A roots n’all catch all for issues relating to the various branches appertaining to the tree of man.
First up, the family cote of armes (fca) can be a wonderful thing to have been passed down to you from your forbears, it will present in many flavours, for example a fascinating collection to inspire those seeking a literary connection on display at W.J. Hardy’s Book Plates. These days one can find them on T-shirts, mugs, mousemats – you name it.
Go a googling for heraldic info on minor nobility you hope to boast about, be prepared for variable results, well known authors such as Crozier and Matthews are regarded as meticulous, as opposed to authors like Bolton described here:
As to heraldry, he may be almost said to be an ignoramus; all that he knows of it is what he has gleaned from the popular manuals, and you know what they are. His book is nevertheless useful, for he has undertaken to collect in it as many records as he could find of coats of arms used in America, without going at all into their validity. With this caution in mind the book is userful; but the trouble is that most people do not bother to read his caveat and quote the book as showing a right to arms.
In regard to the family tree hosted at this site, taking a trip back reveals only a filtered and scattered limelight shed on the Stearn fca, the effects of which only casts long shadows on the impossible task of extracting anything approaching suggestio falsi from those dark and blurry origins.
Let’s consider the heraldry displayed on the page of Isaac Stearns, an early settler in Massachusetts.
Now compare it to the one adopted by some of those descendants:
Squinting at the text in the above image revealed:
The coat of arms STEARNS. Massachusetts. Charles Stearns, Watertown, 1630, (Suffolk.)
Gold, a black chevron between three sable flory crosses
CREST: A naturally colored falcon rising
Charles is the son of Isaac, so he had either adopted the above coat of arms from another source, most likely back in Cambridgeshire, in favour of his father’s, or the Stearns coat of arms is in actual fact Isaac’s.
The description of “flory crosses” applies more to the shield found in a posthumous 5th edition (1679) of John Guillim’s A Display of Heraldrie (1st ed. 1610):
He Beareth Or, a Chevron between 3 crosses flory, Sable, by the name of Sterne, and is the Paternal Coat-Amour of Richard Sterne of Kilvington in Yourkshire, Esquire, Son and Heir to the most Reverend Father in God Richard Sterne, Lord Archbishop of York, Primate, and Metroplitan of England, descended from a family of that Name in Nottinghamshire.
It also applies to a rather elegant fleuron posthumously commissioned by novelist Laurence Sterne for illustrator Thomas Stothard to replace the existing bird on the fca – probably falcon – with a starling. The following image is a direct copy from the 1768 edition of A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy.
The version at Wikimedia Commons has far less resolution:
Another edition at Gutenberg just has the shield, helmet and bird:
Adding to the mix is the following sample list all with their own marvellous versions of the fca:
Edit: For further clarity and confusion, here is an extract from a chapter of the excellent Genealogy and Memoirs of Charles and Nathaniel Stearns:
Regarding the coat of arms of the Sterne or Stearns family in England and in this country, the oldest that
we now have knowledge of, (which we will call No. i), is that of the Archbishop of York, (1664-83), whose family shield was or, a chev. betw. three crosses flory sa. crest a cock starling ppr.
It had ornamental mantling and a ribbon below, without motto.
This distinguished man, by right of his clerical position, took rank ahead of all others in the peerage, except the reigning family, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord High Chancellor.
We know this to have been an old English family and the arms were at that time doubtless many generations old.
Other branches of the family in England bore three crosses of a different form; some the “patonce,” others “crosslets” or “pattee.” Records also show that the crests varied, some having: a falcon, others a griffin or a dove.
Authorities differ even about the arms of the Archbishop, but the above seems to be the most authentic.
The College of Heraldry, in London, have recently sent us a copy in colors of “the Arms borne by Archbishop Sterne,” or, a chev. betw. three crosses flory sa., without other augmentations.
