Heraldry and We the People, Return from Spring Break

I originally wrote this post several years ago while the “Mom blog” was in its infancy. But after watching a good friend pridefully chose “just the right spot” to display her new, official and authentic family crest– complete with expensive frame and mat–freshly purchased while visiting a Theme-Park-Mega-Land…I thought we could all use a refresher. We Americans just don’t “get” the whole Heraldry and Flying the Family Colors thing. But boy, we sure want to participate! Here’s the real scoop, along with a bit of my own shame showing 😉   1219121525aI’m not sure, but I believe it was PT Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

What I am sure of is:  I am one of those suckers.

  The other day I was clearing out a drawer and ran across a family crest certificate that my husband and I had purchased many years ago.  Can you hear the Merry-go-Round music yet?  It came from a very “proper” looking shop.  I believe that it was even spelled “shoppe” ~ a spelling meant  to further endorse the authenticity of fake stuff.  But we were young and silly and newly married.  So we scraped together the $35.00 ( a pretty Royal sum for us 30+ years ago) and bought a “fully researched and authenticated, heirloom quality” piece of paper with our last name slightly misspelled on it.

Wow.  How cool is That ?

What I have learned since ( ironically for free via library books) is that we were totally duped.  A crest is only “good” for the original “owner.”  A father may have a certain design, but it does not pass down verbatim to his children.  When important families married, as was generally the plan, their crests were merged to create a new one for the identity of the newlyweds.

Maybe there was an Earl of Momenhousen who bore the crest in my drawer a bazillion years ago.  However we, the current-day Momenhousen family, have no claim to it.

  Heck at this point, I don’t even know what happened to the receipt !   I do have an excuse though…I am an American.  Almost all of us are about one inch away from obsession with “the Old Country.”  Additionally, we are also generally convinced  there is a Demi-Czar, a Baron or at least a Bergermeister in our family pedigree somewhere.

Therefore, it stands to reason that we (meaning the immediate “us”) must have claim to a heraldic shield, a family crest, or something that verifies we are from a stock above serfdom.  Thanks Mr Barnum, you have given a name to this madness~


The real truth is that Heraldic Design is pretty much about Art.  If you are Canadian, you may claim a crest for your lineage if you wish to go through a long and arduous process. For better or for worse,if you are looking for something cool to put up on the wall, its time to do some doodling.  Although I did some intensive research on the topic and found a few favorite books that I think are very good for being technically correct, I just recommend the use of an artsy relative.

Simply by Googling “Heraldry” or” Heraldic Design”, or” Colors in Heraldry” you can save yourself some time and money. If you are looking for good books on the subject (and you can persevere for a few months to get through one) I would recommend one of these three.  And please note, the third one is not an opening chapter, it is the title of the book:

1.  A Guide to Heraldry by Ottfried Neubecker

2.  Concise Encyclopedia  of Heraldry by Guy Cadogan Rothery

3.  The Manuel of Heraldry a Concise Description of the Several Terms Used and Containing a Dictionary of Every Designation in the Science with 350 Illustrations  by Sir Francis James Grant

If these all sound too scary, have a sit down with your clan and start brainstorming what it means to be a “Dipfenhoffper” or “Smith.”  Think up some words,symbols, and colors to use to represent You.  Maybe then craft a family logo~for your ” house”.  Remember, siblings should be allowed to represent the same ancestry with their own selection of colors, symbolism and mottoes.  Consider using a string of words that spell out your last name as a motto like the poems kids are so fond of writing out of their names .

Example (bad one, really bad one):

Bravery In The Hood Masked At Night (Bithman)

In my post titled Managing the Help(ers)” I talked a little bit about dividing this task up among different factions of the family.  It’s a great way to get everyone started with helping without driving you nuts.  And, as a bonus, if you can get everyone to create their own crest, then the cover design for their copy of the finished project will already be done.

Lord Levi, as rendered by my friend Julie Everhart, of Julie Everhart Fine Art and Photography

Wow, how cool is that?

