A few years ago, I went into a shop with a girlfriend. It was called The Coat of Arms Shoppe and was dedicated to heraldry. For those who don’t know, heraldry is the creating and researching of family crests, in its simplest terms. My friend was hoping to surprise her husband with his family crest, and I, with nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon, decided to tag along.
The store was fascinating, and the owners had taken care to really do their research. They had books, and computer programs dedicated to the management of family crests all over the world. For a small fee, you simply type in your last name and in a few moments, a beautiful family heirloom is created, complete with certificate of authenticity.
After she completed her purchase, I decided to take a look for myself. With a convoluted family history, and an “Americanized” maiden name, I doubted I would find anything relative to my family history. Sure enough, there was nothing under my given name. I wasn’t surprised. The proprietor, an expert in familial histories, explained that the issue is quite common in the United States. As more and more people immigrated to the United States from other places, names were changed. There were misspellings, mispronunciations, and language barriers to contend with. Just as common, some families changed the spelling of their names to a less ethnic, more American version, as was the case with my family. Unfortunately, he explained, there are many families for which a family crest, or coat of arms, simply doesn’t exist.
Never fear! You can create a coat of arms if you know enough about heraldry, and the history of family crests. Every last nuance, every artistic display in each crest, holds meaning. Even the colors are significant. With a little bit of research, and some help from an expert, a coat of arms can be created for any modern family.
For example, color. The colors chosen for individuals crests were not selected lightly. Each color has meaning. For example, a crest of blue symbolizes steadfastness, strength, and loyalty, while orange is dedicated to ambition. A black crest is given to a family who has seen, and overcome much grief and resistance.
Next, the dividing lines. Many crests feature 2 separate images, or 3, even 4, separated by some type of divider. Each type of line has meaning. A wavy line represents the ocean, or water of some kind, while other types of lines depict fire, air, or sun.
Finally, the images. The pictures on a crest are the nitty gritty. What really defines a family history? The choices are endless. A cat, for example is more than just a beloved pet. In heraldry, a cat symbolizes courage and vigilance. A dove stances for peace and purity. Even grapes, aren’t just grapes. Grapes alone are a symbol of happiness, bliss and peace, while grapes on the vine represent strength and lasting friendship.
Truly, the possibilities are endless. Not only are these symbols helpful in deciphering meaning in long ago family history, there is no reason why they can’t be used to honor your own, modern family today. So, if you are looking for a unique gift for your spouse or a family member, consider creating a new crest, one which symbolizes your family today. Creating a coat of arms that has meaning to you and your loved ones is an amazing way to honor not only the past, but future generations as well.