Can you help with Polish Heraldry?


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Can you help with Polish Heraldry?

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Redigerat: maj 4, 2013, 10:00 pm

Dear Group,

In my genealogy research I found this item (a watch fob?) and contacted a Heraldrist here in Australia. I will attach a picture of the item and its obverse and a charming email she sent me below. Since this uncle is NOT in my blood line I don't want to do too much research on it. Although he was my only "Cousin in Australia"s Dad, and I do remember him well... My parents were Latvian and he married my Mums sister.

I just hoped someone out there might have some further clues.

Hi Guido

Many thanks for your email. Certainly a very good photograph. I have searched my references

without success in finding information on your particular family Armorial. However, the

following may be of interest as incidental.


Charges ( a bearing or figure represented on the shield) resembling runes and ciphers were

particular to Polish heraldry and you will see in the right hand side ( as you face the

shield) the blue rune stone with a cross motif. This is Gebo the Rune of Partnership, it

signifies the gift of freedom from which flows all other gifts.

Beside this would appear to be a hand in armour with a bird. Parts of armour and other

inanimate objects ( note the anvil under the rune) were frequent charges.

In heraldry of other nations, status is denoted by the style and position of the helmet. In

Polish heraldry there is no relevance. In this instance it would appear to be more a modern

than ancient style helmet.


Feathers were frequently used and were adopted from German heraldry popular in the 16th

century. It has been suggested ,that the frequent use of the same helmet with the same crest

of three ostrich plumes, issuing from the marquis ' crown, recognised the equality of rank of

all Polish nobility.


Mottoes are conventional but rare. I note however that there is a motto scroll with a date

of 1880 and in the middle a word or name. The word could possibly be a war cry or clan or

family name. There could be a clue here for your further research.

According to my references, in 1836, in order to control heraldic matters, an office was set

up in Russian occupied Poland charged with preparing a list of coats of arms that could be

shown to be legitimate. The project was never completed and in 1870 all heraldic affairs

were transferred to Saint Petersburg. In 1920, the archive was returned to Warsaw, only to

be destroyed by the Germans in 1944.

Consequently Guido it could be difficult to confirm the legitimacy of your Armorial . May I

suggest contacting the Polish Embassy in Canberra on 0262 721 000. They may recommend an

archivist in Poland who specialises in matters heraldic that is, if you have had no success


Good luck with the search.


PS I have enlarged images of parts of the "Thingy" and can post them if anyone is interested.

ETA. Having problems posting the obverse image (size?) so will delete it from this post.

Redigerat: maj 4, 2013, 10:25 pm

I have added the obverse of the thingy abov.

ETA. And an example of a 'detail' as well :-)

maj 5, 2013, 2:19 pm

Do you have any larger pictures of the whole achievement (from the feathers on the helmet down to the scroll at the bottom)? I'm having trouble seeing the details of the top half of the shield.

There's not much I can add to your expert's statement on the motto scroll. I think the letters are "P.C.T." which could be someone's initials, or the abbreviation of some longer phrase.

maj 5, 2013, 7:02 pm

maj 7, 2013, 2:35 pm

The styling of the artwork on this screams "German" to me -- especially the feathers, as your heraldry person noted, and the poofy mantling surrounding the helm.

I've never heard of a "runestone" being used in heraldry, Polish or otherwise (although in the 1800s people did all sort of weird things with coats of arms). Most Polish runes and rune-like figures appear directly on the shield, not on any background object. Honestly, that looks more like a globe on a stand than a runestone over an anvil to me.

The guy on a horse in the upper-left-hand corner carrying a banner is possibly a saint of some kind. Which saint would be indicated by the objects he's holding, and what objects are under the feet of his horse.

The things on this that make me think these are an 1800s arms, apart from the date obviously, are the use of a globe in the upper right, and the ornate letters on the bottom half. Neither of these were common on coats of arms in the era when they were used on coats that went over armor.

Sadly, this is about the limit of my ability to interpret this coat. Anyone out there have better knowledge of 1800s German heraldry?

Redigerat: maj 7, 2013, 11:11 pm

Thanks Iturpin42,

Now this is becoming complicated to me.

Initially I thought this object/crest might be "Swedish". My cousin always talked about '...his Dad's mother was a Swedish Countess..." Although his Dad never mentioned it to my Dad.

Then my Heraldrist suggests it is Polish. Although I might have biased her in that direction.

