Herauldical Essay Upon the Surname of Miner

Sometime during the mid 1600s, perhaps about 1683, Thomas Minor (1608-1690), an immigrant to New England, received the following manuscript from a correspondent in England.  The manuscript contains an essay that traces the ancestry of Thomas back to a Henry Bullman who lived in the 1300s.  The essay is written on a colorful, six foot long scroll and was originally published in NEHGS Register, April 1859 (volume XIII, pages 161-5).  It is stored in the library of the Connecticut Historical Society located in Hartford, Connecticut.  Some generation numbers have been added within [brackets].

WARNING: A study titled “The Curious Pedigree of Lt. Thomas Minor” (reproduced below) by John A. Miner and Robert F. Miner and published in the NEHGS Register of July 1984 (volume 138, pages 182-5) indicates that much of the contents of this document and the coat of arms it presents are FALSE.


“An Herauldical Essay Upon the Surname of Miner”

It is more praiseworthie in noble and excellent things to know something, though little, than in mean and ignoble things to have a perfect knowledge. Amongst all those rare ornaments of the mind of man, herauldry hath had a most eminent place, and hath been in high esteem, not only at one time and in one climate, but during all times and through those parts of the world where any ray of humanitie and civility hath shined, for without it all would be drowned in the chaos of disorder. 

Neither is she so partial that money shall make the man. For he ought not to be accounted a perfect Herauld except that he can discern the difference betwixt a coat armoriall obtained by valor or purchased by money. Scutum Gentilitium Palud amentum et Cristatum, honorable not mercenary as appears by this Coat of the Miners.

The reason (as Garcillasso sayeth, page 432) is this: Edward the third going to make warre against the French took a progress through Somersett and coming to Mendippe Colles Minerary, Mendippe Hills in Somersett, where lived one Henry Miner[1] his name being taken both a denominatione loci et ab officio, who with all carefullness and loyalitie having convened his domestic and menial servants armed with battle axes, proffered himself and them to his master’s service, making up a complete hundred. 

Wherefore he had his coat armorial Gules (signifying minius, red, another demonstration of the origin of the surname), a fesse (id est, cingulum militare, because obtained by valor) betwixt three Plates Argent, another demonstration of the arms for there could be no plates without mines. It is folly to suppose such a surname Minor to have any coat of arms, it being contrary, yea contradictory in terms, that Minors can obtain paternal coats or achievements unless it be presupposed that Major was his father.

Bartas, a French Herauld, says Miner is a word contracted in Dutch, Min-heir; that is, my master or lord, and gives his reason for this the Plates to be dollars or pieces of eight, abundance of which will make any Hollander (albeit born on a dung-hill) to be titled min-heir but ye Crest, reason aforesaid and chronology proved the first.

And albeit Heraulds differ in the describing (says Fordon, page 342) of this surname Miner and time, with the various dialects of several Counties, have almost made it to be another name; yet if ignorance would strive to eradicate Ancestry, it cannot do it in this Coat, the name and colors making so much proof with the place (says Baker). 1st the place where the original came from Mendippi Colles Minerari, 2nd the field minius, 3rd the charge minerall, 4th the circumstances and actions upon record relative to the crest being a battle axe armed at both ends minerall

Heraldry is not a thing of yesterday or which may be other ways found out, being already condescended upon by all nations and as it were established Jure Gentium among the Greeks, Romans, Germans, French, Spaniards, English, Scots, Danes and Hungarians, etc.  Fordon, the great antiquarian, sayth that the King’s Secretary returned the aforesaid Henry Miner a compliment for his loyaltie in these words – Oceanus (quamvis magni flury multique Torrentes Sint ei Stipendary), non de dignatur recipere minores Rivulos id est – The Ocean (though great rivers with many currents pay him tribute) disdains not also to receive the lesser of loyal brooks which by one only urn pour themselves into its bosom.

This Henry died in the year 1359 leaving behind him Henry[2], Edward, Thomas and George Miner of whom little is to be said save only that Henry married one Henreta Hicks, daughter to Edward Hicks of Glocester of whom as appears by the paling of their arms are the Hicks of Beverston Castle in Glocester descended, and had issue William[3] and Henry. 

William married one Hobbs of Wiltshire and had issue Thomas[4] and George. Henry, the 2nd son, served Richard the second anno 1384. Thomas in 1399 married one Miss Gressleys daughter of Cotton in the Countie of Stafford and had issue Lodovick[5], George and Mary.

Lodovick married Anna Dyer daughter of Thomas Dyer of Staughton in the Countie of Huntington and had issue Thomas[6] born 1436 and after that twins born twenty two years after the birth of the said Thomas and the twins George and Arthur who both served the house of Austria the younger married (as Philipe Comines relates) one Henreta d’La Villa Odorosa.

Thomas married Bridget second daughter to Sir George Hervie de St Martins in County Middlesex and died 1480 leaving his son William[7] and daughter Anna Miners in tutorage to their mother Bridget whom she resigned to her father and turned to a monasterical life in Datford where she remained during the remainder of her life.

