Friday, September 28, 2012

Thornton Coat of Arms or Family Crest

If I were to Google (or use any other search engine) Thornton Family history a host of websites offering me a history of the family name complete with a family crest pops up.  Some of these sites such as "houseofnames" and "" will be more than happy to find your family coat of arms, for a price of course.  There are even sites which will make up a personal coat of arms from scratch just for you.
If you do a search for the Thornton family crest you will find a variety of coats of arms and family crests, but which one is yours?  I can remember as a child my Grandfather getting a very nice plaque with the Thornton family crest, we had it in the living room of our house. Nowadays you can buy coffee mugs, ties and tee shirts as well as wall plaques with the design proudly displayed.  But, is it really your family crest?  The answer is almost certainly no.
There really is no such thing as a family crest but the term has come to mean coat of arms.  A coat of arms was given to a man to use to identify himself.  This could only be passed to his sons.  His daughters would adopt their husbands coat of arms, but could not display them on a shield, she would display them on a lozenge (sort of a square turned on it's side).  According to the College of Arms in London who controls all coats of arms for England, Scotland and Wales,

 " there is no such thing as a 'coat of arms for a surname'. Many people of the same surname will often be entitled to completely different coats of arms, and many of that surname will be entitled to no coat of arms. Coats of arms belong to individuals. For any person to have a right to a coat of arms they must either have had it granted to them or be descended in the legitimate male line from a person to whom arms were granted or confirmed in the past."
In order to legitimately use any of the Thornton coat of arms you would have to find out who the original bearer was and trace  a direct line of descent. My family is descended from James Thornton a farmer/weaver from the Londonderry area of Ireland.  I rather doubt that he had a coat of arms and because we do not know who his ancestors were there is no way to trace a link to any man who might have had one. Of course there is no law that says you can't use one, but why would you want to use some other families heritage as your own.

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