Family Crest

Do you have a family crest? Have you even thought about whether you have a family crest or not? If you do have a family crest, think of how proud you would be to have something tangible that relates to your roots, because all of these are derived from ancient records. If it exists, it will be a historical record of where your family began.

What is a Family Crest?

A family crest is a heraldic design that is used on a coat of arms and elsewhere, and there are quite a few web sites that specialize in coats of arms and crests. If you know what yours looks like, you will be able to check that the information they provide you with is accurate. But most of us don't remember, even if we have seen it illustrated before, for example if it was engraved on a ring or some other item.

Coats of arms originated in Europe in the Middle Ages and some families acquired new ones as the family developed and got bigger and bigger - the new one following a younger branch of the family. But some families have stuck to just one coat of arms. You will need to find out what applies to your own ancestors.

Coats of arms often feature birds and beasts, lions and eagles for example. Sometimes they will include fishes, reptiles and insects. The only shellfish that were considered appropriate in English armory were scallops and crabs. Trees, leaves and flowers were also sometimes incorporated, including oaks, pear trees and even apple trees.

There a total of seven colours that are historically used for different crests and coats of arms:

· Black - known in those days as 'sable',
· Gold (or yellow),
· Silver (or white),
· Red - 'gules',
· Blue - 'azure',
· Green - 'vert' or 'synobill' (sinople in modern-day French), and
· Purple.

Heraldry isn't considered important any more, however many people still have a fascination with this part of our ancestor's history. One of the reasons it fell out of favour was that irrespective of whether they were dealing with shields or crests, people who had a surname similar to someone else's would claim that the coat of arms was his. So before you claim yours, make sure it really is your ancestor's family crest.

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