Jonathan Webster wrote:I've recently become very interested in the heraldry of South Africa in general
That's good news, Jonathan. There's lots to explore.
*Is there a system of helmets like in other heraldic jurisdictions?
No. SA heraldry is egalitarian. Roman-Dutch law, which prevails in SA, gives everyone the right to a coat of arms, so there's no honour or privilege attached to having one. There are different styles of helmet in use, e.g. tournament, barred, barrel, but none indicates any particular status. The tournament helmet is probably the most widely used, probably because of British colonial influence in the past.
The arms of Nicolaas van der Walt are an example :
*How does the matriculation system work? (is it even a system?)
It's voluntary. Anyone can register arms at the Bureau of Heraldry, provided the arms are heraldically correct, and are not already someone else's property. An application for matriculation is published in the Government Gazette
for objections before it's registered.
Personal arms can be re-registered ('matriculated') in the names of descendants, including adopted children. Younger children's arms are differenced, but no specific system is followed.
*How do 'family associations' work and what exactly are they?
They're associations which various families have formed to preserve their heritage, to research and publish family trees, to arrange gatherings, etc. They seem to be most popular among Afrikaner families.
As a corporate body, a family association can have a coat of arms. The standard pattern laid down by the Heraldry Council in 1966 consists of a shield and motto only, and the shield has a plain chief. The idea is that if an individual member of the association wants a personal coat of arms, he can adapt the association's arms by placing some charges to the chief and adding a crest.
Here's the Vermeulen Family Association arms, as an example :
Although about forty family associations have registered arms, hardly any individuals have registered personal arms derived from them.
*Do personal arms have supporters?
Not as a rule. The Bureau of Heraldry will not register them unless the armiger is a traditional ruler, e.g. the King of the Zulus, or a bailiff grand cross of the Order of St John or the Order of St Lazarus, or holds a foreign dignity such as a peerage which qualifies him for supporters.
As registration is voluntary, nothing actually prevents anyone from using supporters, but there's no tradition of this, and I doubt that many people do use them.
Blazons of several thousand registered arms, badges, flags, and other items can be found on the National Archives of SA website : http://www.national.archsrch.gov.za/sm3 ... 6DB%3DHERE
Unfortunately, there are no images. There are about a thousand military unit coats of arms and ships' badges which are registered, but which aren't in this database.