To the extent that it is thought of at all, the topic of heraldry—the use of armorial achievements, badges, and coats of arms—probably seems impossibly archaic, effete, and elitist to most modern Americans. And yet, American history is rich in personal, military, and civic heraldry. About one-half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence bore arms of some sort, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and George Washington.
Today, the practice of heraldry is more widespread than ever. The first question that often arises—who has the right to bear arms—remains a controversial one among those acquainted with the subject. It remains a common misconception among Americans that “family crests” (as they are often mistakenly called) are the sole reserve of nobility or gentry, but this has no real historical merit when one looks at European history in general. Only in Great Britain are armorial achievements traditionally associated with gentry or nobility. This was not the case in most of Europe. Of course nobles and gentry bore arms, but it did not follow that all who bore arms were noble or gentry. In many cases, they weren’t.
What makes a good coat of arms?
If the choice is going to be up to you, the individual Crawford, wanting to design a coat of arms you will be really proud of, what are the things you should be thinking about? First you want your arms to be unique to you. The purpose of a coat of arms, like a logo or a trademark, is that nobody else will be using it - at least not in your own country. That is where the Crawford Register will come into its own, but until it does, Crawfords have almost unlimited freedom to choose any arms they like.
Next, you will want to give your arms a distinctively Crawford look. You may already know which branch of the Crawfords you come from, but if not, you will probably want to base it on the arms of either of the two main branches of the clan:
If you look through the section in our website on Arms of branches of the Crawford family, you will see how many ways over the years people have made changes to these basic designs, and come up with new and original arms, and yet as you look through you will see how instantly you can say of any of them "Oh, he's a Crawford." Then you want to think about what is special to you. Let's say, fishing for example or climbing mountains like Sir Edmund Hillary. Perhaps you are a doctor who likes sailing and who keeps bees - well here's the one for you:
and so on. The only limit is your ingenuity. Then you must think about design. The most important rule is "Keep it simple". Don't forget that a coat of arms has to look good whether it is close to or far away. That's where Allen Crawford can help you to put your ideas into a design you really like. Look at the arms that were designed for the Duchess of Cambridge's father. Three acorns for the three children, and for the oak trees that grow near her home. Gold for her mother's name of Goldsmith, and the white lines - because they love skiing!
If you have read this far and you are still toying with the idea of designing and having your own coat of arms, and you don't fit into any of the categories for a grant from the UK Heralds- or perhaps you do but don't want to use them, then our suggestion is that the CCA should help you to come up with a really good design for yourself. The key person in this is Allen Crawford, a professional artist and illustrator with a good knowledge of heraldry in general and Crawford heraldry in particular. These are the arms that he designed for himself, incorporating American dogwood and the Cardinal bird as distinctive American symbols
The CCA has fixed a flat rate of $150 as the cost of Allen's assistance in creating the design, the artwork and entering the arms on the Register. For comparison, the fees of the Lyon Court are £2,386 for the grant of shield and crest with or without motto, and the fees of the College of Arms in London are £5,750. The Canadian Heraldic Authority charges an initial fee of $435, but there are several important extra fees to cover artist's work etc. As has been explained above, what we are proposing is not a grant of arms, in the way that these three heraldic authorities would grant arms, but we hope we have explained enough to give you a clear account of what our project is .
If you want to follow this up further, do get in touch with one of us, and the most useful first port of call would be either:
Allen Crawford firstname.lastname@example.org or Raymond Crawfurd email@example.com
...not yet ready for use...