Origin, Meaning, Family History and Allan Coat of Arms and Family Crest
The surname Allan is of Celtic origin and is believed to date back to antiquity. It is derived from the ancient Gaelic “ailin”, which translated to English means “little rock”. The name was thought to have been introduced into England by the followers of Sir William de Clare, also known as “Strongbow” during and after the Norman invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century.
Surnames in Britain prior to the Norman conquest were largely unheard of. In the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier times, residents found little need for surnames as everyone in these communities new each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, with the passage of time, population growth and expansions of communities as villages gave way to towns and cities, it became necessary to add a qualifier to a people’s names to distinguish them, one from another. Therefore one person may have been identified by their given name plus their occupation while another may have been identified by their given name and one of their parent’s names. The introduction of surnames by the Norman aristocracy after the invasion seemed to be the next logical step in this evolution. There was a boundless supply from which surnames could be formed, in addition to the use of patriarchal/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 so much more. Soon, surnames would come not just to represent an individual but whole families.
There often exists variations in spelling of many surnames, as with many given names which date back to the early centuries. The variation in spelling of both given and surnames during this time period can be attributed to a lack of continuity regarding guidelines for spelling which was compounded by the diversity of languages in use in European countries at this time. The variations in the spelling of the surname Luke include but not limited to; Allan; Alan; Allen ; Allain; Allaine; Alleyn; and Allanshaw among others.
The earliest record of any variation of this surname is that of Geoffrey Alein which appears in Cambridge tax rolls from 1234. These rolls, were a series of census and tax records kept by the English Treasury by order of King Henry III, with the oldest dating back to the 12th century. They hold the distinction of being the oldest consecutive set of records detailing English governance in the United Kingdom. These records span a period of over seven hundred years.
One of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname or any variation of the spelling was John Allan who arrived in 1622 and settled in Virginia. James Allan landed and settled in Virginia in 1685 and William Allan arrived and settled in New Jersey in 1685.
There were also many immigrants to the British Common Wealth countries of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand bearing the surname. Thomas Allan landed in 1749 and settled in Nova Scotia, Canada as did Nathan Allan in 1750. William Allan landed in 1825 and settled in New South Wales, Australia. John Allan landed and settled in Adelaide, Australia in 1840. John Allan landed in 1841 and settled in Wellington, New Zealand. Agnes Allan landed and settled in Nelson, New Zealand in 1842.
Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Allan are found in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Allan live Utah.
There are many persons of note who bear the surname such as British born painter and politician, Sir Alexander Allan. He was a Member of Parliament and director of the East Indian Company from 1814 until 1820. Allan was created a baronet in 1819. As he never married and had no heirs, the title became extinct upon his death in 1820.
British born artist, Rosemary Elizabeth Allan, was noted for her work in watercolors. She had multiple shows at the Royal Academy, New English Art Club, and the London Group. Many of her watercolors are on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Allan Coat of Arms Meaning
The three main devices (symbols) in the Allan blazon are the bar wavy, mullet and escallop. The two main tinctures (colors) are azure and argent.
The bright, strong blue color in Heraldry is known in English as azure, and similarly in other European languages – azul in Spanish, azurro in Italian and azur in French. The word has its roots in the Arabic word lazura, also the source of the name of the precious stone lapis lazuli 1A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Azure. Despite this, those heralds who liked to associate colours with jewels chose instead to describe blue as Sapphire. According to Wade, the use of this colour symbolises “Loyalty and Truth” 2The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36.
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) 3Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 4A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11.
The bar is a thin, horizontal stripe across the centre of the shield, usually in groups of two or three (any more and there would be confusion with barry, a treatment of horizontal lines of alternating colours). It is also possible to place decorative edges along bars, typically these are smaller than those found on the major ordinaries like the fess and pale, but have the same design and share the same meanings. The decorative edge pattern Wavy, is a typical example of this. For obvious reasons it is associated with both water and the sea 5The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P40. Indeed, a roundel with alternating bars of azure and argent (blue and white) is known by the shorthand term fountain, representing water at the bottom of a well 6A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Water. Other colours have also been used and the result can be very pleasing to the eye.
The heraldic mullet, not to be confused with the fish of that name, is shown as a regular, five pointed star. This was originally, not an astronomical object, but represented the spur on a horseman’s boot, especially when peirced, with a small circular hole in the centre it represents a type of spur known as a “rowel” 7Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 97. A clear example can be found in the arms of Harpendene, argent, a mullet pierced gules. The ancient writer Guillim associated such spurs in gold as belonging to the Knight, and the silver to their esquires 8A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, P107. In later years, Wade linked this five pointed star with the true celestial object, the estoile and termed it a “falling star”, symbolising a “divine quality bestowed from above” 9The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P105.
The escallopoccurs often in arms, represented as the outside of the shell, sometimes “fluted” of a different colour 10A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Escallop. It has been part of heraldic tradition almost from the beginning of the art, Henry III of England awarded Gules, 3 escallopes argent to Herbert de CHAMBERLEYNE in the 13th century, and it is present in the heraldry of almost all countries 11A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P299. It is believed that they were adopted as badges of those going to the Holy Land and can be found in the arms of many a crusading family. Hence Wade’s suggested association of the scallop with those that “complete long journeys to far countries” 12The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P91.