote or Hutchins.
As the sources may use different spellings for the same name, we have selected, more or less at random, a version of each group of similar names to represent the group. This “standard” name is given as the first name in each line in the Armory, (followed by other versions associated in the sources with the particular variant of the coat of arms.) The pedigree lists include and are ordered by the standard name.
This grouping may prove useful, as it highlights connections (as Ashe in one county being related to Esse in another,) or continuities (as Ashe of the C17th being descendants of the C16th Ayshe.) On the other hand, people of the same name need not be related to each other in any degree.
There are some connections that we have ignored, for instance Jewel and Jolliffe are said to be variants of the same name but we have left them separate. No doubt there are connections that we have missed.