If you are interested in finding out about family crests and Irish family history, you have come to the right place.
When many people with Irish heritage start studying their family history, they find their family crest. However, just knowing what yours looks like is only the beginning of a rich journey of discovery.
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Irish Family Symbols
Whether you are already familiar with your family crest or not, I hope to help you understand where Irish family crests come from, how to spot meaningful symbols in them, and how to honor your family with your crest.
This part of Irish history has persevered since Medieval Europe, and if you can find out your family's Irish last name, you can find out what your own coat of arms looks like.
It may help you find a sense of pride in your family history. Here I will help you discover some interesting facts to help you deepen your understanding of your family crest.
History of Irish family crests
Irish family crests actually have a reasonably straightforward history. Their use began in the 12th century with the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Norman warriors wore full-body armor. It became tough to tell people apart during a battle in medieval times. So, Irish knights started creating a family coat of arms to represent each different clan or family represented on the battlefield.
Each surname had its own crest. Different familys had coats of arms with varying emblems, making them easy to identify during a battle. These family symbols were displayed on armor, helmets or shields.
Not only were the crests created to be distinct, but to represent the spirit of each family. They are similar to family mascots.
Icons Reflecting Family Characteristics
Each given name has its own representative crest that shows the positive qualities of that respective family.
Originally these coats of arms were used by the ruling Norman lords, especially in the province of Leinster where they held greatest sway. The original Gaelic chieftains of Ireland and their clans did not use coats of arms. However, over the centuries coats of arms have been developed and linked to many Irish, Gaelic and Norman family names.
Now, over 1500 Irish coats of arms exist that trace many different direct lines of ancestry all the way back to the 12th century.
Symbols Found in Family Crests
Many recurring symbols started popping up to represent each Irish family name, and you might notice that their meanings in Gaelic tradition are similar to those in our culture.
For example, lions represent courage. Doves represent peace. Even different shapes can mean other things. For example, a wavy line can represent water, while jagged lines represent fire.
We only have room to review some symbols here since there are over 1500 variations. This information will give you an excellent place to start when it comes to studying your own Irish coat of arms.
Meaning of Symbols in Family Crests
Here is a quick list of some of the most popular symbols and colors found on Irish family crests, together with the meaning for each:
- Lion signifies courage and bravery
- Bear represents protection
- Doves mean peace
- Snake denotes wisdom
- Boar represents warrior spirit
- Holly is linked to truthfulness
- Crown identifies regal authority
- Tower means grandeur and a high status in society
- Wheat identifies plenty
- Fire is represented by an indented line
- Water is represented by a wavy line
- Gold means generosity
- Blue means loyalty and strength
- Black means fidelity
- Red means martyrdom
Some families were associated with a specific war-cry, and these sayings evolved to become their family motto. If a family is linked to a specific motto, it is written in a ribbon below or above the shield.
How to find your crest
Historical Irish crests have been preserved until today, and there's still a chance for you to learn what yours is if you need to become more familiar with it.
If you have Irish people in your ancestry, whether or not they have one of the most common names, there are multiple databases you can check to learn about your ancestor's coat of arms.
If you live in the United States and feel disconnected from all this history, that's okay. There are so many easily accessible resources that are available, primarily online.
Each Irish surname has its own crest, so if your name has been Americanized, you must find the Irish character your ancestors bore.
Finding Your Family Crest Online
A web page called House of Names is one of the most respected sources available for everyday use. It can trace the story of your family, your family's geographic region of origin, historical events involving your family, and how your family ended up in your country. All you have to do is find your family's Irish surname and search it on the website.
To test it out, I searched the surname O'Neill, and there was a lot of information about the entire line of O'Neills on the website, plus an option to get emblematic merchandise and gifts. Of course, O'Neill is a prevalent surname in Irish culture, and depending on the popularity of your last name, you may need to do more digging or find your own sources. There are many to choose from!
Studying independently can help you pass down important family information to future generations. The work is so worth it!
Where to display your family crest
Once you know your family crest, you might wonder what you can do with it. Whether you'd like to give your family Irish gifts to hand down to subsequent generations or keep merchandise for yourself and your home, there are plenty of ways to represent your cultural heritage.
You can get your family crest put on almost any item you'd like, so you can have fun with coat of arms gifts.
Ideas including family crest prints, plaques, jewelry, coffee mugs, t-shirts, tote bags, coasters, and more. These customized items can remind you of where you and your family come from, and help you teach others about your Irish culture.
Coat of arms prints are very popular as wedding gifts. Many people display their family crests in their home in Ireland. Both a bride and groom's family coat of arms, displayed on a plaque or print, represents the union of two families with proud ancestry.
Gifts of Ireland stock many wonderful gifts featuring Irish family crests.
Finding your family crest will help you celebrate your Irish roots in an even more meaningful way than before. If you already know about your family name, leave a comment below! You never know if someone on this site might be related to you!
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade