Family Heraldry

Drawn to the past

Coat of arms were popular for visually identifying a person and denoting status — impressed in sealing wax on documents, carved on family tombs, and flown as a banner on country homes. By the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, heraldry became a highly developed discipline, regulated by professional officers of arms.


A coat of arms for the Bretz surname is first recorded in J. Siebmacher’s Wappenbuch, first published in 1605.

A French description listed in the Armorial General of 1861 is as follows;

Bretz – Souabe. Coupé de gu. sur arg. un homme, hab. d’un coupé de gu.. sur arg., tenant de sa main desire un sabre au oui, entre deux prob. coupé de gu. sur arg.

When translated it describes the original arms as;

Bretz – Swabian. Field cut red over silver. A man, clothing divided horizontally red and silver; holding in his right hand a naturally colored sabre; all between two elephant trunks divided horizontally red and silver.’

The “elephant trunks” described were actually Teutonic war-horns, symbols of the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburg dynasty.


The General Armoury of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, 1884, describes the Neilsons of Corsock as being quite different from its predecessors; primarily blue in colour and featuring two hammers rather than the red hands. The same Neilson arms is also described much earlier in Nisbets System of Heraldry, 1722 by Alexander Nisbet.

The arms as described in the General Armoury of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, 1884 as follows;

Neilson (Corsock, co. Wigtoun). Az. two hammers in saltire or, in the dexter flank a crescent and in base a star ar. Crest – A demi man issuing out of the wreath holding over his shoulder a hammer all ppr. Motto – Praesto pro Patria
Bretz crest