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Introduction to the d'Hozier Armorial général de France

John P. DuLong

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Part of the Cabinet des titres at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF) is the manuscript "Armorial général de France."  This is a collection of arms and comes in two forms: (1) the written blazons in 34 volumes, and (2) the colored illustrations of these blazons in 35 volumes.  All of these volumes are now available online for free, through Gallica, the online service of the BNF.  To help you find particular arms, there there are some printed indexes to guide your searching as well as many works published using information gleaned from the "Armorial général de France."

Be forewarned that the "Armorial général de France" was essentially a tax scheme for Louis XIV to raise money between 1696 and 1700.  People had to pay a fee to register their arms (usually 20 livres).  If they did not, then they would be punished with fines (300 livres with a third going to the informer) and their arms would be defaced.  In order to generate even more income, the clerks would assign arms to prosperous merchants and well-to-do peasants and then collect the tax from them. So if you find an ancestor or relative with arms, then do not assume that the arms originated in the dawn of the middle ages. The arms might have been the creation of a tax clerk eager to collect more money for the king.

When the clerks assigned arms—in comparison to recording legitimate arms a person used—they were not very clever in their designing and often repeat a pattern for several people just varying the colors or other features. Some of the assigned arms were done rather meanly. For example, the royal notary Gabriel Emfert was given "de sable, a un Diable d'argent" (a silver devil on a black field) for his arms as a cruel pun on his surname (see Bourbonnais, Ms. Fr. 32197, f. 477, no. 24 and Ms. Fr. 32231, f. 275). These assigned arms are fairly easy to spot when you view several pages together of the illustrated arms.  Should you find your ancestor’s arms, but you note that it is based on a similar pattern found in other arms on nearby pages, then this is almost always an indication of assigned pseudo arms. Lastly, arms that use letters are often a clue to relatively recent arms.

Although arms are supposed to be the possession of individuals, you will often see relatives sharing the same arms. You might also find close relatives with very different arms. The use of heraldry in France was much more flexible than books on heraldry would suggest.

Lastly, you can use the manuscript "Armorial général de France" as a sort of census for locating ancestors and relatives in an area if you suspect they might have been prosperous enough to worthy the attention of the clerk collecting information for the tax. Just keep in mind that many people did not register their arms due to vanity or because they sought to avoid the tax. And keep in mind that the printed indexes and transcriptions are not perfect, a search of the original blazons and illustrations should always be done before you abandon hope of finding an ancestor's arms.

In addition to the manuscript "Amorial général de France," there is a series of seven registers of genealogies published in 13 volumes that is referred to as the Armorial général de France ou registres de la noblesse de France. This is often confused with the manuscript "Amorial général de France."

The surname d'Hozier is often associated with the both the manuscript and printed versions of the Armorial général de France. The manuscript blazons and illustrations were done under the auspices of Charles-René d'Hozier (1640-1732), while the printed work was done by his nephew Louis-Pierre d'Hozier (1685-1767). They were the Judges of Arms appointed by the king to verify claims of nobility and decide issues regarding the use of arms.


Indexes for the Manuscript Blazons:

To figure out which manuscript volume to consult you can download the printed indexes from Google Books:

Paris, Louis. Indicateur du Grand Armorial Général de France: recueil officiel dressé en vertu de l'édit de 1696 (34 volumes de texte et 35 volumes d'armoiries) par Charles d'Hozier, Juge d'Armes. 2 vols. Paris: Librairie Nobilaire de Mme.  Bachelin-Deflorenne, 1865. 

This index is for personal arms and indicates the page number for the blazon, not the illustration.

Robert, Ulysse. Indicateur des armoiries des villes, bourgs, villages, monastères, communautés, corporations, etc., contenues dans l'Armorial général de d'Hozier. Paris, 1879.

This a special index compiled for corporate arms for villages, towns, monasteries, guilds, etc. Even corporate bodies were taxed for their use of arms.

I have noticed that these indexes are not perfect. Some surnames are missing and others are not spelled correctly.

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Manuscript Blazons:

The "Armorial général de France" blazons of the arms can be found in the Manuscript Français (Ms. Fr.) section of the BNF's manuscript division. The Ms. Fr. numbers are 32194-32227. To access these blazons via Gallica click on the Ms. Fr. number in the following table:

Volume Ms. Fr. No. Province / Area
1 32194 Alsace
2 32195 Auvergne
3 32196 Béarn
4 32197 Bourbonnais
5 32198 Bourges
6 32199 Bourgogne I
7 32200 Bourgogne II
8 32201 Bretagne I
9 32202 Bretagne II
10 32203 Champagne
11 32204 Dauphiné
12 32205 Flandres
13 32206 Guyenne
14 32207 Languedoc I
15 32208 Languedoc II
16 32209 Limousin
17 32210 Lyon
18 32211 Lorraine
19 32212 Normandie, Alençon
20 32213 Normandie, Caen
21 32214 Normandie, Rouen
22 32215 Orléans
23 32216 Paris I
24 32217 Paris II
25 32218 Paris III
26 32219 Paris IV
27 32220 Picardie
28 32221 Poitiers
29 32222 Provence I
30 32223 Provence II
31 32224 La Rochelle
32 32225 Soissons
33 32226 Tours
34 32227 Versailles

There is a second set of these blazons in 48 volumes in Ms. Fr. 32146-32193, but this is apparently a duplicate set, it is not marked as authentic, it is not used by the printed indexes, and it is not accessible online.

