[Heralds of the SCA - People need your help and experience! Please endeavour to add your wisdom to this page! I thank you! -Khevron]
Wish List:
Someone to explain documenting the original spelling v. modern spelling issues.
Can a group just pick an actual place name from a period map so long as it isn't well known (not London, Canterbury, Olympia, Tuscany, Paris, etc)?
Real place name documentation for successful registrations
Your group name story - what did it take to do it - how would you do it now?

Group Name Research and Registration

So you are starting a new group and you need a registerable name or you are changing your existing branch's name. I hope this article will be helpful to you get you started in the right direction in avoiding problems and delays, and guide you to finding a name for your branch.
You should contact your Principality or Kingdom Seneschal as to regulations for incipient groups and what your requirements are to become an official Branch of the SCA.

You should read both the administrative Handbook and Rules for Submission throughout, but here are sections you need to reference:

Link to the Administrative Handbook of the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.:

Submissions Regulations
I. Registration Limit
A. Kingdoms, Principalities, Baronies, and Provinces - Kingdoms, principalities, baronies, provinces, and equivalent branches are subject to no limit on the number of items they may register.

B. Individuals and other local groups - Individuals and other Society branches may register no more than four names and four pieces of armory. Any submission by an individual or branch which would otherwise exceed this limit must be accompanied by a release of one or more items already registered to them to accommodate the new item[s].

II. Registerable Items
A. Names for Individuals - Names for individuals are divided into three administrative categories.

1. Primary Society Name - The single name under which records of registration are maintained. Kingdoms or principalities may require this name to be used on awards, honors, scrolls, and other formal documents.
2. Alternate Society Name - Any personal name registered for an individual other than his or her Primary Society Name. An Alternate Society name may be registered alone or may be associated with a badge. Records for both name and armory will be retained under the individual's Primary Society Name.

3. Holding Name - A purely administrative label substituted by the Laurel Office to register an individual's armory when the submitted name cannot be registered. Only the Laurel Office may create holding names.

B. Names for Groups - Society branches and other groups of members may register names appropriate for the type of group. Such names are divided into several administrative categories.

1. Branch Name - The single name of a Society branch under which records of registration are maintained. This name will appear in all formal documents mentioning the branch, including scrolls, the kingdom regnum, etc. Branch designators (such as shire or barony) are not part of the registered branch name; they are administrative placeholders which may or may not reflect the actual current status of the branch. The branch designation that should be used in a Branch Name is determined by the current status of the branch.

Link to the SCA Rules for Submission

2. Name Style. - Every name as a whole should be compatible with the culture of a single time and place.

b. Non-Personal Names - Branch names, names of orders and awards, heraldic titles, and household names must consist of a designator that identifies the type of entity and at least one descriptive element.

Common designators are Shire , Barony , Guild , House , Order of the , and Herald . The designator must be appropriate to the status of the submitter. Society branches may use the designator established by Corpora for their category of group or any authorized alternative form. The designator may be included as part of a one-word name if the authorized form was used that way in period, like the English word shire , which appears as a part of the one-word name Worcestershire .

i. Branch Names - Names of branches must follow the patterns of period place-names.

Some good Society examples are: Shire of Carlsby , Standonshire , Barony of Jararvellir , College of Saint Carol on the Moor , all of which closely resemble period place-names.

Group place names must adhere to the same standards as personal name, and follow the example of real period place names.
You can view examples of place names already registered with the SCA College of Arms here - The On-line SCA Armorial.
Click on the Name search form, and type it 'barony' or other branch type. Choose "all names containing the word [branch type]". You should look at examples since about the year 2001. Earlier registrations may be good or may be not so good examples.

It's difficult to judge by the name alone without looking at the actual documentation what is 'good' or registerable today. Some that sound correct may not be. Some that sound like fantasy names may be registerable.
Few heralds are experts in all languages/cultures/naming conventions of the day.

[Link to actual samples of Documentation]

Branch Name help sites:

The Medieval Names Archive: Names of Places, Things, and Animals

What is an S.C.A. Branch Name?

