Do you have a family crest or herald? Have you ever gone out seeking for the symbol of your family?  I know, in my case, my dad already had a copy of ours, but when I started to get into genealogy, I found there were other variations of the crest with our name!  Which one was correct?  I had no clue.  So, what I ended up doing was to find the path that you should follow to find your own herald.

 

FIND YOUR FAMILY’S ORIGINAL NAME

Do you know the origin of your family’s name?  Was it changed when they came to America or did they modify it for another reason?  Family heralds are often very old and many changes may have occurred throughout the years.  What you may think is your family crest may just be wrong because these were designed by hereditary lines and not surnames.  There are many Millers in the world, but your herald might be different than another Miller.  Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of places that sell ‘Family Crests’.  Those aren’t ‘Heralds’. A ‘crest’ is only the decoration on the hem of a herald.

 

WHERE WAS YOUR FAMILY FROM?

Most people know where their family came from.  Or do they?  For instance, if you asked someone on my mother’s side of the family, they would tell you that we are Italian.  That’s because my great-grandfather was born in Italy.  However, his parent’s were born in Albania.  Looking for an Italian background would lead to a dead end. The family herald is based upon pictorial images of the family.  In medieval Europe, many people couldn’t read, so they learned to use heraldry.  People from different countries (or even the same one) may have a different coat of arms.  Make sure you have your information straight and know which one is yours.

 

WHERE DO YOU SEARCH?

Looking on the web is a good starting place .  So is asking your folks and older family members to see if they know about any family heraldry . You might be surprised that you have been looking in the wrong place or have the wrong coat of arms. Identifying the correct herald is a portion of finding out your own ancestry.  Talking with family members may lead to other clues as to the regions of Europe where your ancestors originated.  The Smiths of Gloucester might have a very different coat of arms than the Smiths of Staffordshire.

 

WHAT DO THE SYMBOLS AND COLORS MEAN?

Heraldry started in Europe around the 12th century.  It was key for people to identify who they were fighting or doing business with. Vibrant colors and decorations were used to make the family coat of arms stick out.  Maybe the family had a group of warriors in their lineage.  Others may have been bakers .  Whatever the case, the family coat of arms represented the essence of the family. Everything was critical.  The way the helmet faces, the chevrons, crosses, colors, animals, etc…could all mean something.  Finding who your family was is part of the fun when discovering your own herald.

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