Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Coat of arms - The secret of our ancestors

The coat of arms is a unique heraldic design on a shield, which was originally used by medieval knights to cover, protect and indentify the wearer. The design became a unique symbol to an individual person or family.

I found myself searching for clues of my family name in the internet. There are lots of websites that provide information on the origin of your family name. More information can be purchased together with little souvenirs or a print out of the family history. I don't know how reliable those websites are but they information provided looks intriguing.

Since I started watching the TV programmes "Who do you think you are?" and "Finding your Roots", I am curious to find out more about my ancestors. Both series investigate the family history of their famous guests with traditional genealogical research, though the series "Finding your roots" also uses genetic research to determine hidden cultural origin.

It's not about the life of people, who found their way into History books. It's about the people, whose stories have been forgotten, but who achieved incredible by trying to survive - History becomes all of a sudden very vivid and personal.

A story that impressed me very much is the family history of British actor David Sachet, shown in the 5th series of the British version of "Who do you think you are?". He discovers that his paternal ancestors were actually Russian Jews. Due to imminent persecution, they had to flee Russia over the Turkish border. From there they had to travel via Prussia, South Africa and France, to finally arrive to the UK, where they were able to settle down. During this journey they had to change their names a few times to hide their Jewish origin, which finally resulted in the French sounding surname "Sachet".

I need to make my project one day and search on websites like or for more information on my family tree. Those websites have access to an online database where billions of historical records worldwide (birth, marriage, death, census, military and immigration records) are uploaded, which makes it comparatively easy to trace family history. 

For now, I made it my project to sew a family banner with the coat of arms of my boyfriend's surname.

I was searching for clues on mine and Steve's surnames, when I found to my surprise an entry on his surname on Wikipedia. His name has apparently Irish origin and is closely connected to the history of Ulster. To have a Wikipedia entry on your family name is really cool, so I had to honour it by sewing a banner with his coat of arms.

Here is a list of what the symbols could refer to:
The Lion represents a great Warrior or Chief.
The open red hand is a symbol of the Province of Ulster.
The crecent is the hop of glory or the sign of the second son.
Red is the colour of a Warrior and symbolises Military Strengh.

There were two things in the process of crafting the banner, which were new to me.

First one is a technique in embroidery called couching, in which yarn or other material is laid across a fabric material and is fastened in place with small stitches of the same or a different yarn.
I used this technique to frame the banner with a grey woollen threat, which would contrast the white ground fabric and the ruby coloured motives.

The second technique was making a tassel. It's a lovely creative ornament which is similar to the making of a pom-pom. If you are interested to know more about the how-to, here is a link to a YouTube video tutorial.  

I hope this little excursion to history was inspiring and maybe make you want to learn more about your ancestors and family tree, too.

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