As it may already be known to most, there are numerous groups, societies and organizations worldwide that have heraldry either as their main focus or as a collateral of their focus on another area, usually genealogy. Note that I am not referring to governmental heraldic authorities, such as the College of Arms but rather to groups of individuals (professionals or amateurs) that come together to discuss and research heraldry. One can go on and on and list all the societies around the world but, that would be website on its own. As such, I will be focusing on just the major organizations.
Of the many heraldic societies that are located in the United Kingdom, the most famous of them all (worldwide) is The Heraldry Society. The Heraldry Society was founded in 1947 as the “Society of Heraldic Antiquaries” by John Brooke-Little. By 1950, the Society had been renamed to what it is today. It has a large number of members worldwide, publishes several periodicals and also has a certification program on heraldry. The Heraldry Society also has a New Zealand branch for the members there.
As an offshoot of the Heraldry Society, the White Lion Society was created in 1986 as a society of friends of the College of Arms. This society focuses on supporting the College with donations of items or publications that may benefit the College. A similar organization exists in the USA and is mentioned below. The name of the society is derived from the supporters of the College of Arms.
Another well known society is the Harleian Society founded in 1869 with the intentto publish the information from the heraldic visitations that occured from 1530-1688 in England, Wales and Ireland. Its publications are a great resource for genealogists but also heralds who want to learn more about the historical arms of the areas covered.
Staying on the island of Albion but, moving north, we have the Heraldry Society of Scotland (HSS). Founded in 1977 with the intent of promoting the study of heraldry in Scotland and also the correct use of Scottish heraldry in the country and around the world. This society has a very vibrant membership that is active on it’s online forum. The HSS has two publications, the Tak Tent and the Double Tressure covering herladic topics of interest to heraldry enthusiasts.
Moving to the continent, we start with the Association royale Office Généalogique et Héraldique de Belgique or Royal Belgian Genealogical and Heraldic Office, also known as the OGHB. Founded in 1942, it registers its members’ arms and publishes them in its journal called Le Parchemin. Although not a governmental agency, it does enjoy royal patronage.
The best known and most respected French heraldic society is the Société Française d’Héraldique et de Sigillographie or French Heraldry and Sigillography Society. Among other things, the Society registers arms with a notary to establish a date that can be used in court.
In Germany, we find the “Der Herold,” Verein für Heraldik, Genealogie und Verwandte Wissenschaften or “The Herald” Association for Heraldry, Genealogy, and Related Sciences, located in Berlin. Its publication, the Deutsche Wappenrolle Bürgerlicher Geschlechter, publishes the arms of its members who have registered with them.
In Serbia, we have the Српско хералдичко друштво „Бели Орао“ or Serbian Heraldry Society “White Eagle”. It is a professional organization in Serbia with a national focus in its research of heraldry, vexillology and genealogy.
Another Serbian organization is the Центар за истраживање Православнога Монархизма (CZIPM) or Center for Research of Orthodox Monarchy (CROM). This society’s primary focus is the Orthodox royal families of the world, it conducts extensive research in the areas of heraldry, even for non-orthodox.
Greece has a heraldic society called the Εραλδική και Γενεαλογική Εταιρεία Ελλάδος or Heraldic & Genealogical Society of Greece. In existence for almost 50 years, it is the single most important organization of its type in Greece with the most significant contributions in the field.
Moving east, we land in Australia with the Australian Heraldry Society, formely named “Heraldry Australia”. The society promotes the study and proper use of heraldry in Australia. It also is actively supporting the creation of an Australian Heraldic Authority as Australian prospective armigers must currently apply for arms with the College of Arms in England.
Across from Australia, we find the New Zealand Heraldry Society with a well staffed group that is truly dedicated to heraldry in that country. Though originally an offshoot of the Heraldry Society of England, it is now completely independent.
Arriving in the Americas, we start with the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (RHSC). Founded in 1966, the RHSC’s objective is to promote the art and science of heraldry in general and Canadian heraldry in particular. It also to aims to encourage an interest in the subject among Canadians, wherever they may be. The society was instrumental in the establishment of a Canadian Heraldic Authority and has a very substantive education program with multiple levels of proficiency.
Founded in 1983 in New York, the College of Arms Foundation (COAF) started out with the goal of raising funds for the College of Arms in England to help renovate the College’s 17th century building. In 2001, the COAF changed its focus and started to promote English heraldry in the United States. It is registered with the IRS as a non profit organization.
The American Heraldry Society (AHS) is a wholly American society focusing on heraldry in the United States. Though it has members from around the world, the main area of interest in the unique heraldic landscape of the United States where the heraldic traditions of the old world meet and intermingle. The AHS has a very active membership that participate in the society’s online forum. Also of note, is the extensive and well written series on the heraldry of US Presidents.
Finally, we have the International Association of Amateur Heralds (IAAH), a wholly virtual society with an online presence only. Through the IAAH’s forum, heraldic enthusiasts from around the world can come together to discuss and learn about heraldry. Also, the IAAH provides a service to would-be armigers by designing new coats of arms for whomever requests it, free of charge.