Blazons are the technical description of arms using heraldic terms. These volumes are handwritten, but relatively easy to read because of the clear script. Each volume for a province or area starts with an index of names. Besides the blazon of the arms, each entry will list the holders name and usually their social position or occupation. Occasionally, the arms of husbands and wives are shown together. Lastly, when the arms are those of widows, the entry will usually be the arms of their deceased husband.

Le Neuf Blazon
Blazon of the arms for Gabriel Le Neuf de Montenay, Seigneur de Sourdeval,
Ms. Fr. 32213.

M. de la Roche-Lambert-Mions published transcriptions of the blazons in four volumes with a fifth volume containing miscellaneous information from the "Armorial général de France."

Volume 1 Paris, Versailles, Isle-de-France, La Rochelle, Guyenne, Montpellier-Montauban, Toulouse-Montauban, and Béarn.
Volume 2 Orléanais, Touraine, Bourges, Poitiers, Auvergne, Limousin, Bourbonnais, and Lyonnais.
Volume 3 Alsace, Lorraine, Bourgogne 1 and 2, Champagne, Dauphiné and Provence 1 and 2.
Volume 4 Bretagne 1 and 2, Flandres, Picardie, Normandie-Alençon, Normadie-Caen, Normandie-Rouen, and Soissonais.
Volume 5 Miscellaneous heraldry information.

I have not used these transcripts extensively, but the little I have does not give me confidence that they are complete or accurate.

There are also many books that contain printed versions of these blazons mostly organized by province. One of the best examples is:

Meurgey de Tupigny, Jacques, ed. Armorial de la généralité de Paris. 4 vols. Macon, 1965-1967.

This is a well done example of a work concentrating on the "Armorial général de France" manuscript of arms for a particular region. It provides the blazons for the families living in and around Paris. It also has blazons for corporations, churches, and guilds.  He also has a list of published armorials based on the "Armorial général de France" manuscript for other provinces.  The introductory material in these volumes is an excellent explanation of the 1696 arms tax and the history of the "Armorial général de France."

Many of these published provincial armorials based on the "Armorial général de France" can be downloaded from Google or Gallica.

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Manuscript Illustrated Blazons:

The color illustrations are now available via Gallica and each file contains an index.  The volumes are organized by province and some of the larger provinces are broken down further by généralités (an administrative division).  The colored illustrations are in Ms. Fr. numbers are 32228-32262. To access these blazons via Gallica click on the Ms. Fr. number in the following table:

Volume Ms. Fr. No. Province / Generality
1 32228 Alsace
2 32229 Auvergne
3 32230 Béarn
4 32231 Bourbonnais
5 32232 Bourges
6 32233 Bourgogne (duché)
7 32234 Bourgogne (comté)
8 32235 Bretagne I
9 32236 Bretagne II
10 32237 Champagne
11 32238 Dauphiné
12 32239 Flandres
13 32240 Guyenne
14 32241 Languedoc I
15 32242 Languedoc II
16 32243 Limoges
17 32244 Lyon
18 32245 Lorraine
19 32246 Normandie, Alençon
20 32247 Normandie, Caen
21 32248 Normandie, Rouen
22 32249 Orléans
23 32250 Paris I
24 32251 Paris II
25 32252 Paris III
26 32253 Picardie
27 32254 Poitiers I
28 32255 Poitiers II
29 32256 Provence I
30 32257 Provence II
31 32258 La Rochelle
32 32259 Soissons
33 32260 Tours I
34 32261 Tours II
35 32262 Versailles

The BNF has done a great job indexing these drawings. Once you download the file and open it in Adobe Acrobat you can use the Bookmarks feature to go find the surname you are interested in locating. Or if you prefer, while on Gallica, you can lick the Table des matières button on the left to see the alphabetical list of surnames in a volume.