It’s also as authentic as the “Heraldry” you buy in a glitzy little shop or from one of the online retailers. This is my fabulous furboy, posing as the Lord of a fictitious family who lives out their on-screen lives in a private home rented annually by their production crew.

I’d rather have this photo any day over one printed out with an ink-jet from a tourist trap! If you’d like your baby, or yourself, transformed into Napoleon or Marie Antoinette (before that whole unfortunate beheading thing) get in touch with Julie, you can have royalty “your way” as the great American (Burger) King says 😉

Author: Mom

I am a writer who just happens to love family trees. As the self proclaimed Family Historian and Writer in Residence at my house, I blog to others about family history writing. When I first began this journey, everyone was bored silly with my "family tree stuff." Once I started writing the stories down, everyone willingly joined in. Now the whole family pretty much participates! Imagine that ! Follow along, and you can gain a little family appreciation for all your hard nosed genealogical research while learning a little something about the craft of writing too.

28 thoughts on “Heraldry and We the People, Return from Spring Break”

  1. How did I miss this delightful post? Did you know that my fathers family harkens back to the deFerrier family in 16th c England? They were a long line of barons that ended with someone losing their head. Gulp. No crest for me, thank you very much. I like my noggin attached!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Considering the large number of ancestors with crests in my spouse’s family it would be crazy trying to decide which one the sucker company would provide. Maybe one in each room with coordinating colors? We’ve gotten lots of those offers over the years (and, yes, for almost as many of the ancestral lines), we look, laugh and toss. They’re good for a giggle once in awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My practical mother saved me from this trap many years ago when I called her with the news that I had received an offer from a company to research, find, and send me a family crest for a reasonable price; I thought I’d order one for my dad’s birthday. She chuckled and said, “And do you also believe in the tooth fairy, gold at the end of the rainbow, and the ground hog’s predictions? Buy your dad socks.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your furboy is a handsome aristocrat! There are a lot of people who really get into this aspect of genealogy. They usually have little sense of humor. I like all the good, bad, weird, wild, and peasant stuff in my searches.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good to find out the family crest doesn’t pass down. My older brother will be thoroughly disappointed. I believe he bought one. I’ve always been interested in our lineage and crest but the most I’ve spent is for ancestry.com wherein I did find royalty in our history on my mother’s side. Actually my grandmother’s side. A french count. We didn’t even realize we had french in our blood. Very cool. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve never really been interested in family crests. After reading this post, I’m so glad! I didn’t realize that they were specific to one generation/family and weren’t passed down.


    1. Nancy, isn’t that funny! I don’t know how many of us have fallen for the same scam. I think it’s a pretty thriving business though…most likely we Americans are the #1 “consumers” of that paper garbage :). On the other hand, no one really knows this, so mine is framed and hanging in the back hall way…


  7. I remember being a little bit disappointed when I learned that a family crest doesn’t pass down with the family name, but oh well. After five years of searching, I’ve realized the treasure is and always has been 100% intangible. 😀


  8. Good for calling this one. I have seen so many people keeping copies of family crests in their tree, thinking that it belongs to THEIR family as well. But…it sure does look pretty on a wall. 😉


  9. What a great post. Too funny and true! When I told my husband that the Groby Castle in Groby, England belonged to the de Ferriers – my forefathers – he said, “Well, then, it’s time for a visit! Maybe they’ll let us have it!”
    yeah, right…
    I’m always amazed at how often surnames changed – even my grandfather was born Henry Blair and died Henry Blaine. Makes this process tricky at best!
    Happy holidays to you!


    1. That’s funny. My father’s side of the family farther back laid claim to the Blackford (my maiden name) castle outside Edinburgh, Scotland. I wonder if they might let us have it. LOL. Would be cool to visit it though.


  10. Have you read my recent post about the Foster Surname book I was given by a family member years ago? That book belongs in the same category as your family crest…for suckers! Great post, by the way. So true…


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