SCA Group Creation 101

Historic Cities Maps, literature, documents, books and other relevant material

Domesday Book On-line

Icelandic Language and Place Names

A Collection of 613 English Borough Names for Use in Locative Bynames

Wiki List of Greek place names

Wiki List of Roman place names in Britain

Wiki Place names in Irish

Medieval Atlas

Wiki "List of tautological place names"

SCA Precedents - Compatible Place-name elements (no evidence of use in period, yet "possible" to register as a weirdness.)

The Hard Part:

There are a couple of significant difficulties to overcome when choosing a group name.
Please realize it is a process, and may take some time, One to several years, complete.
As a herald or seneschal, you need to do early research on name construction in various languages and periods to help you make choices.
  • As a group, your people must decide and agree on the culture/language/period and specific name for your group.
  • As a herald, you (or others) have to come up with registerable names to put to the group.
  • As a herald, you (with help) have to document each name as a name that could have existed in that culture/language/period.
  • You are likely have have to go through the process for several name choices and run them by your people for approval. Then submit them to your Kingdom Heralds with appropriate petitions signed by the members of your group. They may or may not pass.
  • As a leader, you will have to understand the process and keep your group together in the face of these trials and disappointments.
  • My Branch name Story:

    In late 1997, I founded a remote group in Northwestern Oertha (modernly known as Alaska). I had 'some' book herald experience by then. We were faced with the usual choices. We decided we'd like to have an exotic sounding and hard to pronounce name and chose Welsh.
    Using an English-Welsh dictionary in 1998 I constructed a number of names, ran them by the populace, and we submitted the name: "Moroedd Oer" (Icy Seas in Welsh). It was returned, as no place name in period Wales would be named for the condition of the water no-one actually lives on.
    Lesson learned. After collecting several modern place names books for Wales, I contructed more choices. We later submitted to Kingdom: "Arthwenog" (Land of the White Bear in Welsh) and Llostlydanog (Land of the Beavers in Welsh). Another name developed was Ynys Tan-lan (River Meadow below the Slope).
    We consulted with the Welsh language expert in the SCA Mistress Tangwystyl for lots of advice. Again, we found that the Welsh didn't use many animals in their place-names, and there were certainly no examples of polar bears and beavers. Finally, we submitted and eventually registered Ynys Taltraeth (River meadow or Island at the end of the sandy spit in Welsh).
    Throughout this process were numerous meetings and polls taken. When we had the device all but designed, the last choice was whether the sea-dog should be Purpure (purple) or vert (green). I wanted vert, but the polling stood against me and we have a purple sea-dog.
    That was September, 2001!

    Link to Canton Ynys Taltraeth
    If I had to do it all over again I'd go with English!

    [Link to further Branch name anecdotes]

    General Advice (Things to do or things to avoid):

  • Stay away from fantasy book or role-playing game inspired name forms (Lightning Keep, Shadow Marches, Dragons cave, Benden Hold).
  • The SCA hasn't always reached the goal, but tries to emulate period forms, and has learned much over the years. It would take very strong public will to change existing branch names which wouldn't pass today - Shires all the way up to Kingdom names- to make them period and it shouldn't be expected.
  • Remember people usually named their towns by geographical features that exist nearby. Mountains, along rivers, hills, fords, meadows.
  • Find a period map of the country you wish to draw names from and translate the ones you like the sound of if you can.
  • Get familiar with the forms of the names, combinations of elements, special characters.
  • Remember languages and naming conventions change a lot over the SCA period, so elements from a 10th century map may not combine with a 16th century one.
  • The Countries we know today were very different politically and linguistically in period. Italy wasn't unified, nor was France the size it is today. Spain was many smaller states until the late 15th century.
  • Many real place names just have unknown origins, whether they were mistranslated or written down wrong or named after something or someone that didn't otherwise make the rolls (church, tax, etc) may never be known. But research reveals more every year, so don't despair!
  • Most, though not all, College groups choose saints names for their name, many of which are reasonably simple to document. (i.e. Saint Boniface, Saint Cassian of Imola, Saint Ursula)
  • Herald Referrals

    Be aware few heralds are masters of any specific topic. The volunteers here are to help guide you, but you will have to do the work.
    These listed below may not have time to help when you want it.

