News From Terre Haute, Indiana


December 7, 2013

GENEALOGY: Difference between ‘family crest,’ ‘coat of arms’

TERRE HAUTE — Although some people refer to a “family crest” and a “coat of arms” interchangeably, there is a difference. A crest is an element or part of a coat of arms, but not the entire arms. On a coat of arms, the crest is found above the shield, usually on top of a helmet. The crest can be used alone as a symbol for the holder/family or a shortcut for the coat of arms. Crests alone were used to identify and decorate things, such as the handles of family cutlery, snuffboxes, rings, jewelry, bookplates – printed or engraved on anything where the entire coat of arms would not fit.  

A coat of arms, of course, was awarded to an individual person, and not a family.

The crest, however, could be used by multiple members of a family, on their own individual coats of arms. Sons who were given coats of arms might have different versions of the arms of their father, but the crest would not likely be changed. Therefore, the crest is a part of the arms that can represent the larger family and can be used as a symbol for that family.

An example of the crest and other devices appearing on multiple coats of arms within the same family can be found at Several individual coats of arms for the Worthington family of England are pictured, each with the crest, a goat eating oak leaves, on the different arms. In the Worthington family, the device on the shield, three dung forks (to clean up after the goat?), is also carried over on the individual coats of arms of different family members. These symbols are found on multiple Worthington coats of arms from 1536-1664, and perhaps beyond.

If you want your very own coat of arms, or would like to create one for someone as a gift, visit the website Make Your Own Coat of Arms at www.makeyourcoat It’s free, and actually kind of fun. First you must enter your name and email address as a kind of registration, then “get started.”

There are six steps to the completion of the coat of arms: choose a shield and its base color, enter the name of the person, add a motto, list four values (these won’t appear on the coat of arms, but are supposed to represent each of the four symbols that you place on the shield), add symbols to the shield, and print out. You can go back and forth between the steps if you change your mind about something. A seventh step, if you so desire, is to order your creation on any of a variety of products. You don’t have to complete this last step to get a free print of your coat of arms.


I am a descendant of Terre Haute brewer and banker Anton Mayer and his wife Sophia Miller, both born in Germany in the 1840s. I would like to contact descendants of Anton and Sophia, and of Sophia’s parents, Stacy Miller and Susan Maier, who are buried in Terre Haute. I also wish to hear from descendants of Anton and Sophia’s son Herman Mayer, who married Antoinette Brinkman. I would also like to contact descendants of her parents, John Brinkman and Katherine Kipper. These people lived in Vigo County, spanning a period from about 1860 to 1945, when Antoinette Brinkman Mayer died. I have a great deal of factual information about the members of these families, but I am putting together a written history of the Mayer family and would like to hear some more personal knowledge or stories about these people. I would really appreciate any information that anyone has to offer. Please contact Tony Mayer at or call at 203-625-0167.

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    March 12, 2010