Lesson from a Coat of Arms

Brief exploration of Holloway heraldry

The Backstory

Last names and clans of people go back a long ways, and some families can trace their name far enough back to find out some cool things. My last name is one of those names that has a common history that goes back a few centuries to the English and Irish country sides (and probably a bunch of other places).

However, finding the HOLLOWAY family crest and “coat of arms” specific to my ancestors was an intriguing find.

Holloway Coat of Arms

My father, Stephen Holloway, found our family coat of arms in 2010… the one specific to our lineage… in a box with a collection of items from my great grand parents. I scanned the paper we found… image below.

Original scanned image of the paper found in the old box

The image needed some clean up and digitization, so I did some Photoshop magic on it without changing the essence of the drawing.

Original scanned Holloway coat of arms with clean up edges

Unfortunately, we don’t know the meaning of all the elements of the shield, but surprisingly, we know more than we thought we would. It has the same structural themes, as evidenced by the generic Holloway family coat of arms found by searching the internet. Of course, my image is part of the results.

Google Image search results screenshot for “Holloway coat of arms”

The images have the 3 crescent moons, the horizontal fesse in the middle, and shades of red. Some similarities exist with the animal on the top, but diving into the meaning of what all this means is where the coat of arms becomes more interesting.

The Object

The Holloway Family Crest: Chained, red antelope with serrated horns

On top of the coat of arms is the crest, which, as it turns out in my case, is considered an antelope that is held back with chains and looks like it will rip someone’s head off in battle.

Nice. I’ll take it.

We’re not sure what the shapes under the antelope mean (other than being a kind of wreath).

If it were me, I would have at least made the design symmetrical!

There were hand-written notes near the coat of arms that my dad found, which told us what and where colors were to be applied.

Based on the notes, I colored the restored version and modified the ermine patch for my genetic branch moving forward… starting in 2010.

What each element means:

  • The font is a mix of English Towne and English Gothic, 17c.
  • The red fesse is a “girdle of honor” indicating a readiness to serve.
  • Blue = truth and loyalty
  • Gold = generosity and elevation of the mind
  • Silver crescents mean “second son,” honored by the sovereign, and stand for hope and glory.
  • The animal is a red antelope with serrated horns that is chained. It stands for fierceness and valor and is dangerous when aroused.
  • The golden crescent’s origin is unknown, but I will define it here… to begin anew and rise through uncertainty.
  • The white patch of ermine spots signify dignity and alliance with other families.
  • The tooth on the patch signifies the merging with the Toothman family in 2007 and a branch for my girls’ lineage.

The Lesson

While there are many resources and studies in heraldry and coats of arms, there is only so much of it that matters in today’s world. The movement and spread of people around the world make familial loyalties that span generations a thing of the past.

It’s awesome to have this kind of family history and symbolism, especially when many families don’t, but I think of it as a good foundation from which to keep building.

This is where the HOLLOWAY coat of arms is right now. I applied my own touch to it respectfully… not because I can, but because I think I should, and it’s common to do so according to heraldic resources. I mean, that’s how all these markings and designs got here in the first place… someone added them at some point in time.

Carrying on the legacy and modifying it to the time a person is in is how great stories evolve. I hope that reviving the coat of arms and digitizing its design will keep it going strong in our computer technology-driven world. What can we learn from the coat of arms?

The Take-aways:

  • The family has and continues to be the backbone of human survival.
  • Take ownership and pride in your heritage
  • Keep history alive by digitizing the past and sharing it
  • Make your own mark on the world but do so with honor and generosity

Hopefully, it will live on, but I guess that all depends on what my two daughters decide to do when they get older… will they keep their surnames, be able to pass the shield down, or does my HOLLOWAY branch end with me? We’ll find out soon enough.

Written by Shaun Holloway.