Coat of Arms

The coat of arms, which originated in Europe, is also often referred to as armorial bearings, armorial devices or heraldic devices. The coat of arms, which was utilized initially by knights as a way of identifying themselves and setting themselves apart from soldier-enemies, could belong to a group of people or even a specific person.

Also referred to as a family crest, a family coat of arms is essentially a graphic display of your family's name. This tradition, which goes back nearly 800 years, symbolizes the history of a family name. A family coat of arms may be unique to not only a family, but a person, corporation or state as well.

The coat of arms has evolved over time, and many people and institutions use them today. In particular, universities use coats of arms, and they have very careful guidelines about how they may be used and who may use them. Coats of arms belong to the tradition of heraldry, which refers to the design and display of the arms. When towns, countries or villages use coats of arms, it is called civic heraldry.

A traditional coat of arms usually includes a patterned shield that is decorated with a crest, a helmet, a motto, a crown, a wreath and a mantling. A coat of arms may be used by a school, college, church, guild, corporation or families to reflect their origins.

Historic Coats of Arms

Dating back to the twelfth century, a family coat of arms or a coat of arms has been used to identify a warrior dressed in armor. Knights would use a coat of arms, worn as a tunic over their armor, to identify one another. By the mid-thirteenth century, coats of arms were adopted by priests, cities, town, commoners, peasants and burghers, who often used them as seals or other insignia. Family coats of arms, although originally used for battle, have been passed down through the generations and are now a great way to connect with our past.

The coat of arms was considered extremely important, and the use of a coat of arms was strictly regulated, as they were used for identification purposes and were used on items such as seals and legal documents. Although few countries in the world still continue the use of arms for identification, the study of the coat of arms (also called heraldry) is still quite popular today.

Throughout history in England and Scotland, a coat of arms signified an individual, and not a family. A traditional coat of arms, during this time, was considered legal property and was passed down from father to son. Descendants of a coat of arms would typically be differentiated through a color change or with the addition of a distinguishable charge, such as the coat of arms' label. The images are the same whether on a crest or a coat of arms, but the place where they are displayed distinguishes them.

The original coat of arms was designed for medieval battle purposes and has evolved over time to indicate the identity of a person or an institution. In current times, the closest thing to a coat of arms is the modern corporate logo.

Symbolic Meaning in Coats of Arms

There are various symbols and colors used in coats of arms, and they all have different meanings. Some of these include:

Colors

  • Gold: generosity
  • Silver: peace or sincerity
  • Red: warrior or martyr
  • Green: hope, joy and loyalty

Symbols

  • Anchor: hope, religious, steadfastness
  • Angels: dignity, glory
  • Baton: token of authority
  • Bear: strength, cunning, ferocity

(Reference Source: Fleur-de-lis Designs)

Great Histories and Coats of Arms

Some of the best ancestral histories are formed with the details gleaned from the coat of arms. By uncovering the social circumstances and the geographic locations of your ancestors, you can begin to get a sense of where you come from and who you are. You also begin to understand how you are connected to those who began your family line. Often times, the process of locating and understanding your family coat of arms can be quite fulfilling. If you want to find a coat of arms for your family, you may be quite surprised to learn about the origins of your family line.

Online Coat of Arms Resources

Fleurdelis.com- the meaning behind the symbols for coat of arms

Houseofnames.com - coat of arms and surnames histories by house of names

IrishSurnames.com - free to view Irish family crests and brief history details

AllFamilyCrests.com - free search online to help your research

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