Family Crests

Finding the origins of your family and surname can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding process, and taking the time to locate your family crest can also provide a considerable amount of insight regarding the wars waged and the battles won by your family. Because most of us have family dating back to the Middle Ages, locating the family crest for our family surname is a fairly simple process.

What is a crest and what are the roots of your family crest?

Crests, in short, were symbols worn atop a helmet. They began as a form of heraldry, which is the practice of indicating the identity of a soldier bearing arms by the crest designed on their helmet. Since most American families have their origins in other parts of the world, many people have crests associated with their surnames.

Crest takes its name from the position of the symbol atop the helmet, like the rooster's crest sits atop its head. Although crests were originally worn on helmets, they eventually were made of leather and various materials. There are many objects typically seen in crests, including lions, shields, birds, hands holding weapons, and crowns.

Women did not bear crests because they did not wage battle, and subsequently, they had no helmet upon which to wear a crest (clergymen did not wear them either for the same reasons). The only exception to this is in England, where the queen wears her own unique crest that is completely different from crests worn by kings.

The crest has a rich history in Germanic countries, as well as in England, Poland and Hungary. The crest and the name of the crest were often used by all the members of a given family and are quite distinctive for each particular family.

Searching for Your Family's Crest

Crests, like their history with fighting men, are still worn today by every solider, sailor and marine. Even corporations, colleges, churches and state and city offices still use the crest, and it is often used in place of a coat of arms. When used in this setting, the crest typically signifies the values and principles of the organization, although it may also be used as way to identify the organization or create a sense or prestige or honor. You may think of a crest as little more as a fashion statement, yet their origins are based on war, not fashion!

Your family crest is your chance to show the world your family's origins. Some of the objects you may recognize in your family crest include animals, half-human/half-animal pictures, hands or arms holding weapons or bird's wings. Countries like Germany often family crests with a tall hat, a fan of plumes or even a pair of curving horns.

It is important to realize that a coat of arms and a crest are not the same when it comes to a family name; in other words, simply because you share the same last name with another individual, you should not assume that your family crest is also the same.

For genealogists, finding the family crest can be a wonderful part of creating a family history. There are excellent online resources to help you locate your family crest. The Internet has afforded us the opportunity to research and find the origins of our families, thereby unlocking the secrets of our past!

The family crest can divulge details about your background. You will see for what your family was renowned in ages gone by, whether they held a family seat in a given location, what the traditions and ideals were for them, and other details of typically untold information. In fact, you may very well want to display your family crest and regale friends and family with details of your family.

Family Crest and Historical Depth

The family crest is just one more key in the fantastic arsenal of a good genealogist that unlocks hidden doorways into the past. You can find out so much about where you came from and what your family stood for by learning about your crest. The family crest is a fantastic part of a good genealogical history and can be used not only ornamentally, but also informatively to tell people of the rich history of your family.

Make sure that you look for your family crest as you delve into your family research.

Online Family Crest Resources

Houseofnames.com - a searchable site for locating your family crest. The site includes information about the crest and about your family's origins, including the origins of your family's surname.

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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