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Discovering a Family Crest

Aug 18, 2007
There is a bit of confusion amongst the public concerning the term "family crest." Duped by unscrupulous salespeople, many people believe that a particular family crest belongs to everyone who happens to share a surname.

Additionally, the terms family crest and family coat of arms are often used interchangeably even though the two are actually very different.

A crest is actually one portion of a larger heraldic achievement. The crest is worn atop the helmet and can be likened to the crest of a bird. Originally, heraldry was developed due to the need to distinguish the participants on a field of battle.

Heraldic symbolism became more elaborate and codified over the years. Modern heraldry is, of course, largely ceremonial. However, modern heraldry continues to follow the rules laid down during past centuries.

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a family crest, at least not in the way that the term is often used in so-called heraldry shops. Retail heraldry has become big business and some shopkeepers are willing to say whatever is necessary to make the sale.

According to heraldic tradition, the family crest could be passed down only from father to son through a direct line of descendants.

Each man's crest belonged to him by right and use by another constituted usurpation. Of course, in the modern world where heraldry has become ceremonial rather than battlefield identification, you are not likely to put yourself in danger by purchasing a crest for your family Just be aware that the crest of someone who shares your last name is not necessarily your crest.

In some cases, a family coat of arms may not be in your history. Scotland and England, for example, have coat of arms that belong to a person rather than a family, and the coat of arms is passed from father to son. Law determines ownership of the coat of arms.

In other countries with different traditions, such as Poland, a coat of arms belonging to a family may exist. Regardless, retail stores may not offer the correct coat of arms for your family.

Researching your family genealogy often involves researching your family crest. A family crest may also exist based on your line of direct descent. In order to create an accurate family genealogy, you will need to perform historical research rather than simply relying on a heraldry shop to point you in the right direction.

Your family genealogy should provide an accurate representation of the family history, and an accurate crest and coat of arms are a part of that representation.
About the Author
Discover more about a family crest from Mike Selvon portal where a free gift awaits you. We appreciate your feedback at our Genealogy blog.
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