    By Specific Countries/Periods/Specialty


    General Procedures:
  • Khevron Oktavii: e-mail: khevron@warpmail.net
  • Documentation help:
  • Bob the Submissions herald: e-mail: bob@g-whizmail.net
  • Specific Regions/Languages:
  • John the Herald (Greece) e-mail: angel@herald.com
  • Mary the Herald (Isle of Mann, Wales) e-mail: x2@g-whizmail.net
  • Eventually, I'd like referral listings like this:
  • General Procedures help
  • England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales
  • Scandinavia
  • Germany
  • Low Countries
  • France
  • Spain and Portugal
  • Italy
  • Classical Rome
  • Classical Greece
  • Documentation help
  • Special Characters and syntax
  • Egypt and Nubia
  • Hungaria and Romania
  • Israel
  • Arabia, Persia, Turkey
  • Asia
  • Mongolia
  • India
  • China
  • Japan
  • Polling the Populace

    Polling is where you present, with plenty of notice, names and/or devices for the populace to choose from, having debated about the choices during meetings, and finally vote on which way to go. Spread-out groups may do this by mail, or during one or more meetings to allow access to all. Check with your Kingdom or Principality Seneschal about procedures. Some administrations demand only members with SCA memberships may vote, some not, depending on the issues. It's a debate - Paid members may feel they have a larger stake, or are more 'invested' in the group. However inpaid members may be the backbone of activities and could feel very hurt if left out. Others normally carrying memberships could be left out of a poll if their membership happened to lapse. It can get ugly.

    Your Petitions

    Link to the Administrative Handbook of the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.:

    Appendix D - Suggested Standard Form Letters
    Petition for Registration of Group Name and Device
    We the undersigned members and officers of ([Society branch name]) affirm that we approve of the submission of the branch name ([Society branch name submitted]) and device, ([blazon]), pictured below.

    [Date] [Signatures of [Crowned Head, if applicable]]

    [Date] [Signatures of [Officers or Populace]]

    So those are the words, but here are a few suggestions to make your Sovereigns and Seneschals happy:

  • Type all the text, don't write anything except the actual signatures. Otherwise it looks like you gathered signatures and filled in the name clandestinely.
  • If you are petitioning for the device, show the blazon and emblazon (drawing of the arms) in color. This shows the petitioners know what they are asking for.
  • Include LEGAL NAMES and LEGAL SIGNATURES next to SCA names and offices. Make it neat and tidy and clear. This is a legal document testifying your wishes!
  • Including SCA Membership Numbers may impress the higher-ups of your seriousness along with numbers of signatures. This may be optional. Check with your Kingdom Seneschal.
  • If you want to, you can make a pretty, illuminated petition with SCA names only for presentation to local or Kingdom Royalty.
  • Check with your Kingdom Seneschal, but the petitioners should include as many officers and populace as possible to show unified support for the name and/or device.
  • It has been done, where officers 'decided' things for the populace, and the populace have counter-petitioned against a name/device or change of. All these pollings and petitions must be announced and be viewed & commented on in open meetings, be there 5 or 500 members in the group. Closed sessions and dishonest back-door submissions are unseemly for a chivalric society, and may herald the eventual demise of a group or demand a change of the officer corps.
  • I say this a lot, but check with your Kingdom Seneschals or Submissions Deputy Herald about numbers of copies - color or not, of petitions and documentation to include.

    [Links to sample petition and actual petitions]

    Branch Armory:

    Registering arms for a Shire, Canton (or similar size branch types smaller than baronies) is not required but encouraged.
    Remember, arms cannot be registered without a name, and branch names have not 'holding name' option, so branches always have their arms registered with or following the name.
    SCA Branch arms also have to adhere to all the rules of SCA Personal arms, plus display one or more Laurel Wreaths as a charge. At this time, this article won't be going into further detail on Branch Arms.

    Arms of the SCA

    What will your Group arms be?

    Examples of Group Arms:

    Groups of the Knowne World Roll of Arms
    19 Kingdoms full of Branch Armory

    -Baron Khevron, O.P.

    This is not an official site of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) and the author makes no claims to scholarship in this article. If you find mistakes or have improvements, please, please, please write and I'll try to include your information!