“What is the meaning of my surname?” You must have asked this question at least once in your lifetime from yourself or from an older member of your family. Knowing the meaning of your family’s surname can help you gather valuable information about your family and your ancestors. A family crest is often directly linked to the meaning of your family’s surname.
With the increasing interest in genealogy, various websites have been developed by companies that all you to type your surname in their website’s search box and find the meaning of your family’s surname. In addition to this, these websites seem to be bombarded with ads promising to help you find the ‘family crest’ or ‘coat of arms’ of your ancestors.
In this article, we’ll help you understand what a family’s crest is and how knowing your family’s crest can help you learn more about your ancestors.
What is a Family Crest?
The term ‘family crest’, which is often used interchangeably with ‘coat of arms’ and ‘shield of arms’, originated in Europe. It refers to authentic symbols that represent ancient ancestors. These symbols can be armorial bearings, heraldic devices, or armorial devices.
Family crests or coat of arms were originally used by knights in order to differentiate themselves from their enemies. Later on, these symbols were adopted by families as identification marks. Today, coat of arms is utilized by families, institutions, and even individual, as a mean of reflecting their history and origin.
It is important to understand that although the terms ‘family crests’ and ‘coat of arms’ are used interchangeably, a family crest is not essentially a coat of arm. It’s usually a symbol that was worn by ancestors on a helmet or crown.
What Items are Important to Note About Your Family Crest?
Defining your family identity is a great way of cultivating strong family values and relationships. This can be done by searching your family crest and decoding its meaning. By knowing your family crest or coat of arms, you can get an insight into the vision of your ancestors. You can know that they wanted their successors to be and then, you can act accordingly to fulfill their mission and vision.
There are a number of websites that you can use to search your family crest. You may begin with the Family Crest Shop, Allfamilycrests.com, or HouseofNames.com. Once you have found your family crest, you can use the following tips to decipher its meanings.
- Shape – There are specific rules when it comes to the shape of the family crest. Traditionally, shield-shaped symbols were used by men, diamond-shaped symbols were for women, and oval symbols were used by clergymen.
- Color – Different colors used in a coat of arms have different meanings.
- Black – Grief
- Green – Joy and loyalty
- Red – Strength
- White – Peace and sincerity
- Orange – Ambition
- Blue – Truth and honesty
- Maroon – Patience and victory
- Yellow – Generosity
Read more about the meaning of color in your family crest and coat of arms.
- Symbols – Family crests may utilize a number of symbols, all of which have different meanings. For example, a family crest featuring an angel symbolizes dignity or a family crest with a bear on it means strength and ferocity.
Benefits of Knowing Your Family Crest
- Most families have an old family motto attached to their crest, which depicts the core value of the family. The family surname Anderson has a motto of “Qui honeste fortiter”, which translates to “He who acts honestly acts bravely”. While if we consider the surname Adams, their motto originated as a battle war cry in the 14th and 15th centuries. The slogan used on their coat of arms is “In Cruce Salus” which translates to “In the cross is salvation”. It can be clearly seen that the slogan itself provide an insight into the family and their history.
- Each crest depicted by colors and symbols, each symbol and color represent a collection of family values that relate to your family. A good example is the in the LeMaistre coat of arms, the shield shows a chevron which is believed to represent protection, while the raised arm represents courage, and the Estoile (the yellow star-like symbols) represents the goodness of God.
- Identifying your family crest helps to start on a process of developing a relationship with fellow researchers who share the same surname. A surname and family crest can be a great starting point to reach out to distant relatives to identify where your generations cross. You could also learn a lot more about your ancestors through reaching out.
- A family crest can be used to honor family members and traditions. Each crest, each family has a story, the more you can uncover the more you can honor and preserve family history. A story can be a great way to get your children and other family members interested in family history and a crest holds an age-old story which just might be the hook you need.