Smith Coat of Arms
This coat of arms for the Smith family is the earliest we have been able to trace. It was recorded about 975 AD in Durham.
This fits in neatly with the Smiths coming from the Angle tribe that settled in northern England, after the Anglo-Saxon invasion in about 600 AD. (As discussed in our Family History.) By 975 AD, the Smiths had become Christian, and adopted a Christian motto. This was written in Latin because the only people who could read and write at that time were the monks and clerics who used Latin. The Latin motto "Benigno Numine" translates as "With Divine Providence."
Smith family crest
You have to bear in mind that not every Smith stayed working as a blacksmith. A man named Smith might become a soldier, although still keeping the proud name Smith. If he then distinguished himself in battle, he might be made a knight. Only knights were awarded a coat of arms. The original point of a coat of arms was to wear on a knight's surcoat in battle. An armoured knight could not be recognised in battle, unless he wore a surcoat (a linen coat over his armour.) His coat of arms was embroidered unto his surcoat, and painted onto his shield. He also had a crest on his helmet, a plume with feathers or stiffened ribbons of the same color as his coat of arms, so that he could be more easily recognised in battle.
The word crest has, quite recently in history, taken on a second meaning as a minature shield with coat of arms, on a wooden plaque.