Everyone has a history. A story to tell. Your history starts with something that defines who you are as an individual and also as a family; your name.
When we are born we are given a surname, typically that of our father. Your surname is more than just a name you sign on your credit card receipts, it is who you are and where you came from. Dating as far back at the 11th century, families have created their own coat-of-arms to symbolize who they are during times of war and sport, two very important yet different moments for our ancestors but both containing one similar element; pride. Pride in who they are as a person, a family and a country.
Due to the growing popularity of genealogy and heraldry interest in the US, we at Flag Expressions have researched the Coat-of-Arms, commonly known as a Family Crest; How to find yours, what it means to you and how to share your heritage with others.
Family Crest -A device placed above the shield on a coat of arms, commonly mistaken as the code-of-arms
Coat-of-Arms -An arrangement of bearings, usually depicted on and around a shield, that indicates ancestry and distinctions.
Blazon(ing) – the art of designing a coat-of-arms. An official coat of arms was created for this art form during the 13th century.
Genealogy -a chart or recorded history of the descent of a person or family from an ancestor or ancestors
Heraldry -the practice of devising, blazoning, and granting armorial insignia and of tracing and recording genealogies
The first indications of the coat-of-arms are dated during the 11th century when a coat-of-arms was discovered on the monument of Count of Wasserburg in the church of St Emeran in Germany, dated 1010. One of the symbols shown was the rampant lion which is one the most recognizable emblems used in family crests. During the 12th century family crests and the code-of-arms started becoming more popular during times of great war when the individually designed crests were used to identify warriors in battle. The insignia appearing on the crest were the reward of personal merit and were earned by the humblest of men as well as the highest in class. With heraldry largely accepted in Europe during the 13th century, the need for a code of rules and terminology for the creation of code-of-arms was put into place and a specialist in this field became known as a herald. They were consulted by monarchs and other members of high class to design a crest to represent a family, commonly presented at a marriage or at a knighting. Crests remained dominate in our ancestors history for hundreds of years especially during knights tournaments when crests and heraldry changed from a functional art to one of decoration. By 1400 AD, bearing a coat of arms was a prerequisite for participation in a tournament and because of the importance of social standing in such events; the coat-of-arms became a symbol of noble status. Heraldry is now used as decorative art, showcasing the early symbols associated with our ancestors and forming a sense of pride with our heritage. Today they are true testimonials of bravery and heroism carried down generation to generation.
Elements of the Coat-of-Arms
Shield: The most recognized element of the code-of-arms is the shield. They will contain the colors and elements (lions, designs, etc) and are part of the official blazon but the shape of the shield varies according to geographical origin along with time period.
Crest: The crest is whatever appears above the helm. Objects commonly seen are lions; showing only the front half, human figures from the waist up, hands or arms holding weapons or bird wings.
Helm: The helm (helmet) varied in shape in different ages and countries and always in the case of titled arms.
Motto: Family motto, if any, located at the top
Torse (Wreath): Also not part of the official blazon, the wreath usually consist of the primary color and metal twisted together and was used to hold the crest and mantling in place on the helm
Mantle/Mantling: The mantle is designed to represent a Kings or Knights cape draping over the helmet down the sides of the shield to repel the extremities of wet, cold and heat to preserve the armor from rust.
Surname: Name of the family, located at the bottom
The individuality of the coat-of-arms for each family is based upon all the elements shown above and the symbols chosen to represent them. The colors, patterns and symbols are all unique to each design and family. There are ranges of choices with meaning representing country of origin, war accomplishments, special skills, personality traits and much more. Common symbols seen are lions, stags, birds and the fleur-de-lis. One of the most seen code-of-arms of our time is the United States Seal.
The eagle represents people of noble nature, strength and bravery. With the wings displayed, it signifies protection. The olive branch and the 13 arrows in the talons of the eagle together symbolize a strong desire for peace but will always be ready for war. The 13 arrows along with the 13 leaves and olives represent the 13 original states. With the eagle having its head turned towards the olive branch it shows a preference for peace. The motto is the seal means Out of Many, One. The marking above its head, referred to as the glory, contains 13 stars as well as the shield containing 13 stripes, again representing the 13 original states. Coincidently enough, the motto, e pluribus unum, contains 13 letters.
At Flag Expressions, we offer you the chance to display your own coat-of-arms. You can select from the popular outdoor nylon flags or a quaint garden flag. You can either design of own coat-of-arms or work with one of our graphic artists to help you find the best way to represent your family and heritage.
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