How to Create a Family Shield

eagle crest image by Ekaterina Lozanova from

A family shield is also known as a family crest or coat of arms. The design of the shield is based on family history, beliefs and value systems. The shield was originally created in the Middle Ages to identify warriors and was said to strengthen family ties and encourage unity. Each crest is unique to its surname, using different colors and symbols. You can create your own family shield simply and efficiently by referring to historic and traditional heraldry symbols.

Talk to family members about the history of your last name. Find any documents that can help you determine the history of your family and what values and beliefs they followed.

Find a motto or mantra your family follows. This would be a verse of sorts your family lives by, like "Faithful to the end" or "Seize the day."

Decide what colors and the design you would like to use on your shield. Different colors hold different meanings (see Resources).

Coat of Arms image by Arne Bramsen from

Determine the shape of your shield. Some are shaped like the traditional battle shield, while others are more ornate. Draw the outline of the shield in the center of your paper, leaving room at the top and bottom of the page.

Draw a rectangle-shaped banner directly below the shield. Write your last name neatly inside the banner. You can make the banner ornate, too, by adding flare at the ends of the rectangle.

Write the words of your motto or mantra directly above the shield. The lettering should be centered and neat. The words can be written straight across or follow the angle of the top of the shield.

Decide what heraldic symbols you will add to your shield. Different symbols have specific meanings (see Resources). For example, a branch symbolizes affection and remembrance. Draw these symbols inside, at the top of your shield.

Draw any animals that are of symbolic value in the center of your shield. Some families split the shield into four, therefore allowing space for four different heraldic symbols.

Color your shield accordingly. Remember that colors have meaning and you don't have to stick to traditional colors of trees or animals.