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OTHER ITA SITES:
Coat of Arms
One of the most enduring and beautiful pieces of family history is the coat of arms. These stunning pieces of artwork recall the days of chivalry and heraldry while they hearken back to ties to the Old Country. For families who possess a coat of arms, it can take a place of pride in the home. Designed to be displayed for one and for all, these shield-shaped testaments to family history are often adorned with beasts of the field and fanciful creatures about their perimeter. They are truly the crowning touch to any family name.
The coat of arms was originally used in the days of knights, kings, and wars fought on horseback. Each knight would display a particular design, image, or pattern on his shield to identify himself amidst the anonymity of armor. Intended to inspire troops, strike fear in the hearts of foes, and further the name of the bearer, the coat of arms could tell the world which knight performed which feat of arms amidst the din of battle. Then, upon their return to the halls of their lord, they could hang their shield by the door to inform all within which knights assembled at any given time.
However, as old forms of warfare gave way to the musket, rifle, and cannon, the coat of arms was not as necessary. Warfare became a method of regiments, not men. Thus, the coat of arms had become obsolete in many ways. However, knighthood was still an honor conferred by the various crowns of Europe, just as it is in Britain today. Thus, the coat of arms became simply a way of showing that a family was possessed of honored members.
Even that changed, however, as the coat of arms simply became a status symbol. Those with money could simply purchase a coat of arms for display in their homes. No longer tied to any military or governmental forms, it was simply a display of money. For instance, we know that Shakespeare was rich because he purchased a coat of arms for his family. Though this may be something of a bastardization of its original intent, it meant that the coat of arms could be available to everyone.
Now, there are numerous places from which one can find or purchase their own coat of arms. Through web sites, stores, gift shops, and stores dedicated to genealogy, one can either find the heraldic emblem for one's particular name, or simply choose from amongst a list of many. For those who are particularly adventurous and artistic, you can even design your own!
No matter how you come across your particular coat of arms, these intricate and beautiful designs can provide you with an heirloom for your own family. Display it proudly on your front door, place it above your mantelpiece, or just tuck it into a sheaf of papers with the knowledge that you know it is yours. Whatever you do with it, it can be an enjoyable little piece of your history and your ever-living tie to the Old World from whence your ancestors came.
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