A common question that I often get asked about the Coats of Arms is what a surname means.
What is in a Surname History ?
A family name history is a narrative of a name over time, not the genealogy of a specific member of a familiy. The products provided compliment the type of information found through a genealogical research. The Crests and Coat of Arms provided are normally the earliest known version of the arms.
What is the difference between Family Crests and a Coat of Arms ?
There is a technical difference between a "Family Crest" and a "Coat of Arms", but people have often used both terms. A "Coat of Arms" generally refers to the shield, crest, helmet, mantling and supporters (if any),while the "Crest" technically only refers to the small image that lies on the helm (on top of the helmet). A "Coat of Arms" that bears a name was originally bestowed on an individual.
Are there Family Crests ?
Strictly speaking there is no "Familiy Crest" nor "Family Coat of Arms" but these terms have come into common usage and are therefore used. The more correct terms are "Coat of Arms" and "Armorial Bearing".
Why have I seen a different Coat of Arms for my Surname ?
There are often several different "Coat of Arms" for any given Surname. "Coat of Arms" were originally granted to individuals, who then passed them down through direct descendants. The "Coat of Arms" provided are the earliest on record associated with a Surname or one of its spelling variations according to heraldic standards.
Even the colours can have special meaning in a "family crest" or coat of arms:
Gold - generosity and elevation of the mind
White or Silver - peace and sincerity
Red - warrior or martyr - military strength and magnaminity
Blue - Truth and loyalty
Green - Hope, joy and loyalty in love
Black - consistency of grief
Purple - Royal majesty, sovereignty and justice
Orange - worth ambition
Maroon - Patient in battle and yet victorious
Acacia Branch or Leaves: Eternal and affectionate remembrance.
Acorn: Antiquity and strength.
Agricultural Tools: Labouring in the earth and depending upon providence; see also Scythe and Sickle.
Alisaunder (Similar to laurel): Peace and/or triumph.
Allerion (Mythical creature, similar to an eagle, but without the beak or claws): Strength of will and authority of mind.
Anchor: Hope, religious steadfastness.
Angel: Dignity, glory, and honour; missionary; bearer of joyful news.
Annulet (finger ring): Fidelity.
Ant: Great labour, wisdom, and providence in one's affairs.
Antelope (heraldic): A mythical animal with the body of a stag, the tail of a unicorn, a tusk at the tip of the nose, tufts down the back of the neck, chest, and thighs (usually represented with two straight horns serrated on one side). One who will not fight unless provoked; peace and harmony.
Antlers: Strength and fortitude.
Anvil: Honour; emblem of the smith's trade.
Apple: Liberality, felicity and peace.
Arm (or Hand) in Armour or Embowed: A person with qualities of leadership.
Arm (Hand), Naked: An industrious person. Red hand also indicates a baronet in Ireland.
Arrow/Dart: Readiness (for battle); if depicted with a cross, represents an affliction.
There are a lot more meanings for the specific symbols, animals, plants or figures that appear on various surname Coat of Arms - and I will give further information on them in future blogs.
What is on your surname Coat of Arms ?? - Come and ask me about yours today. If you don't see yours, please ask as I slowly put up more surnames in my store.
There are many nationalities to choose from: English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, Belgian, German, Italian, French, Luxembourg, Russian, Ukrainian, Swiss, Swedish, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese just to name a few.
Please note that the following descriptions and meanings are gleaned from a variety of sources, some people may disagree on those meanings. The most commonly accepted meanings are given, but scholars vary in the their opinions concerning the reliability of any "commonly held" historic meanings for coats of arms and crests.