Blazons & Genealogy Notes
Argent a chevron between three bucks’ heads couped gules.
Argent a chevron between three bucks’ heads couped gules.
The name Ragan is an Anglicized version of the old Celtic or Gaelic name O’Riagain or O’Raogain. In this context the name would be considered patronymic. It is not uncommon to find names, which for centuries have been claimed by the citizens of one country which found their origins in another. In the case of the name Ragan, it is believed to have crossed over from Ireland to England during the invasion of Ireland in the latter half of the 12th century under the knight and noble Sir Richard de Clare aka “Strongbow” who lead the Norman expedition. The name is traced back to three ancient Irish families. The first family was from the counties of Dublin and Meath. The second was descended of the High King of Ireland, Riagan who reigned from 1002 to 1014. The third was a family name from South West Cork. It would not be an unknown occurrence to have had a cultural exchange of people and surnames from Ireland to England during this time period.
Surnames had various sources of origins. Some people may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while others may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent’s names. There was an endless supply from which surnames were culled, in addition to the use of patriarchal or matriarchal names or reference to the individuals occupation, there were things such as defining physical traits, a familiar geographical location or a topographical landmark found near the individuals home or birthplace, the name of the village in which the person lived, and much more.
The use of surnames; however, did not become a common practice among the general population until the mid-sixteenth century. Until this time, surnames were generally reserved solely for the noble class. The use of surnames were found to serve a practical purposes, aside from making the distinction between people with like given names easier, it also allowed governments to more effectively track people for census, tax and immigration purposes.
The task of record keeping was primarily under the jurisdiction of the Church, local priories, and the government. This was due in large part to the fact that literacy was a skill usually found only among the nobles, the clergy, and government officials and scribes. Even so, there often existed multiple variations of names which may be attributed to a number of factors; the origins of the surname, the lack of guidelines which existed for spelling, and the fact that many scribes who were charged with record keeping spelled phonetically, among other things.
One of the earliest records of anyone bearing the surname or any variation of its spelling is that of Maurice O’Regan which appears in the Norfolk “Pipe Rolls” from 1170. The Pipe Rolls, often times called the “Great Rolls”, were a series of financial records kept by the English Treasury by order of King Richard, with the oldest dating back seven hundred years to the 12th century. They hold the distinction of being the oldest consecutive set of records detailing English governance in the United Kingdom. Some other early variations of the name include; Ragan; Regan; Reagan; O’Regan; O’Ragan; and O’Reagan among others.
With the discovery of the Americas and the addition to the British Common Wealth of countries such as Canada and Australia, immigration to these new worlds was inevitable. One of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname was James Ragan who arrived in 1750 and settled in Virginia. John Ragan arrived in 1798 and settled in Philadelphia. There were also immigrants to the British Commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand bearing the surname. Henry Ragan landed in 1848 and settled in Adelaide, Australia.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Ragan are found in the United States, Poland, Luxembourg, Canada, and the United Kingdom. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Ragan live in Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, and North Carolina.
There are many persons of note who bear the surname such as American born, Sam Ragan. He was a journalist, a poet, and advocate of the arts. He was born in North Carolina and attended Barton College. Ragan’s first stint as a journalist was for the San Antonio Evening News now known as the San Antonio Express-News. He returned to North Carolina where he worked as a journalist and editor at the Raleigh News & Observer, eventually he was given his own weekly column with the paper which consisted of literary reviews, commentary, and poetry. It became the longest running column in the U.S., appearing in forty-three states and twenty-four countries. Ragan was also a published author of both fiction and non-fiction.
The two main devices (symbols) in the Ragan blazon are the buck’s head and chevron. The two main tinctures (colors) are gules and argent.
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”1The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 2Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P52. Although it may look like a French word it is normally pronounced with a hard “g” and may be derived either from the Latin gula (throat) or Arabic gule (rose).3A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P154
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 4Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11.
The chief is an area across the top of the field 6Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 40. It appears in many different forms and can itself be charged with other charges and ordinaries, 7A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Chief, being treated almost as if it were a completely separate area. In its simplest form it can be clearly identified. Early examples include the award by Henry III of England to the knight Robert de MORTEYN BRETON of Ermine, a chief gules.
The chevron is one the major shapes used upon a shield, known as ordinaries. The inverted ‘V’ of the chevron is perhaps thought to have originated to represent a military scarf folded on the shield 8A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, (various), or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.9The Pursuivant of Arms, J. R. Planche, Hardwicke, London 1859. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 10The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P45, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36|
|2.||↑||Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P52|
|3.||↑||A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P154|
|4.||↑||Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53|
|5.||↑||A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11|
|6.||↑||Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 40|
|7.||↑||A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Chief|
|8.||↑||A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, (various)|
|9.||↑||The Pursuivant of Arms, J. R. Planche, Hardwicke, London 1859|
|10.||↑||The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P45|