Contrary to what some people will tell you, there is no such thing as a coat of arms for a family name, ever, period.
You may be thinking: “You guys are daft! Of course, there is a coat of arms for my family. I found it on the Internet!”
The truth is that a coat of arms belongs to a particular family and not to all of the families who happen to share the same last name. It’s for this reason that you may have seen several different versions with your same surname.
Put another way, your car belongs to you and not to everyone with your same last name. It’s yours, you paid money for it, you have documents to prove it and you get to choose who can drive it.
If anyone tells you something else, run away!
Internet Coat of Arms – Buyer Beware
Unfortunately, there are lots of bogus sites on the Internet that will let you do a search of your last name with the idea of finding a coat of arms. As mentioned above, that’s just not how authentic, serious, heraldry works… please read on.
From one of these sites:
— “The specific individual… is generally unknown to us.”
This is critical in determining who has the right to bear a specific coat of arms.
— “this is rarely on record in our source books”
What sources are they using?
— “Our surname history complements a genealogical search”
How can a history for someone that happens to have your same last name be complementary in any way to your specific family history?
In Europe, countries frown on the unauthorized use of a coat of arms. In Scotland for example, it’s not only considered dishonorable, it is actually illegal under the law.
These sites often offer to slap these images on all kinds of things. If you want to buy a coffee mug with some family’s coat of arms on it, they will be happy to help you.
Carry this shield if you want to live
So how did coat of arms start anyway?
Coats of arms started around the beginning of the Crusades in the 11th Century and they became an absolute necessity.
In modern terms, imagine going to a costume party where everyone has their faces covered so you can’t tell who’s who. Now imagine that some of the people at the party are trying to kill you! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go to that kind of party.
The Crusades were definitely not a party, but men were going into battle in full armor with their helmets closed and they needed a way to identify their friends from their enemies.
Since the shield had the largest most visible area, it was a natural choice for demonstrating your alliance and who you were personally. Soldiers would take their given country shield and add things such as their craft, hometown, and their personal beliefs. It is believed that the shield became a very personal expressions for many crusaders. Read more about coat of arms history and origins.
Seal the Deal
Fast forward… a few centuries later to the 1400s, the middle class started to commission coats of arms for their own personal uses.
Since very few people could read or write, these newly created coats of arms were used as signatures for “sealing the deal” relating to land ownership, livestock transfer, home purchase, and other transactions.
Since these people could afford to buy and sell property at this time, it stands to reason that the person who commissioned a coat of arms was pretty wealthy. In fact, it was an absolute necessity to have money because commissioning a coat of arms was very expensive – about as much as buying a home at the time!
These new coats of arms also became status symbols for the families and each one was completely unique to a person and a particular family.
In essence, a coat of arms is a personal signature and no one but you should be using your signature, right!? If someone did, you’d probably be upset.
Two Paths to an Authentic Coat of Arms
Know thy family – Family History Research
It’s important to know that an “old” coat of arms is inherited directly from your ancestors and is passed down like any other family heirloom from person to person until it ends up with you and your family in the present day. We conduct extensive archive-based genealogical research that typically takes from three to five years and many, many hundreds of hours to complete.
In our experience, finding a coat of arms in your family history is very rare and has only happened 0.5% of the time with our clients. This is over 40+ years and more than 50,000 extensive family history projects.
This is all about Family History and NOT a coat of arms.
Creation is the Key – Commission a New Coat of Arms
If you are interested in having an authentic coat of arms for you and your future generations, the best way is to create a new one. Our process is based on the same principles going back to the time of the Crusades.
Our team of experts will walk with you through the process of creation which involves many hours of research, experience, iteration and expertise that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
After the three to six month commission journey is complete, you will have a fully documented authentic coat of arms that you and your future generations can bear with absolute confidence. Your coat of arms will stand as a symbol for your family over many hundreds of years.