Background image 'The Accolade ' credited to Pre-Raphaelite Artist Edmund Blair Leighton (1853-1922)
"Without tradition, art is a
flock of sheep without a shepherd.
Heraldry is easily one of the most interesting and complicated topics searched for on the internet. It's an ancient and historical reference that almost every family has a part of, but it also has a lot of form and many rules that have helped it to survive. None of us, by any means, are master heraldic artists. The crest and arms you've seen our our website have been reproduced from original family crests using a clipart collection courtesy of heraldicclipart.com and our own artistic design. In part, we've incorporated historical and cultural knowledge to complete these designs to form a statement of artistic impression. We're as historically accurate as we can be, with a flair for the artistic thrown in there by our graphic tyrants.
Technically no two family members should use the same arms, as historically
each family member would add onto their family's arms to make their own
impression on the ancient original.
The arms on this website follow traditional creation, but are for entertainment value only, they are not registered to any one individual through any branch of government of Armoury. Although we may post more than one set of arms for each line, we attempt to collect the arms from the line we're directly connected to via our research. We've used the Canadian Coat of Arms to demonstrate the various parts of a coat of arms to educate those new to heraldry, for more information on the Canadian Coat of Arms please link to the Canadian Heritage Website.
Each Cost of Arms is made up of individual parts that
make a symbolic statement of those it represents. Even the smallest
change can denote a difference between generation or kin.
The symbolism behind a Shield is that of protection and the power to uphold defence against attack. To create Arms, the most important aspects are the Shield and the Mantling, followed by the Crest, the Motto and the Supporters. Note that the Motto can be in any language, although traditional Arms bare the languages of their times and Artists.
The styling and shape of the Shield will also give indication of the age of an original Coat of Arms. In modern Heraldry there is little to no significance as to meaning of Shield shape, it seems to be more artistic or cultural preference. Shields are divided with a grid system to accept Charges, each Charge being powered with special significance and allowing the Shield to stand as a sort of visual testament to the bearer's lineage and merits. This grid is especially helpful in determining a heraldic design that is written, verses a visual display.
Dividing a Shield is termed as 'Partitioning' and can be used for a variety of reasons, including the joining of two familial crests in order to create one Shield. The lines which create this division are all titled differently, and can be seen below. Partitioning is especially important when deciphering a Shield from written terms or from their 'Blazon' terms which is a verbal description of the image. When Arms have been Emblazoned, it means they have been drawn or translated by a Heraldic Artist. Although no two artists will produce the same works, after translating a Blazon the image should reflect a similar design.
The symbols below are also Charges that can be placed on Shields to denote birth placement in a family. They are called Marks of Cadency, suggesting the rank of 'cadets' in a family on family line. Royalty only uses the File, or Label Mark for First Born on it's Heraldry.
Heraldic Tinctures are colours based on symbolism and used in Arms. Traditionally there were four colours, the use of Sable or Black, and two metals. Followed were the use of Stains, including Tawny, Murrey and Sanguine.
Later in the Renaissance period Heraldic Tinctures became further conveyed in planetary symbols and gemstones, as well as various other elemental and astrological correspondence. Although it's argued that this could have possibly been an earlier practice, it was written down and observed specifically after the 15th century. This practice is called Blazoning, and evolved due to the verbal practice of relaying heraldic terms. In modern times it's been completely done away with, mostly due to it's lack of real usefulness. We've included the chart below to convey the most basic of correspondence, mostly because gems could be used somewhat reliably in Arms if someone could ever bare the outrageous expense to use them.
When used on a crest as seen in black and white printing, the use of Hatching or series of multi directional lines denoted different colours. Dots, shapes and various patterns also conveyed different colours, tints and shades.
The use of Fur was conveyed primarily through the use of Ermine, of which there are various different methods to print. Below are a few examples of Ermine print, which when seen in reverse (Correct: Black on White, Reverse: White on Black) is called Ermines.
Ermine is also known as the short-tailed weasel, it's winter coat is pure white and was harvested because of it's soft and delicate fur. It took several of the small pelts to make any matter of cloak or clothing, so it was usually reserved for the very rich or royal.
Ermine can also be displayed on a Field of Or, or Gold verses Silver as shown above. Ermine on a Field of Or is titled Erminois, it's reverse of Or Ermine on a Sable or Black Field is referred to as Pean.
Animals, Fish, Birds and Mythical creatures play a huge part in the meaning of Heraldry. Each position is important in conveying a message. Aggression can be seen in a Combatant pose, Royalty in Statand Guardant where a creature looks directly out at it's views. Heraldry is a very romantic art, and is often given as a unique wedding gift to two families joining their lives and their names. Women, in the past have been granted the right to bare Arms, if not carry a shield, so it makes it one of the few universal historical pleasures that men and women can share in historically.
Traditionally there are two types of Charges, either Couped or Cooped, and Erased. The Scottish traditionally displayed closely cropped couped heads, showing little to no throat. The English displayed a considerable amount of throat whether couped or erased. Caboshed is another Heraldic term that heads are displayed in, it suggests a frontal view of the head and face with no throat such as the Lions on the McKenna Family Crest.
As stated above, there is a vast amount of Arms available to families of almost every ethnicity. This is possible because of root names, suggesting that every family is somehow connected to an original point of origin. It is also possible through Shields created in various cultures across the world. Although not every Shield was ever made into traditional European Arms, it conceivably could be.
Each of our family pages is followed up with a reference from the Dictionary of American Family Names by Oxford Press, followed with our research into each family line, and the name's farthest traces in time. Some names will have mass history and cultural significance, and some will be lost among the ages. For us, the most important task is to preserve what we can, while we can. The more people who stop and learn about their family heraldry and history, the more likelihood of it being passed on to younger generations, and not filed away and lost in some remote room never again to see the light of day.
Although we understand the significance of heraldic study and the importance of standing tradition, none of our Society feels there's anything wrong with good old family pride. Know your roots, celebrate them. The more of an interest, the more people will work to preserve our historical past. Many hands make light work, or so they say, and we'd like to encourage as many people as we can to get involved, so we might find out roots together.
Books to look for:
The Closet Skeleton Genealogical Society
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