Now you say '...this screams "German" to me..."

I realize that that part of the world was a 'hodge podge'.
My parents were Latvian but I still can't work out where my surname came from.

Well any and all suggestions are welcome with great thanks.


ETA. Why 'poofy mantling"? I'm guessing that is not a technical term...
But does it have some other significance?

maj 8, 2013, 5:27 pm

"Mantling" is actually a heraldic technical term; it refers to the bits of cloth dangling off the sides and back of a helmet, to keep the wearer's neck cool. In heraldic drawings it typically takes the two main colors of the shield -- one on each side. This style of drawing the mantling is common to German heraldry. "Poofy" is, of course, technical only in my deranged imagination. :-)

Here's an early 1600s example of German heraldry, from Siebmacher's Wappenbuch:

okt 31, 2013, 5:46 am

Dear Guido,

I can answer all your questions regarding this pendant and the coat of arms depicted on it. First of all, this is not a family coat of arms, but the coat of arms of a student fraternity (to which I belong myself) Fraternitas Arctica (in Latin: Northern Brotherhood). Our organization was established in Riga in 1880 and since that time successfully works there (except for the periods when we were forced to suspend our active life, like during WWI, WWII and Soviet occupation). This is our web-page- (in Russian, for we are the fraternity of Russian-speaking students).

As to the item itself. It is called a Bierzipfel (in German: beer pendant). And you were right- it was carried with watch, but what does beer have to do with it? The answer is that when a Bursch (a member of a student fraternity) during an event wanted to leave his place by the table and his glass of beer, he could hang his Bierzipfel on the glass, so that no one would take it (for this purpose served the initials of the pendant's owner which can be seen on the backside of the item).

Now regarding the coat of arms itself (I would like to warn you, that coats of arms of student fraternities do not correspond with the main laws and regulations of traditional heraldy). Let's start from the very top of it. At the very top you can see 3 ostrich's feathers which, originally, carry 3 colours of our fraternity that are gold (which stands for honour and pure conscience), black (firmness and strong will) and red (friendship and brotherly love).

Underneath it we see a marques's crown, which stands for aristocratic spirit of our fraternity.

The crown is situated on a helmet, which shows, that members of this fraternity are ready to defend their honour, as well as the honour of their fraternity, their Motherland, their family, their lady with weapons in arms- in other words, it means that the fraternity practices fencing.

The coat of arms is framed by golden acanthus.

As to the shield. On the red field you can see a warrior on a horse, who is defeating a dragon (originally the whole group is golden). This shows the victory of good over evil. Next to it we can see a golden field in which a globe (which represents cognition and knowledge of the world), and owl (the symbol of wisdom) and books (the symbol of knowledge) are seen.

As to the lower field, it also contains our 3 colours. In the centre of the black stripe the monogram (or Cierkel, as we call it) is seen. This monogram consists of 5 Latin letters, which are the capital letters of the words of a Latin phrase: Vivat, Crescat, Floreat Fraternitas Arctica (which means Long live, grow and prosper Northern Brotherhood!). The monogram ends with an exclamation mark, which symbolizes a rapier (our main weapon) and states, that the fraternity practices fencing.

Underneath the shield we can see a golden ribbon, on which our motto is written. Our motto consists of the combination of 3 letters of old Slavic alphabet, which are read as Rci Slovo Tvjerdo , (which means- be true to your word). At the sides of the ribbon the year of the establishment of the fraternity is written- 1880.

Under the ribbon branches of oak (strength) and laurel (victory, success) are depicted.

That's about it... Hope, I have answered all your questions and made this thing clear for you :-)


It seems to me that one of your relatives could have been our member. Could you, place, tell his name and surname?

Redigerat: okt 31, 2013, 7:42 am

My Dearest Von.Tollbach,

You have made me a very happy man.

Yet some questions remain. My parents were Latvians. My Uncle (by marriage - he married my Mums Sister) was Polish. Why would he have a Latvian corporation badge? Hmm. Interesting, could that object have perhaps been part of my side?

In my genealogy research of my DAD (about whom I know almost nothing) I do remember a 'story'
he told me.

He mentioned that one (of his 2 uncles) was the 'president/leader/?' of the union of ALL the Latvian Corporations. If I can get a likely surname here, it might help me. I did think of asking the various Corporations in Latvia for a list of their senior members, from say 1910-1941, but my written Latvian is quite weak. Perhaps you can help me in this quest?

