The charge and colour upon a shield is the same for all descendants of the original bearer, but crests and mottoes have varied with different branches of the same family. An armigerous person, or one entitled to bear arms, can adopt any crest or motto he chooses without a grant from his sovereign. But a shield used without a grant comes under the head of those " bogus arms " which excite the derision of all heralds.

The laws of heraldry are slightly different in different countries. Thus, in England all the descendants of an armigerous person are entitled to bear his arms; whereas in Scotland his eldest son alone is presumed to do so, and his younger sons must have a fresh grant, or as it is called, " matriculate their arms," at the Lyon Office. Comparatively few Scottish families take the trouble to do this, and therefore a great majority of the arms used by Scotsmen must, however, reluctantly be characterised as " bogus."

A bachelor bears his father's arms covering the whole shield. A married man divides his shield in half, and bears on one side of the line his own arms, and on the other side the arms of his wife, which is called impaling. If he has had more than one wife, he has to place their arms one above the other on their half of his shield; or, if he chooses, he can use as many shields as he has had wives, each with a separate wife's arms impaled with his; but this is very cumbersome.