Anderson Arms

Ashley wrote in with a question:

My parents recently had a jeweler design a tie clip for my husband with his family crest. His name is Anderson. His heritage dates back to an Andrew Anderson of Sweden. The jeweler apparently researched his heritage and we eventually received the tie clip. It is beautiful, but we have no idea what any of it means. When I try looking online, it doesn’t seem like the crest she identified is tied to his heritage. I was hoping you could interpret the crest for us, explain its meaning and also confirm that this is in fact related to my husband’s ancestry. It would be such a shame if there was no connection and the jeweler was wrong. We went through a local jeweler, but the below link will direct you to a photo of the crest that she had engraved on the tie clip. Thank you so much for your help! I so look forward to hearing from you!

I am sorry to have to say this, as your parents were obviously trying to do something very nice for your husband, but it appears they have fallen prey to one of the most pervasive myths about heraldry in the modern world.

Many websites and retailers sell “Family Crest” items claiming that their designs reflect some sort of birthright of all persons with a given last name. This is simply not the way coats armor work now or in the past; each coat of arms was awarded to a specific individual, in most countries as a way to recognize service or achievement of one sort or another. These arms could be considered a form of inheritable property, and thus could be passed down, but inheritance of the coat of arms usually went to the first son with all other titles, real estate and other material wealth. Therefore if you didn’t inherit the family estate, you probably didn’t inherit the coat of arms either. However, there has become a good deal of contemporary interest in heraldry as a way to connect with family history, which I think is good, but misunderstanding of the nature of coats of arms makes people often use the wrong arms — which I am afraid is what happened in this case.

The picture you linked to appears to show the arms of Anderson of Newcastle, England, and is listed in Burke’s General Armory with the following citation:

Anderson (Newcastle, co. Northumberland). Or, on a chev. gu. betw. three hawks’ heads erased so.. as many acorns slipped ar. Crest-An eagle’s head erased ar. Holding in the beak paleways an arrow gu. headed and feathered or.[1]

Burke also lists over 30 other Andersons from around Britain. But for some reason the arms described above were the arms which “heraldry farms” have decided “belongs” to the name Anderson, as seen in the clipart below. These same arms appear in use in North America starting in 1634, with Thomas Anderson of Virginia .

A coat of arms often incorrectly attributed as being a "Family Crest" for all persons with the last name Anderson.

A coat of arms often incorrectly attributed as being a “Family Crest” for all persons with the last name Anderson.

Since your husband’s family is from Sweden, instead of Britain, we can be pretty sure that these are not the correct arms. Although, if you are lucky, perhaps he is also related to Thomas Anderson of Virgina.

Some more information on Swedish heraldry can be found here, http://www.heraldik.se/english_2.html. They even have a look up service to find out if your husband’s ancestor had arms awarded, but they charge 4,000 Swedish Krona, or about $600 U.S.

An important thing to remember is that no one can “research” your connection to a particular coat of arms without a detailed genealogy dating back to the date the arms were officially recorded; anyone who says they can give you information about your ancestors heraldic achievements without such a genealogy, is simply not qualified to do any such research.



[1] J. Bernard Burke, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; Comprising a Registiry of Armorial Bearings from the Earliest to the Present Time  (London: Harrison and Sons, 1884). 17.

Originally posted 2014-03-30 20:43:30.

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2 Comments

  1. My parents recently had a jeweler design a tie clip for my husband with his family crest. His name is Anderson. His heritage dates back to an Andrew Anderson of Sweden. The jeweler apparently researched his heritage and we eventually received the tie clip. It is beautiful, but we have no idea what any of it means. When I try looking online, it doesn’t seem like the crest she identified is tied to his heritage. I was hoping you could interpret the crest for us, explain its meaning and also confirm that this is in fact related to my husband’s ancestry. It would be such a shame if there was no connection and the jeweler was wrong. We went through a local jeweler, but the below link will direct you to a photo of the crest that she had engraved on the tie clip. Thank you so much for your help! I so look forward to hearing from you!

    Reply
  2. Thank you for writing in Ashley, I am sorry I don’t have good news for you.

    You can read my response at http://yourarmiger.com/?p=4171

    Reply

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