Le Neuf de Montenay Arms Le Neuf
Arms for Gabriel Le Neuf de Montenay, Seigneur de Sourdeval, Ms. Fr. 32247.
Assigned arms for Jean Le Neuf, bourgeois de Caen,
Ms. Fr. 32247

In the course of your genealogical research you might also see a brevet d'Hozier. This was a certificate d'Hozier issued to a person for a small fee (1 livre 10 sous) illustrating the arms and indicating the location of the arms in the "Armorial général de France." As these were issued to individuals, there is no central collection for them. These certificates are found by chance preserved usually in family papers that find their way to various archives. Auguste Vachon, the retired Ottawa Herald, provides the following example of a brevet: which shows the arms of Madeleine Meynier Laguide, the widow of François-Marie Perrot, the former governor of Montréal and Acadia:

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The arms of Madeleine Meynier Laguide, the widow of François-Marie Perrau (Perrot), the former governor of Montréal and Acadia, from the Archives nationales du Québec.

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Printed Armorial général de France ou registres de la noblesse de France:

Unlike the collection of written and illustrated blazons that focus on heraldry and have little genealogical content, the published Armorial général de France is in essence a genealogical work. It is not really part of the 1696 tax scheme.  It consists of genealogical dossiers for prominent noble families of France and is based mostly on the holdings of the Cabinet des titres.  Each dossier starts with an engraving of the family arms, and then provides generation-by-generation genealogical facts.  For large families, cadet branches are included in following sections.  Occasionally, large genealogical tables summarizing the family are presented.  It is important to understand that some of these dossiers also include fabricated ancestors, exaggerated titles, and imaginative genealogies. The dossiers must be used with caution.

Hozier, Louis-Pierre d', et al. 1738-1908. .Armorial général ou registres de la noblesse de France. 7 registers in 13 vols. Paris: Firmin-Didot:

1st register, 1st part, 1738, A-Mu;
1st register, 2nd part, 1738, Na-Z;
2nd register, 1st part, 1741, Abzar-Hérault;
2nd register, 2nd part, 1741, Hodeneau to Vinier;
3rd register, 1st part, 1752, Aluye-Loëre;
3rd register, 2nd part, 1752, Malbose-Yversen;
4th register, 1762, Aroux-Vanolles;
5th register, 1st part, 1764, Ailhaud-Julianis;
5th register, 2nd part, 1764, Laurenti-Villette;
6th register, 1768, Abrigny-Viart;
7th register complementary, 1st part, 1868, Abaquesné-Guillaume de Chavandon;
7th register complementary, 2nd part, 1872, Hennequin-Pocquet;
7th register supplemental, 1908, Poupart-Souhier;
General Table (Index), 1884.

Only the first six registers were published by Louis-Pierre d'Hozier in collaboration with his son Antoine-Maire d'Hozier. The 7th register was the work of Ambroise-Louis-Marie d'Hozier. The General Table were done by others.

You can search for these volumes online, but I have not found a single source for downloading all of them. FamilySearch.org does offer the best collection, but as of June 2016, it is still missing the 6th register and the General Table. To add to the frustration, the volumes/registers are not always listed as I have shown them here and you might find several versions of the same volume published as re-editions. Some libraries have assigned some rather odd and confusing volume numbers to this work. Please be aware that the quality of the scans vary and often the large genealogical charts are left folded or are not completely opened when scanned.

Histoire & Généalogie offers this work on CD. Although I have not seen this product, if you find you must consult this work frequently, then you might want to purchase it on CD. I am not sure if the large genealogical charts are properly scanned on this product.

I have provided a link to the General Table which you can use to locate the register you need to search for online. This index only covers the first six registers. There is also a separately published index to the first six registers:

Eynde, Gerald de, comp.  Armorial général: ou Registres de la noblesse de France; nouvelle table générale augmentée et refondue avec celle des six premiers registres; précédée d'un système de concordance des renvois de l'édition du XVIII siècle avec les rééditions   Paris: Éditions du Palais Royal, 1970.

This index is very rare and I have only seen this book in the Buhr Shelving Facility at the University of Michigan.

To see examples of dossiers from this work you can view the Baillon and Le Neuf dossiers which I have posted elsewhere on this website.

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Helpful Links:

BNF, “C comme Cabinet des titres,” http://blog.bnf.fr/gallica/index.php/2015/06/03/c-comme-cabinet-des-titres (accessed 10 May 2016).

__________, "H comme Hozier" http://blog.bnf.fr/gallica/index.php/2015/06/09/h-comme-hozier (accessed 10 May 2016).

Wikipédia, “Armorial général de France,” https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armorial_g%C3%A9n%C3%A9ral_de_France (accessed 10 May 2016)

Vachon, Auguste, "Les armoiries personnelles en Nouvelle-France," http://heraldicscienceheraldique.com/les-armoiries-personnelles-en-nouvelle-france.html (accessed 10 May 2016).

 

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This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1998 by John P. DuLong, Berkley, MI. Created 26 December 1999.   Last modified 1 June 2016.