People who do genealogy are very focused on and interested in their family history. It is easy to see why someone would be tempted to purchase a family crest. Unfortunately, what you don’t know about family crests could end up hurting you – financially. Here are some things to know about family crests before you decide to buy one.
Beware of mass-produced coats of arms.
The National Genealogical Society points out that coats of arms were first granted to individuals. That means each was for one, specific, person (not his whole family). He would be the only one with the right to use that particular coat of arms. It was also acceptable a son to inherit a coat of arms from his father.
Companies that sell family crests, or coats of arms, usually try to connect them with a surname. This is genealogically inaccurate. That company hasn’t researched your family history. It is entirely possible that no one in your entire line was every granted a coat of arms. In other words, the mass-produced family crests can be lovely and interesting to look at – but they are not something that accurately reflects your family history.
Family Crest is not a synonym for Coat of Arms.
People tend to use these two phrases as if they were the exact same thing. It doesn’t help that companies that sell family crests may use them interchangeably as well. That just makes things more confusing!
In short, a family crest is a small portion of a coat of arms. The family crest is the part that appears above the shield in the design. Often, it is the crest that is engraved on belt buckles, rings, and bookplates. The full coat of arms includes a shield design, and several decorative (yet meaningful) elements that are inside it.
Does your family have a coat of arms?
Often, the answer to that question is “no”. Not all families have a coat of arms. In fact, the majority of families lack a coat of arms. As I mentioned, it wasn’t something that was granted to everyone.
If your family truly has an ancestor who was granted a coat of arms, odds are you are already aware of it. Your ancestors probably passed information about it down from one generation to the next. The point is, if your family has a legitimate coat of arms, you probably are already aware of it.
Key points to know before you buy a family crest:
If your family has an ancestor who was granted a coat of arms, you already know about it.
Coats of arms, and family crests, were for individuals – and are not connected to surnames.
Mass-produced coats of arms can be lovely to look at. Keep in mind that they are not an accurate representation of your family’s history. The stores that sell them have not done your genealogy research for you.
The image of a coat of arms and family crest you see at the top of this blog post is a perfect example that shows how inaccurate they can be. It is the family crest and coat of arms that appears on Sleeping Beauty’s castle. There is no possible way that the ancestor of a cartoon character (that originated from a fairy tale) was really granted a coat of arms!
Image by Loren Javier on Flickr.< Return To Blog