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For My Family Surname, How To Find A Coat Of Arms?

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Julii Brainard Profile
Julii Brainard answered
  This is a bit tricky.

  Technically, you must be descended down a male line from someone who had a legitimate coat of arms recognised.  That doesn't matter to most people, they just want to know what coats of arms is traditionally associated with their surname. But if you do want to know which coat of arms you could most legitimately use, you'd have to trace your father's male line closely.

  For instance the surname Cummings normally comes from Ireland, but some Cummings folk can trace the name back to Germany, or even another part of the world.  If there is an Irish connection it might be very remote, or the name may have been anglicised by immigration officials when ancestors went to the USA (this was extremely common until the 1970s).

  So a person with that surname couldn't be sure if a supposed "Cummings" crest was really theirs to validly use, or not.

  Still, there are a lot of websites that purport to give a definitive family coat of arms for particular surnames (all you have to do is search on Google).  

  The suggested coats of arms will have been used by some people with the suggested surname in the heraldic past (before most people could read). BUT, can you be sure that your ancestors actually used those symbols?  They may be coats of arms adopted by completely different branches of the family (your distant cousins, at best).

  For instance, the surname Smith arose all over England, being adopted by completely unrelated people. So how can this image and the given family history be correct for all people today with the surname Smith?  It simply can't.

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