William married Isabella Hartope de Frolibay and lived to revenge the death of the two young princes murdered in the Tower of London upon their inhuman uncle Richard the 3rd. It was said of this William Miner, that he was Flos Millitiae, the flower of chivalrie. He left behind him 10 sons, William[8], George, Thomas, Robert, Nathaniel and John; the rest are not recorded. The 2 last went over to Ireland, 1541, when King Henry the 8th was proclaimed 1st King of Ireland. Nathaniel married one Fitzmaurice nee Catherlough in the provence of Leinster in Ireland. John married to Joselina O’Bryan daughter to Teig O’Bryan of Innis in the County of Clare whose posteritie remain there in the name of Miner bearing the same coat. George married and lived in Shropshire. Thomas in Hereford.

William the eldest son has issue Clement[9] and Elizabeth Miner and was buried in Chew Magna the 23rd day of February Anno Domini 1585 and lies interred in the priest’s chancel about four foot from the wall with this inscription HEIR ___ETH ___M MYNER___ OF ___PSH OBIIT XXIII FEBRU MDLXXXV. This and no more is legible upon the stone with the coat expressed in the margin at this + sign. But by the records and registers of the said church it is evident that his name was William Myner, they both agreeing in the same date and place and must needs have been the head of the same family as by the paternal coat clearly appears. Clement his son succeeded his father in heritage and married _____ and had issue Clement, Thomas[10], Elizabeth and Mary Miner and departed this life the 31 of March 1640 and lies interred in Chew Magna in the County of Somersett.

Clement the eldest brother married Sarah Pope, daughter of John Pope of Norton-Small Reward in the County of Somersett and had issue William and Israel. This Clement was buried at Burslington in the County of Somersett. Thomas his brother is now alive in Stoningtown, in Carneticute Collony in New England Anno Domini 1683 and has issue John, Thomas, Clement, Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah Miner and two daughters Marie and Elizabeth.

William Miner, eldest son of Clement Miner, married Sarah daughter of John Batting of Clifton of Glocestershire and lives Anno 1683 in Christmas Street in the City of Bristol and has issue William and Sarah. Iseraell, the second son, married Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Jones of Burslingtown in the County of Somersett and has issue Clement, Thomas, Sarah, Jean and Elizabeth Miner Anno 1683.

And now having done with the description genealogically, I hope that [in Greek: even every ingenious stranger makes mention] and if I have used any old or ancient words, yea words now differently syllabicated, I may excuse myself with Quintilianus, “Verba a vetustate repetita non solum magnos assertores habent, sed etiam afferunt orationi majestatem aliquam, non sine delectations”, and for the ingenious reader I am; not caring that every peasant should venture his sick brained opinion upon this essay knowing well that ars nominem habet inimicum praeter ignorantum, but if he will take this counsel [in Greek: if thou hast no taste in learning meddle no more with what thou understandest not].

And keeping himself silent he may pass for a wit while on the contrary his too much garrulity shows his nakedness as much (Damian a goes de moribus Aethiopum) as Prester John who derives himself from the Lyons of Solomon or Frithulf from Seth: but I shall be very much beholden to the learned reader who, if he can give more satisfaction in this essay, would for the honor of Antiquity (who now lies in profundo Democratis Puteo) mend the Errata Chronologically and see if he can derive the surname from a longer time it being supposed that Henry Miner’s name before the King’s progress in Somersett was Bullman but how certain however I know not: but leave it to some other whose learning and experience exceed mine. Desiring nothing more than that Heraldie should be restored to its pristine splendor and truth, and not be abused by every common painter and plasterer who, before he will lose a fee, will fansie a coat of arms to the loss of their estates and coats, and sometimes their very names. 

Quid non mortalia pectora cogis auri Sacra Fames.

But – “Emblemata ad voluntatem Domini Regis sunt portanda et non alias” and Herauldie, stands in need of the dose gaperapsusys, and now I conclude with Ralphe Brooks, Esquire, and York Heraldie.

To make these names alive again appear,

Which in oblivion well neigh buried were,

That so your children may avoid the jarres,

Which might arise about their ancestors;

And the living might those titles see,

With which these names and houses honored be,

Yet I hope of more acceptance from,

Those future times that after we shall come.

For when beneath the stroke of death I fall,

And those that live these lives examine shall,

Detraction dying, you that do remain,

Will credit me and thank me for my pains.

Virg. – si quid novis rectius,

Candidus imparti – si non, his utere mecum.

In the margin along with the coats of arms for Hicks, Hobbs, Gressley, Dyers, Hervies, Harcops, Opes, Battings and Jones is the following note:

This Coat of the Miners of Chew I attest to be entered at Bath in Somersett by Clerenceux the 4 of K. James the first which visitation is in custody of me, 1606. Alex: Cunninghame

Henry Mynor supposedly received this coat of arms in 1339.