Well, thanks again.

My name is "Guido Susts".

My Polish Uncles name was "Jasha Hemmerling". Not a typical Polish name. Nor is mine.

My Mothers (and obviously Sisters) maiden name was 'Ozolins'

PS. Are you Latvian, or somewhere around there? :-)

ETA.I wonder if I could 'donate' that object to your organization? Hopefully you have a museum.

Redigerat: okt 31, 2013, 8:22 am

Dear Guido!

I am glad I helped you a bit.

As to your first question- every student, who speaks Russian and feels himself as a part of Russian can become member of Fraternitas Arctica. We also have Latvians and Polish among us, so one of his relatives could have been our member, while your uncle could inherit the pendant (for example). If he was not our member, of course.

As to the second issue: it appears, that one of his relatives was senior (chairman) of this Union, which, at first, was called Chargierten Convent (German- the Convent (or the gathering (in Latin)) of Representatives)- this name it bore in 1873-1916. In 1919 similar organization was formed under the name Prezidiju Konvents (in Latvian- the Convent of Prezidiums). Before WWII my organization was in the head of this union twice and chairmen from our side were Rostislav Murasov (for the first time) and Boris Mihelson (for the second). If you need- I can give you the names of all chairmen of the Union from 1919-1940. With earlier times it would be a bit difficult but still possible.

And yes- I will gladly help you in your research!

Also I want to point out that the initials on the backside of the item are Russian letters V and Sh. Thus, we thought that this pendant could have belonged to our member Vsevolod Shutov.

As to my ethnicity- my mother is Latvian and my father is Russian, and even though my native language is Russian I freely speak Latvian. I also live in Riga. My name is Nikolai Putilin.

And we would be very grateful to you if you could donate this item to us, for we gather everything which is connected with us and our history, not only to keep, but also to show our youngest members, so that they could see them and be pround of our great history.

Redigerat: okt 31, 2013, 10:33 am

Well, actually, it was my Fathers Uncle (shot by the Soviets in '41) who was the apparent 'president' of the combined corporations. I hope you don't take that as an insult. None meant. I was just recounting 'family history' :-(


PS. Please give me an address I can sent that thingy err. Bierzipfel, to you.

ETA. I would appreciate those names of Latvian Presidents/Senior officers. I think my Dads Mums
maiden name was "Krastins". As I said, I don't even know my Dads Uncles surnames, or which part of the family they came from. I have been (very slowly) reading the old on-line newspapers/journals from that era and trawling for names. Any new ones would be welcome.

okt 31, 2013, 1:44 pm

Oh, its ok, for many families at that time had alike story, unfortunately :-(

The address is Dzeņu 1-179, LV-1021, Riga, Latvia. To Nikolajs Putiļins. Since we are in the process of moving our current headquarters this is my personal address, so that we would be sure that the item would reach us. I will let You know when I will receive it. Great thanks to You on behalf of all members of korp! Fraternitas Arctica! This is really great that there are people like You, who are ready and willing to help us restore our history and return our heritage!

May I ask You, whether it is the only item from Arctica which You obtain? Maybe some documents, diaries, photos are also in your possession?

Now the names- this time, from 1919-1940 (since presiding in this union is given according to the principle of rotation and in the order of seniority I will name, not only the names of chairmen, but also of the whole presidiums, and the names of presiding fraternities). From earlier times will follow a little later:

1919 autumn semester- due to military situation in the country no presidium was elected.
1920 spring semester- due to the process of organization of P!K! no presidium was elected.
1920 autumn semester- korp! Talavija: senior- V. Dūms vicesenior- H. Tepfers secretary- A. Stalbe
1921 spring semester- korp! Selonija- names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1921 autumn semester- korp! Lettgallia names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1922 spring semester- korp! Talavija: senior- V. Dūms vicesenior- V. Saltiņš secretary- V. Alksnis
1922 autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Lettica names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1923 spring semester- korp! Latvia: senior- A. Ozols, vicesenior- A. Jaunrubenis, secretary- J. Kalniņš
1923 autumn semester- korp! Ventonia- names of the members of presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1924 spring semester- korp! Lettonia- names of the members of presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1924 autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Arctica- senior- Rostislav Murasov, vicesenior- Alfreds Linde, secretary- Artūrs Melbārdis.
1925 spring semester- korp! Selonija- names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1925 autumn semester- korp! Lettgallia- senior E. Jansons
1926 spring semester- korp! Talavija- senior- A. Raudseps, vicesenior- G. Grambergs, secretary- T. Jansons
1926 autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Lettica names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1927 spring semester- korp! Latvia- senior Aug. Ozols, vicesenior- V. Šēfers, secretary- J. Landorfs
1927 autumn semester- korp! Gotonia- senior- H. Jahnson, vicesenior- H. Schiller.
1928 spring semester- korp! Tervetia names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1928 autumn semester- korp! Beveronija- senior- H. Lielmanis
1929 spring semester- korp! Philyronia- senior- F. Bite, vicesenior- V. Mateus, secretary- A. Pētersons
1929- autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Metropolitana- senior- V. Saulītis, vicesenior- J. Graudiņš, secretary- E. Arnoldijs
1930 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Vesthardiana- senior- K. Gulbis, vicesenior- E. Mežaks, secretary- J. Eglītis
1930 autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Academica- senior- O. Mednis
1931 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Lataviensis- senior- A. Šilde, vicesenior- P. Pūliņš, secretary- E. Rozenbergs
1931 autumn semester- korp! Patria- senior- V. Vīgants
1932 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Livonica- senior- O. Kārkliņš, vicesenior- A. Trapāns
1932 autumn semester- korp! Lettonia- senior- V. Grīvāns, vicesenior- G. Brēmanis, secretary- P. Lejiņš
1933 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Arctica- senior- Boris Mihelson, vicesenior- Nikolai Burāns, secretary- Nikolai Trūze
1933 autumn semester- korp! Selonija- senior- A. Ķēse, vicesenior- A. Komsārs
1934 spring semester- korp! Lettgallia- senior- A. Liniņš, vicesenior- A. Dzirne, secretary- R. Naķels
1934 autumn semester- korp! Talavija-senior- L. Tauriņš, vicesenior- V. Johansons, secretary- A. Treijs
1935 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Lettica- names of the members of the presidium are unknown (I will try to make it clear)
1935 autumn semester- korp! Latvia- senior- V. Elksnītis, vicesenior- J. Veselis, secretary- Z. Kalnenieks.
1936 spring semester- korp! Ventonia- senior-F. Kiriks
1936 autumn semester- korp! Beveronija- senior E. Zirnis
1937 spring semester- korp! Philyronia- senior- V. Mateuss, vicesenior- A. Bijons, secretary- R. Valkers.
1937 autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Metropolitana- senior- A. Druva, vicesenior- Z. Krastiņš, secretary- J. Sprancis
1938 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Vesthardiana- senior- Ā. Dzediņš, vicesenior- A. Ozols, secretary- E. Lindemanis.
1938 autumn semester- korp! Fraternitas Academica- senior- A. Plakans, vicesenior- K. Plieniņš, secretary- J. Zandbergs
1939 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Lataviensis- senior- A. Jansons, vicesenior- J. Āboliņš, secretary- A. Mucinieks
1939 autumn semester- unknown.
1940 spring semester- korp! Fraternitas Livonica- senior- K. Apinis.

nov 1, 2013, 6:21 am

Thanks #12. Non of the names mentioned in your list 'rings a bell'.
As I mentioned, I have no idea why my uncle would have possessed that item and there is NO link with him and any Latvian "Corporations". I do have some early documation of his, which Prove he was born in 1902, 1904 & 1906 *grin*

nov 1, 2013, 7:15 am

So he could have joined a fraternity after we received independence. As I said, I will try to make clear the presidiums, which are absent in this list.

nov 1, 2013, 8:01 am

Hmm #14, My Polish uncle, might have joined a "Polish" Corporation. He was a Cavalry officer in the Polish Army in 1939 and went to Uni there. (no, he also thought that that story of Cavalry riding out at Nazi tanks was a myth, or just a few 'stupid' cadets - his words) I really can't find any link with him and Latvia, until he married my Aunt. Post War.

nov 3, 2013, 4:05 pm

Actually, if he was a member of a Polish fraternity a link could be, for there were two Polish corporations established in Riga (Arkonia and Welecja) and which maintained a constant contact with the city of their origin, so if he was a member of one of them, it would explain something :-)

nov 22, 2013, 3:37 pm

Dear Guido!

The item has successfully reached its destination! As I said, no words can express my and our gratitude!