Q: Does anyone know where I can find information on the Hammer Family coat of arms? -- Josh
A: Coats of arms, often referred to as heraldry, is a misunderstood offshoot of genealogical research. In reality it is its own specialty and really has nothing to do with genealogy. Over the years, people have intermingled the two. They have also made some false assumptions about coats of arms.
While the rules of who was entitled to a given crest and coat of arms vary from country to country, in England the rules are specific. A coat of arms was not assigned to a family name. The coat of arms would be assigned to a specific individual, usually a man.
Coats of arms are not family crests in most cases.
Coat of Arm for a Surname
The biggest misconception when it comes to coats of arms, is that they are claimable by anyone who shares a surname. There are no surname coats of arms. Each coat of arms is assigned to a single individual. Through an accepted line of descent, usually a male line of descent, a descendant six or eight generations down the line may be entitled to that same coat of arms. The rest of the family however, is not.
This ruling is especially true for English families, and is reiterated in the College of Arms Web site . Other countries may vary, so it would depend on what country you could trace your ancestry back to as to whether or not this applies to your Hammer research.
With this said, there is a coat of arms for the Hammyer surname that may be a variant spelling on the Hammer surname.
I also found that Traceit offers a Hammer Coat of Arms. You can put in the Hammer surname, and it will display links to a history and a coat of arms. For a description of the coat of arms simply click on the image shown.
Where to Go
There is a lot of information and misinformation available on the Internet about heraldry and coats of arms. Here are some sites to get you started.
There are also a number of informative books that will help you in learning all of the ins and outs of heraldry and coats of arms. Some of them may be purchased online, others are available as new e-books.
Some where along the way, coats of arms became "something to have." The reality is that they are something personal, claimed by a select number of individuals as opposed to a family or surname group as a whole.
Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is an award-winning author of several genealogy how-to books, including The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, The Genealogist's Computer Companion, and Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more advice from Rhonda in her columns Expert Tips, Tigs and Trees, and Overheard in the Message Boards.