The article which refuted this document is reproduced as follows:

“The Curious Pedigree of Lt. Thomas Minor”

From New England Historical and Genealogical Register, July 1984, pages 182-185

By John A. Miner and Robert F. Miner

For over a period of perhaps some three hundred years, descendants of Lt. Thomas Minor, as well as students and writers of history and genealogy, have accepted a certain coat of arms and the seventeenth-century essay detailing Thomas’s heritage as fact.  The Register published the “Herauldical Essay Upon the Surname of Miner” as well as the supposed Miner coat of arms (v13 [1859]: p161-164; v82 [1928]: p160).

The authenticity of these artifacts remained unquestioned until the fall of 1979 when some 75 descendants journeyed to Chew Magna, Somerset, England, Thomas’s birthplace, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of his departure for America.  To recognize the occasion, a marble plaque honoring Thomas Minor was affixed to an inner wall of St. Andrew’s Church where he was baptized in 1608.  His coat of arms was to have been placed above the plaque, but this was delayed pending approval by the bishop following the customary search and recommendation of the College of Arms.

In late November 1979, the Chester Herald, D. H. B. Chesshyre, M.A., F.S.A., of the College of Arms sent a letter to the Vicar of St. Andrew’s Church, stating he had “found no references to the Miners of Chew in any of the Herald’s visitations to Somerset and, thus, no confirmation of the arms which appeared to be very similar to those of a family of Mynors of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire – but with a different crest.”  Accordingly, he would not recommend the display of the arms in question.

The original essay, entitled “An Herauldical Essay Upon the Surname of Miner,” is now in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.  Designed to answer the question whether the surname should be spelled with an “e” or an “o”, it purports to explain the origin of the name by noting that a Henry Miner of the Mendip Hills in Somerset was given a coat of arms by Edward III for his services for the up-coming war with the French.  This Henry was said to have been a miner, or mine operator; therefore, the name should be spelled with an “e.”  The essayist went on to give the descent from Henry (said to have died in 1359) to Thomas and cited Thomas’s children. The coat of arms is colorfully displayed at the top of the scroll.

In view of the recommendation of the College of Arms, and after reviewing the findings of Roger Ashley, a Chew Magna historian whose study of the Chew Magna parish records indicated that the line of descent given by the essayist was not at all corroborated by the facts shown in those records, it was determined that more research would be valuable.  Subsequently, John A. Miner and a cousin, Robert F. Miner, made independent study-trips to England.  Meetings were held at the College of Arms, with Roger Ashley and others, and finally with Robin J. E. Bush, Deputy County Archivist for Somerset.  After a full discussion of the problem between Bush and Robert Miner, and a review of Bush’s credentials as a specialist in medieval genealogy, he was engaged to conduct a thorough search as to the facts.

Bush reported that there was no evidence whatsoever for a visit to the Mendip area of Somerset by Edward III or any contemporary record of the Miner family as significant land owners in Somerset in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries.  There were no Inquisitions Post Mortem into Miner lands among those at the Public Record Office.  The feet of fines, a form of medieval land registry, have been published for Somerset up to the reign of Henry VI, but no Miners are recorded.  Bush also questioned finding the Christian name “Henrietta” in the essay, stating that he had never found it in any fourteenth century England records.

With respect to the coat of arms assumed (by) some descendants of Thomas Minor, the Herald’s College has registered no such arms as having been borne by any Somerset Miner, nor were any registered at any heraldic visitation for the county.  The essay was likely written in 1683 as it names family members as living in 1683 at particular places.  Yet a marginal note on the original document records the following: This Coat of the Miners of Chew I attest to be entered at Bath in Somersett by Clerenceux [sic] the 4 of K. James the first, which visitation is in custody of me: 1606. Alex: Cunninghame.  The Clarenceux King of Arms in 1606 was actually William Cumden.  Possible fabricators of the pedigree would include this Alexander Cunningham who attested it.  There were two prominent men of this name in 1683, one a critic 1655(?)-1730, the other an historian, 1654-1737.

Bush uncovered from a compotus, or account roll, of Chew Magna manor for the year 1494-5, records of John Minere as one of four men who paid for the grass of 46 acres of meadow and Joan Minere as one of the widows who paid a tax known as churchscot.  A William Myner was assessed in a lay subsidy (national tax) collected in 1523 in the tithing of North Elm in Chew Magna and paid 4d. on assessment of 2 pounds on his goods.  (F. A. Wood, Collections for a History of Chew Magna, 1903, p. 84; original in Public Record Office).

William Miner may be possibly identified with William Mynard, who took a new grant of a messuage (house) and a fardel of land of old auster in Chew Magna on 29 June 1554, to be held on the lives of himself, his son Thomas and Thomas’ wife, Joan (Somerset Record Office DD/S/WH, box 41, court roll).  William is the earliest member of the family from who a connected line of descent can be shown. He was the great-grandfather of the Thomas Myner baptized at Chew Magna on 23 April 1608.


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