From time to time, someone mentions that there is a Woolsey Coat-of-Arms and that our Immigrant Ancestor George Woolsey was entitled to it. Instead of being a Myth, this may more be a question of entitlement.
Source of the Myth
There are several sources of this Myth:
- In America Heraldica, among 256 colored plates of Arms belonging to American families is found one belonging to George Woolsey "George Woolsey died in 1698 leaving descendants entitled to his arms. [Quoted by Hester (Woolsey) Brewer, p. 14. www has not found this reference.]
- National Genealogical Society Quarterly. April 1914. Volume No. 4 - " . . . made in 1905 lists American families of note compiled by a committee of the college of Heralds in London as entitled to social eminence within the confines of the Crown and the Woolsey family of New York is among about 175 other families. [Quoted by Hester (Woolsey) Brewer]
- Woolsey, Robert M. The Woolsey Family. Privately printed. 1950's. "As of this writing there seems to be no real knowledge of the parents of George Woolsey. However, he brought with him this Gentleman’s coat-of arms, of a kind very similar to that of the Thomas Cardinal Woolsey (2.074B) [Note by www: Robert M. Woolsey does a fair amount of "documentation" but inexplicably, does not tell where he found that extraordinary statement.]
- James W. Woolsey, a noted genealogist found the Woolsey Coat-of-Arms and it has been widely reproduced, but no one has yet proved a correct provenance for it.
- Burke’s Landed Gentry. Status of the Woolsey family in England is given thus: " . . . people of gentle birth, education and good-breeding, those between the nobility and yeomanry, having landed estate." [Quoted by Hester (Woolsey) Brewer]
Straightening the Record
There is no question that the Cardinal, Thomas Wolsey, was granted a most impressive ‘Arms’. The question is, "Did George Woolsey bring a copy with him from England?" If he did, he never referred to it in a public record. None of his contemporaries mentioned it, although he did consort with the leading men of the Dutch Colony.
What the Facts Tell Us About the Myth
It wasn’t until after the early 1900's that mention was made of George Woolsey’s "connection to Royalty", at a period of time people were ‘crazed’ with the notion of descending from Royalty. More research is needed in this area.
Woolsey Coat of Arms by Frank Mitchell
If you have myths to suggest, or evidence to add supporting or further refuting a myth, please send your message to Wilford Whitaker - Editor and Chief of Woolsey Myths.
Carolyn Woolsey Wilkerson, webmistress.