Does everyone have a family crest?
It’s a question we are often asked and the simple answer is no, not everyone does. A family crest is a unique symbol or design that is traditionally used to represent a particular family or individual. These were originally used in Europe to identify knights in battle, but later became associated with specific families and their lineage. (We have more than a million names on our database and you can search for your name at the top of this page, or request a copy of its history here)
Are they just for aristocracy?
It is true to say that heraldry is typically associated with aristocratic families, and crests were often granted by monarchs as a form of recognition or reward. In some countries, including the United Kingdom, their use of is regulated by law, and they can only be used by certain individuals who have been granted the right to do so. To find out more on this, visit the College of Arms here.
The use of crests was not limited to aristocracy alone. In fact, many non-noble families also developed their own crests, especially in countries where heraldry was widely practiced. Over time, their use became more widespread, and they were often adopted by families in the middle classes. This was a way of asserting their social status and celebrating their heritage. Today, many families still use heraldry as a way of identifying and celebrating their history and traditions.
It’s worth noting that the use of family crests is not limited to Western culture. Many other cultures around the world have their own traditions of heraldry and family symbols, including Japan, China, and Korea, among others. In these cultures, family crests often have their own unique meanings and symbols that reflect the values and history of the family.
Additionally, the use of family crests has become less common over time, and many people today may choose to create their own personal symbols or logos instead of using a traditional family crest.
What are common designs for family crests?
As we’ve said, they were used historically as a way to identify individuals and families. So, the design of a crest would typically include symbols or motifs that had a personal or historical significance to the family. The most common images vary depending on the region and country, as different countries have different heraldic traditions. However, some of the most common symbols used include:
- Lions: Lions are a popular symbol in heraldry, representing strength, courage, and leadership.
- Eagles: Eagles are also a popular symbol, often representing nobility, freedom, and strength.
- Crowns: Crowns are a symbol of royalty and power, often used in the crests of noble families.
- Crosses: Crosses are a popular religious symbol and are often used in family crests.
- Swords: Swords are a symbol of strength and often represent a family’s military history.
- Shields: Shields are a common symbol in heraldry, often representing protection and defense.
- Stars: Stars are a symbol of aspiration and hope, and are often used in family crests.
It’s important to note that family crests were used primarily by nobility and aristocracy, so the most popular ones may differ from those used by commoners. Although the use of family crests has largely fallen out of practice in modern times, they are still used by some families as a way of celebrating their heritage. To find out more about common symbols in heraldry, see our dictionary of symbols here. Also, check to see if there ever heraldry associated with your surname here.