Womack Coat of Arms
The distinguished surname Womack is one of the most notable Anglo/Saxon surnames, and its historical trail has emerged from the mists of time to become an influential surname of the middle ages and of the present day.
In an in-depth research of such ancient manuscripts as the Domesday Book compiled in 1086 A.D., by Duke William of Normandy, the Ragman Rolls (1291-1296) collected by King Edward 1st of England, the Curia Regis Rolls, The Pipe Rolls, The Hearth Rolls, parish registers, baptismals, tax records and other ancient documents, researchers found the first record of the name Womack in Norfolk where they were anciently seated as Lords of the Manor. The Saxon influence of English history diminished after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The language of the courts was French for the next three centuries and the Norman ambience prevailed. But Saxon surnames survived and the family name was first referenced in the 14th century at Norwich.
Confusing to most, we found many different spellings in the archives researched. Although our name Womack, occurred in many manuscripts, from time to time the surname was also spelt Wormack, Womock, Wormock, Wornack, Wonack, (today we know of many more) and these changes in spelling frequently occured between father and son. There is one record, a father and eight sons. In the graveyard where they are buried, all nine have different spellings of their surnames. Many reasons were revealed for these spelling variations but mainly church officials and scribes spelt the name as it was told to them.
The family name Womack is one of the most notable of the Anglo/Saxon race. This founding race of England, a fair skinned people led by the Saxon General/Commanders Hengist and Horsa, settled in Kent from about the year 400 A.D. The Angles, on the other hand, occupied the eastern coast.
The Anglo/Saxon five-century domination of english society was an uncertain time, and the nation divided into five seperate kingdoms, a high king being elected as supreme ruler.
By 1066, King Harold came to the throne of England which was enjoying reasonable peace and prosperity. However, the Norman invasion from France and their victory at the Battle of Hastings, found many of the vanquished Saxon land owners forfeiting their land to Duke William and his invading nobles. They became oppressed under Norman rule, and some moved northward to the midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire, even into Scotland.
The family name Womack emerged as a notable English family name in the county of Norfolk where they were anciently seated. Henry Womock was a vicar of Great Ellingham in 1601. Later, in Suffolk where they were also shown on tax records. In Norfolk they were seated at Norwich. From their early Beginnings, for the next few centuries, this family name also acquired other estates or manors as branches established themselves throughout England. Several major conflicts, the Wars of the Roses, theCromwellian found them sometimes to be on opposing camps with conflicting interests. Many Changes in spelling the surname were accidental, some were deliberate, to declare a cause, or to distance a branch from the main stem. Notable amongst the family at this time was the Womack family of Norfolk.
For the next two or three centuries bearers of the surname Womack flourished and played a significant role in the political developement of England. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries England was ravaged by religious and political conflict. Puritanism, Catholicism, Royalist and parliamentaryforces shed much blood. Many families were freely "encouraged" to migrate to Ireland, or to the "colonies". Some were rewarded with grants of land, others were banished.
In Ireland, settlers became known as the Adventurers seeking land in Ireland. Called "undertakers" they undertook to maintain the Protestant faith. As early as 1172 branches of certain family surnames moved to Ireland with the invasion of Strongbow, still more were encouraged to be part of the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th century. Later, the Cromwellian settlements moved other families. There is no evidence of this family surname migrating to Ireland but this does not preclude individual settlements.
Meanwhile the New World beckoned and migration continued, some voluntary from Ireland, but mostly directly from England or Scotland, their home territories. Some clans and families even moved to the European continent.
Kinsmen of the family name Womack were amongst the many who sailed aboard th armada of small sailing ships known as the "White Sails" which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships were pestilence ridden, sometimes 30% to 40% of the passenger list never reaching their destination, their numbers reduced by sickness or the elements.
Principal amongst the settlers which could be considered a kinsman of the Surname Womack, or a variable spelling of that family name was settlers who were recorded from the mid 17th century in the great migration from Europe. Migrants settled in the eastern seaboard from Newfoundland, to Maine, to Virginia, the Carolinas, and to the islands.
The trek from port of entry was also ardous and many joined the wagon trains th the praries or to the west coast. During the American War of Independence, many loyalist made their way north to Canada about 1790, and became known as the United Empire Loyalists.
20th century notables of this surname, Womack, include many distinguished persons, including notable personalities of the name have contributed to the society on both sides of the Atlantic.
