History of Clay Coats of Arms

 CLAY COATS OF ARMS, Real? Or a waste of money.

Back in the mid-twentieth century, a company in the Midwest made a fortune selling “family coats of arms” or “family crests” to unsuspecting people.  Gary Halbert, from Bath, Ohio, became famous with his schtick, beginning with a letter:

“Dear Mr. Macdonald,

Did you know that your family name was recorded with a coat-of-arms in ancient heraldic archives more than seven centuries ago?

My husband and I discovered this while doing some research for some friends of ours who have the same last name as you do. We’ve had an artist recreate the coat-of-arms exactly as described in the ancient records. This drawing, along with other information about the name, has been printed up into an attractive one-page report.” 

Certainly many folks in the U.S. named Clay received the same letter. Even today a quick Google search will net you many, many offers for herald devices. But of course, what is missing here is that this is a scam. As noted in Dick Eastman’s Blog, “Balderdash!” “There is no such thing as a ‘family coat of arms.”  Thank you, Dick!

So what are all these Clay “Coats of Arms” and “Family Crests” and “Badges” we find? What is that “badge” on our wallpaper right here on this website? 

 Well, back in history, individuals sometimes were granted the right to have a special coat of arms. The “family crest” is part of that, but used separately. NOT the family, the INDIVIDUAL. They exist, and the physical object may indeed be passed down with the china set, but that’s it. 

We will be posting some examples here as time allows. However, best to check member David Clay’s websites on the Clays in England to find a number of good examples. 

The badge? Back in about 2002 or so, founding member and CFS Historian, the late Robert Young Clay, an archivist for the Library of Virginia as well as a gifted artist, recognized that perhaps we should have an image that would be particularly recognizable as “Clay.” He chose a “badge” as it tends to be a group item, as with the 18th Century Clan “crest badges” of Scotland, which imply group solidity.  The components of the Clay badge have specific meaning. The trefoil (look like clover) is a component that is found in many English Clay arms. The belt is of Scottish origin, 

“Crest badges may be worn by anyone; however, those who are not entitled to the heraldic elements within, wear a crest badge surrounded by a strap and buckle. The strap and buckle represents that the wearer is a follower of the individual who owns the crest and motto.”

Of course, we recognize that not every “Clay” comes from one of the counties represented, in fact not from the United Kingdom at all, but all may be considered “kin.”  While we don’t have a blood “clan chief”  “anyone who professes allegiance to both the clan and its chief can be considered a clan member. All clan members may wear the chief’s crest encircled by a strap and buckle inscribed with their chief’s motto or slogan. The strap and buckle symbolizes the membership to the clan and allegiance to the clan…3 

1 http://www.markjoyner.name/temp/halbert/coa.pdf

2 https://blog.eogn.com/2019/07/12/pssst-want-to-buy-your-familys-coat-of-arms-2/

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_crest_badge

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Start Date 11/12/2022 - Please rate your reaction.