Greenwood Genealogies, 1154-1914 (Chapter 2)

By Frederick Greenwood, East Templeton, MA — 1914


ARMS OF WYOMARUS GREENWODE, of Greenwode Leghe, and used by his descendants. Date, 1154. Description: Sable, a chevron ermines between three saltiers argent. These arms are found in all branches of the Greenwood family and in some churches in England, near Heptonstall, where Greenwood names are recorded. They are known as the Greenwood arms.

A coat of arms may be defined as a mark of dignity or distinction descending from the father to the son. An old English print says that the intention of a coat of arms was to honor and adorn the family of him who had deserved well towards his country, to make that person more worthy and famous above those who had not done service, to the end that others might be encouraged to do service also. Coats of arms were intended also to establish a difference in lineage between the son of the noble ancestor so that the eldest son might be known from the second son, he from the third, and so on.

The ancient Romans, as a distinguishing mark, carried an eagle. The ensign of the French (Gallia) was a cock, that of the Scandinavians the horse, and the Persians a dove. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, instituted the order of Chevaliers and the members wore on their breasts the ensign of the cross. From Constantine individual families began to wear distinguishing marks and from these marks armorial bearing, or coats of arms, originated.

In the early times families that bore marks of distinction were those which had been given the right to bear arms and the right to carry arms was given only to free men, the gentry, nobility, and certain officers. The privilege of bearing arms was a most honorable distinction, for it not only testified to the rank of the original founder of the family, but it also testified to the character of the founder as well. No dishonorable family was ever permitted to bear arms.

Today in England any person on whom an honorary rank or title has been bestowed by the Sovereign is entitled to a coat of arms. Any subject of Great Britain, with or without rank or title, or any business firm or incorporated body, may petition for a coat of arms and if in the judgment of the Earl Marshal in England, The Lyon King in Scotland and the Ulster King of Arms in Ireland, who each have authority over their respective offices, the applicant has sufficient standing he may be granted a coat of arms.

Armorial bearings are of two kinds. the highest class consists of a shield with side supporters, and a crest, along with a motto. Only members of the Peerage in England and those specially privileged are entitled to use the supporters. The supporters to the royal arms of England are a lion on one side and a unicorn on the other side of the shield. The common coat of arms consists of a shield with various devices upon its face. A persona assigned a coat of arms usually selects his own devices and the devices chosen represent in some way a history of the family. The devices chosen with their arrangement upon the shield is protected by patent and can be used only by the patentee. The coast of the patent in Great Britain is quite considerable.

The devices in the Greenwood coat of arms consist of three silver St. Andrew's crosses. The crosses are set upon a dark shield and are separated by a silver band representing two rafters of a house and known as a chevron. The band is ornamented with sable furs or ermines. In heraldry the description of these arms reads: "Sable, a chevron ermines between 3 saltiers argent." For ages the cross has been known as an emblem of religion and in these arms of Wyomarus Greenwode they represent interest in religious matters or religious zeal displayed by Wyomarus and his family.

A coat of arms in families shows lineal descent.

Thoresby's history of Leeds, Eng., published 1715, gives the date of the arms of Wyomarus de Greenwode as 1154.

Dictionary of heraldic terms used in Greenwood coat of arms:

  • Fess — wide band across center of shield.
  • Argent — silver.
  • Sable — black.
  • Spurrowles — pointed stars.
  • Chevron — band shaped like rafters of a building.
  • Ermines — Small marks of the shape represented in the cut.
  • Saltier — cross in the form of an X.
  • Crest — appendage to edge of shield.
  • Demi-lion — half lion.
  • Rampant — standing upright.
  • Chief — upper part of the escutcheon.
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