Research has determined the above Coat of Arms to be the most ancient recorded for the family surname Womack.
Making marks or symbols for military purposes can probably be found going back to the earliest man. The Greeks put marks on their shields long before Christianity. Even African warriors painted their wooden shields with symbols of heritage. However, the art and order that we know as HERALDRY today didn’t start until the 1100's, around the time of the Crusades.
Men from several countries were thrown together during the Crusades. So, the need for a quick, visual way to identify each other became a matter of survival. Especially when wearing suits of armor and closed helmets. English Knights started putting their marks on their armor and soon the practice spread quickly throughout Europe. Later, cloth, or surcoats were worn over the suits of armor mainly to prevent them from becoming solar ovens for the wearer. The Knight's marks and symbols, now known as arms, were embroidered on the surcoats making them known as coats of arms.
It wasn’t long before the need to distinguish between these symbols gave rise to a new occupation known as Heralds. A Herald would memorize the knights’ arms and would announce to the public who they were. They became the masters of ceremonies at public competitions. And later, became court appointed positions.
As the use of coats of arms became more widespread and elaborate, there began to be some duplication. Which among knights, who’s only occupation was fighting, caused some lethal battles over their arms. This was not good for the King to have his knights, who were hired to protect his kingdom, fighting among themselves, so Royal regulation began in 1419 under Henry V of England. Thus the Heralds were called upon to verify, record, and deny the use of arms.
The Heralds developed a unique language of their own to describe these symbols known as a Blazon of Arms. These descriptions are recorded in Colleges of Arms throughout the world. They are historic records, just as deeds, and registrations are, and can be researched and reproduced by anyone understanding the heraldic language.
For example, the heraldic language describing the TIERNEY blazon of arms is "Azure two lions rampant or, supporting a sword proper." This would mean that the family shield has a blue background with two gold rampant lions holding a sword.
Azure (blue) stands for loyalty and truth. The Or (gold) means generosity and elevation of mind. The lions represent strength and courage.
The crest, above the helmet is a pheasant proper.
So what is a crest? Simply, a crest was worn above the knights helmets because the shields were difficult to see in the heat of battle. They helped to further identify the knight. Today they are a part of the coat of arms as we know them.
The crest is placed on top of the helmet. The history of the crests is somewhat obscure. Most early coats of arms had no crest, and those that do are probably of a later time. In heraldry of some nations, the crest is absent and only a plain helmet is employed. It is also common to find the main charge of the shield used as the symbol of the crest.
The size and shape of the helmet is a matter of personal choice. The helmet of the gentleman or squire is in profile and faces right, with the visor closed. The mantle, or scrollwork emanates from the helmet and falls about the shield.
The mantle is purely decorative and its absence is immaterial. Early arms depict the cloak quite accurately, with the outer surface reflecting the predominant color of the arms, and its inner lining indicating the predominant metal.
And last of all, the mottoes. A motto was not granted with the Coat of Arms and not all Coats of Arms carry a motto. Once a Coat of Arms is granted it can not be changed, but a motto can be altered at the wish of the owner. Early mottoes were war cries which probably came from the period of the Crusades. But as time and heraldry progressed, the mottoes became more peaceful.
The majority of mottoes are in Latin, which was the language of the educated. The next most common language was French which was the language of gentlemen. A large number of mottoes express religious faith, which is a reflection of a Christian past. The ethics reflected in the mottoes are naturally high, consistent with the purpose and meaning of a family Coat of Arms.
Who can claim one:
Only the oldest son would inherit his family’s coat of arms unchanged; his younger brothers would usually add a symbol to show who they were. The symbol a younger son added was often a smaller picture placed in the middle of the shield. When a woman married, especially if she had no brothers, the coat of arms of her family was often added to her husband’s arms. Sometimes the arms were quartered, or divided into parts. In this case, the man’s family coat of arms was in the upper left quarter (as you look at the coat of arms) and lower right, while the woman’s family’s arms were in the other two quarters. Shields are generally "read" like a book, starting at the upper left, going across and then down.
The key here is only a direct descendant can claim a coat of arms, therefore any Womack must prove their direct ancestors, to date none have been proven.
The information included in this article is provided 'as-is'. While every effort has been made to reasonably authenticate the information, no guarantee or warranty is given or implied. Interested researchers are encouraged to perform their own research to prove the authenticity to their own satisafaction.
e-mail: Roger Womack