A little History

(Text extract from Wikipedia with additions)

A coat of arms is, strictly speaking, a distinctive heraldic design on a cloak used to cover and protect armour, but the term is more broadly applied to mean a full heraldic achievement which consists of a shield and certain accessories. In either sense, the design is a symbol unique to a person, family, corporation, or state. Such displays are also commonly called armorial bearings, armorial devices, heraldic devices, or arms.

Historically, armorial bearings were first used by feudal lords and knights in the mid-12th century on battlefields as a way to identify allied from enemy soldiers. As the uses for heraldic designs expanded, other social classes who never would march in battle began to assume arms for themselves. Initially, those closest to the lords and knights adopted arms, such as persons employed as squires that would be in common contact with the armorial devices. Then priests and other ecclesiastical dignities adopted coats of arms, usually to be used as seals and other such insignia, and then towns and cities to likewise seal and authenticate documents. Eventually by the mid-13th century, peasants, commoners and burghers were adopting heraldic devices. The widespread assumption of arms led some states to regulate heraldry within their borders. However, in most of continental Europe, citizens freely adopted armorial bearings. In Canada, the Canadian Heraldic Authority , under the authority of the Governor General of Canada, is responsible for keeping track of heraldry and recording people's coats of arms within the Canada.

Despite the fact that there is no widespread international regulation, and even a lack in many cases of national-level regulation, heraldry has remained rather consistent across Europe, where traditions alone have governed the design and use of arms. Unlike seals and other general emblems, heraldic achievements have a formal description called a blazon, expressed in a jargon that allows for consistency in heraldic depictions.

In the 21st century, coats of arms are still in use by a variety of institutions and individuals; for example, universities have guidelines on how their coats of arms may be used, and protect their use as trademarks. Many societies exist that aid in the design and registration of personal arms, and some nations, like England, Scotland, and Canada maintains authorities that grant and regulate arms.


Armorial bearings in Canada

Who may apply for a Grant of armorial bearings?
  • All Canadian citizens or corporate bodies (municipalities, societies, associations, institutions, etc.) may petition to receive a grant of armorial bearings.

What are the different types of armorial bearings?
  • Three categories of armorial bearings can be requested: coats of arms, flags and badges. A coat of arms is centred on a shield and may be displayed with a helmet, mantling, a crest and a motto. A grant of supporters is limited to corporate bodies and to some individuals in specific categories.

What is the meaning of a Grant of Arms?
  • Grants of armorial bearings are honours from the Canadian Crown. They provide recognition for Canadian individuals and corporate bodies and the contributions they make both in Canada and elsewhere.


A "Bourgeois" Family Coat of Arms

As of yet, no historical family coat of arms has been found for the Bourgeois family. The truth is, we doubt we will find a coat of arms that is the historically accurate coat of arms of the family and this for three reasons.

  • The first reason that it is inaccurate to use the term "family coat of arms". Coats of Arms were an honour bestowed to an individual and not a family. Historically, although the coat of arms was passed down through the generations, it was modified by the recipient (Cadency) in some way to become his coat of arms. In this way, two brothers would have coats of arms that would be similar but slightly different and identify them as individuals.
  • The second and more compelling reason is that, if existing genealogical research and theory is correct, Jacques Jacob Bourgeois' father was Nicolas Grandjehan and not a Bourgeois. If we were to find a "Bourgeois" coat of arms it would need to have come from Marie Marguerite Bourgeois' family, Jacques Jacob's mother.
  • And finally there is no evidence that Jacques Jacob Bourgeois ever personally received or used a coat of arms.

This having been said, the Association des Bourgeois d'Acadie, incorporated at the time and now no longer active, with the support of the Association des Bourgeois d'Amérique, now the Association of Bourgeois' of Acadian Descent (ABAD), applied for and received a grant of a coat of arms that represents Jacques Jacob Bourgeois and his descendants.

In 1998 the “Association des Bourgeois d’Amérique” considered it appropriate to join into an Association des Bourgeois d'Acadie project in order that it would become a project for the whole family. At a joint meeting, the two associations came to an agreement on that point, and more importantly, they decided to make it so that the symbols chosen would be granted to our ancestor Jacques Bourgeois, Acadian pioneer, for himself, his family, and all of his descendants. They decided on the choice of symbols then motto and to share the cost of the project. (see the Le Bourgeois April 1998 article).

Later that year the late Honourable Romeo LeBlanc, then Governor General of Canada awarded the coat of arms and associated heraldic emblems to the Association des Bourgeois d’Acadie. This, however, must be interpreted in the light of heraldic administration rules. The armorial for a family must be requested by an incorporated association and must be granted to it. In turn, each descendant of Jacques Bourgeois may consider himself or herself identified by these symbols as a family member. This was clearly stated at the Association des Bourgeois d’Acadie Annual General Meeting in '97, and reconfirmed at the '98 Annual General Meeting. Moreover, it is obvious that the symbols included in the armorial are aimed at Jacques Bourgeois, his family and their descendants. (see the Le Bourgeois October 1998 article)

In 2011, the ABAD decided to contact the leadership of the Association des Bourgeois d'Acadie which had not been active for several years to discuss a possible merger to the two organizations in order to protected the coat of arms or if appropriate, the transfer of these to the ABAD. After long discussions it was determined that a merger would not be possible and that the ABAD should proceed with its incorporation, and a formal request to the Heraldic Authority of Canada to transfer or share of the Bourgeois arms.

After 19 years of operations, the association was incorporated under Federal Charter in 2012 and receives its letters of incorporation in March 2013.

Following further discussions with the president of the Association des Bourgeois d'Acadie in August 2013, it was agreed that the official documents allowing the use of Bourgeois coat of arms by the Association of Bourgeois' of Acadian Descent would be signed by all parties. These documents and the official request for the recognition of the right of the ABAD to use the Bourgeois coat of arms was sent to the Heraldic Authority of the Canada who confirmed the ABAD's right to use of the coat of arms on October 13, 2013. ( See The Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges)


The Coat of Arms

Coat of arms

The colours are those of Acadia. The horizontal wavy band represents the sea, which linked France to New France. It also alludes to Beaubassin, which was founded by the first ancestor, Jacques Bourgeois. The symbolism of the Acadian star requires no explanation. The Franciscan cord refers to the ship Saint Francois on which Jacques Bourgeois crossed the sea to settle at Port-Royal in 1641. The fleam identifies his profession of surgeon. The Maltese cross represents the Coutran Commandery of the Order of Malta at La Ferte-Gaucher, It is possible that Jacques Bourgeois received his surgeon training at the school of the Commandery.

The motto is "Attaining the ideal together"

See official SYMBOLISM OF THE ARMORIAL BEARINGS document provided by the CANADIAN HERALDIC AUTHORITY.

The Crest

Coat of Arms crest

The crest is an enhanced or modified version of the logo used by the Association of Bourgeois' of Acadienne Descent and the "Les Retrouvailles" Bourgeois family gatherings at the World Acadian Congresses. The three coloured sails and the star represent the Acadian flag, the Franciscan cord and the ship represents the Saint Francois that brought Jacques Bourgeois to Acadia and ten waves represent the ten children of Jacques Jacob Bourgeois and Jeanne Trahan.

This crest is also used as a basis for the crest decoration on the helmet on the coat of arms blazer.


The original Retrouvailles logo from 1994

Retrouvailles/ABAD logo