Websites specializing in free family crests are an excellent resource for genealogists. Family crests are an interesting visual representation of your ancestors' history, and they make a great addition to your genealogical files.
What is a Family Crest?
A family's coat of arms, or as it is sometimes called, the "family crest," is an ancient way of showing membership to the family group. The custom of wearing a coat of arms began hundreds of years ago and increased in popularity during the Middle Ages. During the Crusades, knights were almost entirely covered in a suit of armor. Crusaders wore the family insignia on their coat to help differentiate them, and this is where the term "coat of arms" originated.
In 1484, Britain established the Herald's College to keep track of the many family crests in existence. In order to be considered legal, the coat of arms had to be recorded by the College. In the sixteenth century, the College started to record genealogies for coats of arms. Many of these genealogies still exist today. Other European countries and Japan also saw widespread use of family crests as symbols for clan or family membership.
For more resources on the history of family crests and the variety of symbols found on coats of arms, take a look at 2020 Heraldry.
Finding Free Family Crests Online
With all the great genealogy websites out there, it's widely known that the Internet is a valuable tool for genealogists. But did you know that you can actually get a free peek at your family crest online? There are coats of arms for nearly every last name, and there are several websites that specialize in this area of genealogical research.
Most heraldry websites will show you the family crest for free, but you'll need to pay something to get an image of it. Family crest websites also typically sell a variety of items that carry the coat of arms, and these can make great gifts for family members interested in genealogy.
Here are some of the best Internet resources for free coats of arms:
- FamilyCrests.org has family crests for thousands of surnames, and this site will email you a free crest for use on your personal genealogy website or family website, as long as you link back to FamilyCrests.org. However, this site does not allow you to view your family crest online.
- Although the selection is not huge, James Wolf Heraldry offers totally free coats of arms. Anyone can use up to ten free images of the family crest for family reunions, genealogy, and websites.
- To see an online version of a family crest for almost any surname, take a look at AllFamilyCrests.com. This site sells a variety of family crest products from signet rings to custom screensavers. It also offers you a free glimpse at your family's coat of arms.
- No family crest search is complete without a visit to House of Names. While the site sells many family crest products, it also offers a totally free search for your family crest. In addition to displaying the family coat of arms, House of Names also gives you a brief surname history.
Helpful Tips for Finding Your Coat of Arms
Finding your family crest can be helpful in determining the origin of family names. Your coat of arms can make an excellent cover for a printed family history, as well as offer you a rare glimpse at the long and interesting history of your family. As you search for your free family crests, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make use of free searches. Most family crest sites are selling products, but you can often get a free look at your family crest.
- Look for your coat of arms on multiple sites. Sometimes different sources have been used, and the crest on one site can be radically different from the version posted someplace else.
- Have fun! The tradition of heraldry is ancient and very interesting, especially if you have a love of history and genealogy.