It has to be said - there is no such thing as a ‘TOMES Family Crest,

nor is there  a ‘TOMES Family Coat of Arms.’


                In the United Kingdom, a Coat of Arms can only be awarded to an individual, NEVER to a family and can normally only be used by the person to whom it was granted, or by those descended in the male line from the original grantee - although, occasionally, it may be granted to the male descendants of the grantee’s father, or even grandfather.  Even so, strictly speaking, when used by male descendents, technically, it must be ‘suitable differencedwith ‘cadency marks’ (essentially additions to the original Arms in the form of symbols) to show their relationship to the original grantee.  This though has really now fallen into abeyance.

                Coats of Arms date back to the days of armour when, especially with a closed visor, it became impossible on the battlefield to recognise who was who.  Until the invention of steel (c1740), armour was made out of iron that was soft and easily rusted.  It thus had to be continually cleaned and paint (as we know it to-day) did not exist.  The solution was to inscribe symbols onto a sleeveless linen surcoat, worn over the armour; hence ‘coat’.  Strictly speaking the study of the symbols is ‘Armoury’ as the symbols were first displayed on armour. The devices themselves should  be described as ‘armorial bearings’ but this has now become just known as ‘arms.’

                A ‘crest’ is merely the top (eg crest of a wave, crested eagle), nothing else, and was a personal ornament worn on the top of the helmet (usually a bird or beast that the knight perhaps considered best reflected his martial quality).  In a Coat of Arms it appears at the top, above the shield.    The use of the term today within the expression ‘Family Crest’ is just invented fiction in truth!  One cannot have a ‘crest’ without ‘arms’ under it.

                However many TOMES families [with one exception, see below] have adopted various so called ‘Crests’ or ‘Coats of Arms,’ but their usage is not actually justified and, in the United Kingdom anyway, is technically illegal.  Within TOMES families though, there appear two basic types; one being a shield containing 3 tombstones (as in the compiler’s family), the other and more often used, being a shield containing 3 or 4 cornish choughs (a, now rare, bird found in the west of England & Wales) around a sheaf of wheat.



                The origin of these is really unknown.  However, Robert Fisher TOMES (of ‘TOMES of Long Marston Pedigree’) was a batchelor farmer and spent a great deal of time researching his family’s history in the 1860s and 70s.  His notebooks, containing his findings, have survived (and most are now held by the compiler).  They contain several [it must be said, rather confusing] pages, written in about 1866,  about ‘Coats of Arms,’ and that include the following notes:

‘The original arms are represented by a very rude pen & ink sketch without date in the College of Arms.  Sable 3 tombes argent, the cross thereon sable. MS EDN Alphabet of Arms.’  [Figure 1].

‘The coat of arms which has been adopted by the family of TOMBS’ (that spelling) ‘of Coates near Cirencester.  They claim to be descended from the Long Marston family.’

[Figure 2].

‘In the College of Arms is a coat of arms which has that of TOMBS for a quartering.  It is that of Anthony Dillington of Dillington, Co Norf.’  (2nd quarter) ‘ Tombs, sable, three tombs ?asg, the crosses thereon Calvary, with the tops potent.  Crest (not in sketch) a hawk close ppr, belled, and legged, on a perch ar.’ [Figure 3].  [Note:  There is no known connection between a TOMES family and that of DILLINGTON nor any known connections of TOMES with Norfolk].

‘This crest was confirmed to Anthony Dillington of Dillington in Co Norf, by Sir Gibbert Dethicke, Knt alias Garter Principal King of Arms. (tse. Elizth).  M.S. Dethicke’s fifts fol 39b. Thos. Wm. King York Herald.’.  [Figure 4]


‘In Burke’s Armoury, the following is all that appears under the name of TOMB.

Tomb. Vert, three tombstones ar.  Crest - a pegasus’s head betw. two wings’  [Figure 5]

It is probable that this coat has been bourn by some member of the same family notwithstanding the total absence of crosses on the tombs.  No mention is made by Burke of the collection in which these arms are to be found.  Certainly not in the College of Arms.’

‘The following are given by Burke and may be noticed here as evidence of the distinctness of the families to which they belong from TOMBS of Long Marston.’   [Figures 6 to 11]

 Tom. (Little Peterick, Co Cornwall). ar. an escallop giv. betw. three buck’s heads affroutee sa. horned or.  Crest (not in sketch) a Cornish Chough ppr. holding in his bill an escallop.’  [Figure 6]   [Note:  The name TOMS (that spelling) goes back many years in Cornwall, but no link has been found between a Cornish TOMS family and any, now TOMES, family from elsewhere in the United Kingdom; except possibly (through folklore) one centred on Swanage, Dorset].

‘Tomes (of Warwick M.P. for this borough). [see below]  Ar. a garb betw. four cornish Choughs ppr’ Crest [not in sketch]  a cornish Chough volant ppr’ [Figure 7]

‘Tommes (Norfolk).  Ar. on a chevron gee. three annulet or’   [Figure 8]  [Note: See comment to Figure 3].

‘Thomes or Thomas.  Ar on a chev. gu. an annulet [Figure 9]   -or -  TOMS. (Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms; granted 1768; and of St. Marylebone, Co. Middlesex).  ar. on a fesse dancette sa betw. three Cornish Choughs rising ppr as ?Many bexants.  Crest’ [not in sketch]’ a Cornish Chough ppr. charged on the breast with a bezant.’ [Figure 10]   [Note: There are scattered references to 18th Century TOMS’s & TOMES’s in London/Middlesex, but none have been identified with a present day TOMES family; these only being traced back to the mid or so 19th Century.  The Coat of Arms in Figure 10 though was almost certainly awarded to Peter TOMS, painter, herald & royal academician (d 1777) who was appointed Portcullis Pursuivant in the College of Heralds in 1746 and a foundation member of the Royal Academy in 1768 & when probably awarded the arms].

‘Toms.  A garb betw. four Cornish Choughs ppr.  Crest [not in sketch]  a cornish Chough volant ppr.’  [Figure 11] [Note:  The sketch only shows 3 choughs; and a later hand in the notebook has added ‘should be four instead of three choughs’].



                The TOMES family of Long Marston (the compiler’s family) can be traced back, with certainty, to 1525 in the village of Long Marston, now just in Warwickshire, near Stratford on Avon and have used the ‘Three Tombstones’ version.  Robert Fisher TOMES, together with his uncle, Fisher TOMES, published a ‘Pedigree of THE TOMES FAMILY of Marston Sicca [Long Marston] Gloucestershire’ in 1879.  This included, as a frontispiece, the ‘coat’ shown in Figure 12.  Why, is not known, but one can only surmise that, at the time, the family thought that it was the most appropriate of the above variations to use.  As an aside, the compiler’s grandfather once told him that it “was because the family used to be tombstone makers,” but I have never found a slightest shred of evidence to support this.  [Members of other TOMES families in Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire and especially in Dorset, have been stonemasons or stoneworkers, but the only known TOMES tombstone connections are two 19th Century members of a ‘TOMES Family of Kentucky, USA’ and mid 20th Century members of a ‘TOMES Family of Fulham, London’ [who supplied the slab for the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Warrior’ in Westminster Abbey in 1921] and who were in business selling these items].

                What though is certain, is that a member of the ‘TOMES of Long Marston’ family, Sir John TOMES, was knighted for his work in dentistry in 1886.  In 1888 he was granted a Coat of Arms [Figure 13 - motto ‘nothing without labour/work’] and which he seems to have adopted from the one shown in the 1879 Pedigree.  This, as far as is known, is the only ‘legal’  Coat of Arms granted to a TOMES family.  Unusually, it was granted back two generations, to descendents of his grandfather [John TOMES, 1736-1814] and which means that the compiler is entitled to use it - although he has never had it ‘differenced’ with ‘cadency’ additions - to do so, would mean paying the College of Arms some £370 [1997 figure] to have it done!  The goat crest is believed to originate from the marriage with another TOMES family, of Herefordshire in 1734, and whose ancestry includes a coat of arms with this animal as a crest.  Regretably though, The College of Arms told me in April 1997 that  we have looked to see if we have any of the correspondence relating to the design of the arms or any genealogical research undertaken by the Officer of Arms acting for Sir John, but it appears none survives.”





A ‘TOMES Family of New York’ can be traced back to 1711, with certainty, in Bidford on Avon in Warwickshire, possibly to 1702, and with its USA connection starting with Francis TOMES (1780-1869), of that family, who emigrated to New York in 1815.  The family now uses the Cornish cloughs ‘coat of arms’ and which first appeared in a book published by Francis’s daughter, Polly, in about 1875. Its adoption seems to have been perhaps possibly from a ‘connection’ (perhaps business - there is no known family connection) with a John TOMES (1760-1844) and who was a Member of Parliament for Warwick Borough in the 1820s.   John may well have been legally granted the Coat of Arms in Figure 7, [although no evidence of this has yet been found] - but if he was, why Cornish choughs?  He had no, found, connections with that county.


Jim TOMES’s (of the ‘TOMES of New York, USA, family) researches show that Francis was a contemporary of John & perhaps Francis just wanted a ‘coat of arms’ and may have ‘appropriated’ John’s.  There is some confirmation of this, in that Robert Fisher TOMES [see above] in one of his notebooks shows a small pedigree for John Tomes [with Figure 7 alongside] and the same page gives, but separately, details of Francis TOMES.  Figure 7 though shows no motto, but the one now used by the New York family  [Figure 14]  shows ‘Nisi Dominus Frustra’    (‘Without God all is invain’).

[As an aside, it is now obvious that Robert Fisher TOMES, in the mid 1860s, was not aware of the above John TOMES and that he was of his family, but I have now been able to establish both were of the same family, ie TOMES of Long Marston].

This ‘crest’ in Figure 14 appears to be exactly the same as one held by Andrew TOMES (of ‘TOMES of Stewkley, BKM’) and which he earlier published on his TOMES website  [See 'Contact and Content' part of this website]



                The recent ‘explosion’ in interest in family history & genealogy [vis “it is now estimated that family history is now the second most popular hobby in the United States, after gardening” - John Seabrook, ‘The New Yorker,’ 26 Mar 2001] seems to have led to a plethora of web sites.  Of interest to TOMES are, for example, &, [both with ‘TOMES Message Boards’ but primarily USA information sites]).  There are also some commercial sites whose data seems to be extremely speculative, NOT based on solid research from primary sources and which should be regarded with extreme suspicion.   Two of these are:

a.        The Hall of Names’ (on that advertises individual family ‘Family History Scrolls on beautiful parchment with your Coat of Arms on it.’  The site though does NOT actually seem to allow one to see what ‘Coat’ it has for you - you need to first order a scroll at $19.95 to see this.  I did though obtain this organisation’s ‘Scroll’ back in 1994, and consider its content, as regards TOMES, as TOTALLY pure fiction,   claiming an 8th Century Irish King origin.   It does not, in its content, actually mention a single person with the name spelt as TOMES!




b.             The World Book of Tomes’  published by Burke’s Peerage and which costs (or did in 1997) £26.90.  It would seem this firm will publish a book on any surname you ask for, but essentially it is just primarily a list of TOMES names & addresses worldwide, probably gleaned from internet telephone listings.  It does though, interestingly, show the ‘TOMES Coat of Arms’ as at Figure 15.  The Cornish cloughs again!  No information though is given as to its source. [Note: The compiler has also been sent a ‘Historiography of TOMES’ (published by ‘Halberts, 3687 Ira Road, Bath, Ohio 44210, USA’ but of unknown date) and that shows exactly the same ‘Coat of Arms’].

[‘Silver,a black sheaf of wheat between 4 black cornish hens’ with above the shield & helmet,

‘A CORNISH CHOUGH VOLANT PPR’  - ‘A cornish hen flying’]


I make no claim, in the above, to have ‘solved’ the answer to where our TOMES ‘crest/coat of arms’ originates.  However, I hope that it will be of some interest to readers.  Comments will be appreciated

Major (Retd) I M Tomes MBE MC (Ian)

Revised 30th January 2011 



The actual ‘Citation’ for the Coat of Arms awarded to Sir John TOMES (of TOMES of Long Marston) in 1888, is held by the compiler, and the citation reads:



to whom these Presents shall come Sir Albert William Woods Knight

Garter Principal King of Arms and Walter Asten Blount Esquire

Clarencaux King of Arms of the South East and West Parts of Eng-

land from the River Trent Southwards send Greetings:  Whereas

Sir John Tomes of Upwood Gorse in the Parish of Caterham in the County of Surrey. Knight,

Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, eldest son of John Tomes late of the Sands in the

Parish of Weston on Avon in the County of Gloucester and grandson of John Tomes of Marston Sicca in the said County of Gloucestershire and of Stratford on Avon in the County of Warwick, gentlemen, both deceased hath represented unto the most Noble Henry Duke of Norfolk Earl Marshal and Hereditary Marshal of England Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter that upon examination of the Records of the College of Arms no Armorial Ensigns appear to have been registered to his family - He therefore requested the favour of his Grace’s Warrant for our granting and assigning such Arms and Crest as may be deemed proper to be bourn by him and his descendants of his grandfather the said John Tomes deceased according to the Laws of Arms AND FORASMUCH as the said Earl Marshall did by Warrant under his hand and seal bearing date the twentyseventh day of November last authorise and direct Us to grant and afsign such Armorial Ensigns accordingly  Know Ye therefore that the said Garter and Clarencaux in persuance of his Grace’s Warrant and by virtue of the Letters Patent of Our several offices to each of us respectively granted do by these Presents grant and afsign unto the said Sir John Tomes the Arms following that is to say Sable on a Cheveron Or between three Tombstones proper a Goat’s head  erased of the first And for the crest on a wreath of the Colours A goat gules charged on the body with two bezants fesserrise and resting the dexter leg on an Escocheon of the Arms as the same are in the margin hereof more plainly depicted to be borne and used for ever hereafter by him the said John Tomes deceased with due and proper differences according to the Laws of Arms  IN WITNESS whereof  We the said Garter and Clarencaux King of Arms have to these presents subscribed our names and affixed the Seals of Our several Offices this tenth day of December in the Fiftysecond year of the reign of our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom and Ireland Queen Defender of the Faith sic and in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighty eight.”



Nothing to do with the above (?), but . . . . . . .

This Article on Choughs appeared in the ‘Daily Telegraph on 14 April 2001 & someone, I can’t recall who, once told me that they ‘thought’ the name TOMES might have been derived from Thomas a Becket.

Now work that one out!


Coat of Arms of Canterbury 

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