Bond’s genealogy of our family shows a shield like No. i, which “belonged to the occupants of the old Steams Homestead in Watertown,” Mass., doubtless brought to this coun- try by Isaac Stearns in 1630, but it also bears the helmet, and cock starling for a crest, with ornamental mantling and rib- bon without motto below.
No. 2, Mr. Charles R. Stearns of Creighton, Neb., sends sketch of a shield now in his family, borne by “Richard Sterne, Esq.. son and heir of the most reverend father in God, Richard Sterne, Lord Archbishop of York.” It is the same as No. i, except it has for a crest a wreath supporting a dove bearing an olive branch, and on the shield, under lower cross, the motto, Sustinet — to Sustain.
Mr. Robert E. C. Stearns of Los Angeles, Cal, sends copy of one similar to No. 2.
No. 3. The author. Laurence Sterne (1713-68), a great- grandson of the Archbishop, has his coat of arms as a frontispiece to Tristram Shandv and other books; it is or, a chev. betw. three crosses patonce, crest a wreath and starling;— no ribbon nor motto.
No. 4, The imprint of another shield has been sent us, the same as No. i, except the crest is a falcon resting on a wreath; it was probably made for some one in this country, as it has neither helmet nor mantle, but has on a ribbon the motto: Absque labore nihil; Nothing without Labor.
It was made in London and bears the name below of Joseph Barker Stearns.
No. 5, Mr. M. A. Stearns of Brooklyn, N. Y., has furnished the impress of a beautifully cut oval seal, three-quarters of an inch long, of same design as No. r. except it has crosses patonce, with family name on the ribbon and chevron bears the motto Exitus actor probat. — The Event approves the Act. He says this seal was made about 1822 for his father.
No. 6, Mr. James P. Stearns, of Springfield, Mass., sends photograph of a shield much like No. i, except it has for a crest a goat’s head resting on a crown.
No. 7, The Family Memorial, a neatly gotten up volume, published at Bufifalo, N. Y., in 1891, by Mr. George Chapin Steams, being genealogy of a part of our family, the descendants of Benjamin Stearns ,shows arms like No. 3, adding a ribbon below with motto Lahore et Scientia, — Labor and Science.
The Pitcher of Hon. Isaac Steams (No. 366) of Billerica, Mass., shown opposite page 79, which was probably made in Liverpool, England, and sent to the recipient about 1784,carries for a shield, or, three crosses flory, sa., substituting a garland of white roses and forget-me-nots in place of the helmet, with a mantle of same flowers, and has on ribbon below, “The Arms of Stearns.”
He omits the chevron and starling, evidently with the view of establishing arms for the family here, which should discourage all warlike instincts.
Meanwhile, the fca inherited from the grandfather of this poster remains unchanged:
Is the family crest a recent addition or is it an ancestral symbol? Ten years ago, my grandfather made a bunch of them for the family as a joke because he was bored 😛
Can be! A Google image search will reveal much, he might have based his mods on a real fca, you just have to find it. 🙂
Posted a question over at Genealogy going way way back – you know, as Google searches evolve to encompass more content, so the resulting mysteries multiply. 😛
A quick reverse image search says that it’s similar to the tradition Stearns coat of arms and the one for this guy. There were a couple of others as well but those were the most similar 🙂
Weird, Bergeron was a Frenchman, from a French family, yet the motto on the fca is in English. His father doesn’t have it, but Nicolas much earlier does. She uploaded the image to the site with nary a historical reference, thus it has merrily propagated to other commercial heraldry sites like this that present with the usual beguiling authentic look.
Yeah the crosses on the Sterne fca are patonce, and not straight, as opposed to the US versions.
The basic layout of the motif gets a lot of modding variation, so quite ubiquitous, though in Elvin’s dictionary only two versions are mentioned:
Plate 2 Item 2:
45 Az. a Chevron lozengy engrailed or and gu. betw. three Plates each charged with a Martlet sa. Flet- wood
Plate 22 item 9:
Az. on a chev. ar. betw. three Staff- Tree leaves slipped or, as many Bees volant ppr. Leaf