Heraldry has been his passion from school days but a great heraldist, his mentor, the late Hugh Stanford London persuaded Cecil Humphery-Smith not to enter the College of Arms but to pursue his hobby as he progressed into scientific fields. He has remained friends with generations of heralds and continues to assist them. He graduated as a biochemist and after several years in research on antibiotics, left for Italy to work in the tomato fields on quality control of products. .He had soon realised that heraldic studies could not be carried out without genealogy and his friendship with founders of The Society of Genealogists added to his knowledge and skills in pioneer days. He was among the first members of The Heraldry Society in 1947 and the following year began classes for London University that he continued for some forty-five years, introducing certificate, advanced and diploma courses.
In 1957 he created the concept of Family History and a school for its study, along with the idea of the British Vital Records Index (ultimately absorbed into the IGI).. Persuaded to "give up stinks" by his Godfather, the late Archdeacon Julian Bickersteth, he founded The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, taking it to Northgate, Canterbury in 1961. He was fortunately able to continue to "earn a living" and pay for the development of the foundation by visiting Italy each year and work for tomato growers and packers. At the same time he had the opportunity for more university studies at Bologna, Perugia and Piacenza, and he worked on the archives of his great friend the late Marchese, Bernardo Patrizi. He purchased and refurbished the premises that now house the Institute in Northgate Canterbury. There his own extensive library and collection of precious manuscripts is kept alongside the facilities that have been built up over some 50 years to assist family historians and others.
Teaching courses over many years for the Oxford University Delegacy for Extra-Mural Studies and subsequently since 1965, for the University of Kent School of Continuing Education, as Principal of the Institute in Canterbury he established a successful correspondence course and graded assessment examination structure that enjoy world wide academic recognition and acclaim. These examinations lead to accredited postgraduate diploma and licentiate awards. He arranged a concord of mutual understanding with Canterbury Christ Church University that provides for inter-relationships in higher education.
Since the 1950's, he has designed and organised the granting of several hundred new Armorial Bearings by heraldic authorities on a voluntary basis. He now arranges for the appropriate artwork by leading artists who began their training with him at the Institute. He is one of the few to have received the much-coveted Gustav von Numers Prize for heraldic art and design.
He has served on committees of The Heraldry Society and of The Society of Genealogists since the 1950's. He is a Fellow of both and also a long-standing fellow of The Society of Antiquaries and of other national and international bodies.
He now presides over The International Federation of Schools of Family History, and still serves as a member of the International Congress Bureau.
His work on the heraldry of Canterbury cathedral was acknowledge by the award of the D'Altenstein prize in 1961 and of his advancement of medieval historical and genealogical research with the Prix Dalenda in 1991. In 2004, Her Majesty the Queen invested him as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his services to education in heraldry and genealogy.
In 1960, 1976 and 1993, he brought important international congresses in family historical subjects to the UK and was largely responsible for their organisation.
Now in his late seventies, he continues to monitor and take responsibility for the progress of The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, and to act as a consultant to its trading arms, Achievements Limited.
See www.ihgs.ac.uk and send enquiries for research to
Advisory services from Cecil Humphery-Smith are freely available to all enquirers
7 October 2007