Finding your real family crest can be a daunting task, but with the right resources it can be a fun and rewarding experience.
The main mistake most people make when researching their family crest is not first understanding that every detail on a crest is symbolic. So getting it right is crucial.
This is a key principle of Heraldry.
All of these elements were carefully chosen when the crest was originally granted, usually by a ruling monarch, typically around the 12th-14th century, with the crest worn on armour or a shield in battle.
Dealing with different variations of crests
Since most family names carry hundreds of years of history, it is common for there to be several conflicting versions of a crest out there, this is most often due to regional variations of the crest emerging as family branches spread out geographically over time.
As those branches of the family built their own reputation, achievements and beliefs, they may have added symbols to or altered their version of the original design.
In some cases, a family name may have emerged completely independently in two separate regions and so two (or more) individual crests could have emerged.
This was more likely to happen where a name was derived from a common origin language, for example the name 'Ledger' is considered English but is derived from French.
To solve this, you must get as close as possible to the original resources in which the crest was documented, as these resources will tell what the true crest should look like and what region it came from. (Like those outlined further in this post).
There are 4 main ways of finding your real family crest:
1. Research armoury records in the country your family name came from.
2. Enlist the services of a professional genealogist.
3. Interview older family members directly and ask for their input.
4. Join a local heraldry society and ask for their help.
Learn how we can find your family crest for you
1. Research old armoury records
Start by finding what region your family name emerged from. You can do this by checking the exact spelling in ancestry records.
Next, start reviewing armoury records from that country/region. There are many out there, but some useful ones to start with include;
- Burkes Peerage
- Grantees of Arms to the end of the 17th century
- MacLysaght Irish Families: Their Names, Arms, and Origins.
Once you've found a record, you'll need to translate it from ancient English or old French, into modern English. To learn how to do this, start with a heraldic glossary like this.
Finally, you'll need to find an experienced artist who can take the description and convert it into a traditional and attractive family crest design.
Watch how we do this for our customers
2. Enlist the services of a professional genealogist
If you’re working on your project with other family members, it may be economical to commission the services of a professional genealogist.
The advantage here being that they will do all of the work and share the details of their findings with you alongside your family crest.
Be aware though that this may only make sense if multiple people are willing to invest in the project as professional genealogy services typically start at about $500+ for family investigations.
Resources like the association of professional genealogists are a good place to start to find someone who might help.
3. Ask older relatives for their input
You’d be surprised how often another family member may have come into contact with this information in the past, either intentionally or by chance.
Start with your parents and work your way up to older generations - if you’re lucky enough to still have those people in your life.
Quite often customers come to us with partial information on a family crest design that an older relative remembers from the past.
Even a memory of a single symbol or icon that someone may have seen in the past will help you to uncover the correct crest. This will also help if you come across multiple versions of your crest in deciphering which one is the appropriate design. It may also save you a lot of wasted research time.
4. Join a heraldry society and ask for their help.
Heraldry societies are a great place to meet and learn from others and find out about historical resources, especially those local to your area.
A quick search will help find any near you with local societies often having in-person meetups where you can ask questions face to face and find some new resources to research.
Most family crests emerged from Europe in the medieval to middle ages. So contacting societies in Europe is also a good place to start. The heraldry society offers a list of resources here to check out.
At Crests&Arms.com, we specialize in researching armoury records, society resources and our personal library of documents to find your coat of arms and coat of arms.
Over the years, we’ve compiled significant records, meaning we can accurately research and recreate your family crest in as little as 24-36 hours.
We offer parchment print, or digital versions of your real family crest, with all designs made using hand-sketching and digital illustration by our professional artist.
Our coat of arms products make wonderful gifts for all occasions including weddings, house warmings, birthdays or Christmas.