About the Coats of Arms and Crests on this Site
We have researched the coats of arms and crests found on this site using our extensive library of heraldry books, some of which date back as far as the 1600s. The origins of heraldry in its current form are believed to date back to the crusades and draws on symbolic traditions of great antiquity.
The first stop for most researchers with ancestry within the British Empire tends to be The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales by Bernard Burke, Burke gathered his lists from authoritative sources as well as including arms that were used without authority or where the authoritative sources were lost, he included 'coats that are to be seen in the churches and family mansions, together with those traceable on Seals, Deeds, Wills and Monumental remains'. We have not limited ourselves to this one source, verifying may of them using the same books that Burk lists among his sources as well as many we does not cite.
For the Arms with origen outside the British Empire we have consulted Armorial Général by J. B. Rietstap as well as numerous books that detail the heraldic traditions of specific countries and regions.
A questions that we are often asked run along the lines of: Is this really my coat of arms, I've seen a different one on a different site. That is a fair question, and in fact a very good question. A proper full achievment of Arms is borne by a single person who has been granted or inherited the arms, those who have the formal authority to bear arms usually know it. The fact that many coats of arms date back hundreds of years has led to most of the heirs to arms inheriting many ancestral arms that are marshaled to produce their full formal arms that can be extremely complicated and, well, ugly. We have researched and created images for the oldest, arms associated with a family name and in most parts of the world you are free to display these in celebration of your fraternal history. You may see other versions for the same name because it is by no means infrequent that different branches of the same family adopt differenced arms and in many case unrelated familys from different regons have completely different arms. If you know the region or town that your ancestors came from, we can check to see what the closest match is.
Understanding the Parts of a Full Achievement of Arms
Most parts of a heraldic display have their origin in things that a fighter owned and caried into battle, tournament or ceremony.
Shields or Escutcheons
The origin and most frequently used part of heraldic display is the shield. The shield is used to display the charges or devices of the coat of arms. The shield and its charges is what is generally meant by a 'coat of arms'. The shape of the shields originally reflected the shape of the shield used on the field of battle and later following as the whims of fashion or the artist. The shape of the shield used on this site follow common styles of shield representations in each region.
Charges or Devices
Originally painted on shields carried into battle or shields used in tournaments these served to identify individuals that would not otherwise be identifiable because of the every increasing amount of armor. The oldest of these designs in the modern sense of armory would been simple bands or crosses of color that could easily be recognized at a distance, as more people adopted arms the complexity of the charges had to grow to keep each warrior's arms clearly different. Even now long after shields ceased to be used or useful by warriors a driving factor in the design and representation of a Coat of Arms is that is be distinct and clearly identifiable at a distance.
Crests are displayed on a torse, wreath or crown, either fitted to the top of a helmet or alone as a badge. Helmets are known to have featured crests of various types that were not specific to an individual at least as far back as the time of ancient Greece and Rome, crests in the heraldic sense are believed to have their origin in tournament costume, examples and depictions exist of fairly elaborate and often ridiculous decorations. In battle helmets were more likely to have something like feathers on top if anything at all. It is not uncommon for people to conflate the crest and the shield but the crest is separate and distinct to the devices on the shield, many grants of arms did not include a crest but most eventually added one and they often feature something similar to what is on the shield.
Wreath, Torse or Torce
Is a garland, chaplet, or attire for the head. The wreath, upon which the Crest is placed, is of silk, composed of two different tinctures twisted together, and showing six folds, three of each tincture, and the tinctures of the wreath are with few exceptions, those first mentioned in blazoning the coat of arms. The Wreath is placed between the helmet and the crest which are fastened together by it. In some instances crowns or coronets supply the place of the wreath, but Crests are always understood to be placed upon a Torse, when not ordered to be borne upon a Crown, Coronet, Cap, or Chapeau.
Mantling or Lambrequin
A piece of fabric that was attached to the helmet an draped down over the shoulders, believed to originate during the crusades to protected the head and neck from the sun and later retained as it seemed to deaden sword cuts. They are frequently depicted torn to ribbons as they would be after battle. Heraldic artists have been left free to embellish what started as a simple piece to torn cloth into very elaborate displays.
Believed to have their origin in engraved seals these have no relation to real possession, being a more artistic addition to heraldic display, they are by no means commonly included in older grants or arms and in most cases if a single sporter is used it is purely for artistic display and not an part of the hereditary arms.
A place for the supporters to stand or the shield to rest, generally left to the fancy of the artist and generally omitted entirely when supporters are not used.
Purchased Images can be downloaded in a number of popular vector file formats including Adobe Illustrator (.AI), CorelDraw (.CDR), Encapsulated PostScript (.EPS), Windows Meta-file (.WMF), and Adobe Reader Portable Document File (.PDF), or as high resolution bitmap images in JPEG or PNG formats. Immediate downloads are available with the original spelling, spelling changes or other file formats are available on request and will be sent by email as quickly as possible.
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