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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

1) (granted to John Maine 1765). Motto —Vincit pericula virtus. Ermine on a chevron gules an escallop between a sinister and dexter hand couped in bend argent on a canton azure a covered cup with handles or. Crest—Out of a mural coronet per pale gules and ermine a dexter arm armed, garnished or, grasping a spear, point downwards proper.
2) Argent a chevron voided gules between three pheons in chief, and a unicorn's head, erased, in base, sable.

Origin, Meaning, Family History and Maine Coat of Arms and Family Crest


Historically the origin of many surnames often found their beginnings in multiple sources as is the case with the surname Main. The surname has as many as four sources, the first is the Scottish surname which evolved from the Scandinavian given name, Magnus, which in this context would make the name patronymic. It is believed the name immigrated to Scotland during the Viking age. The second is Scottish occupational for farmer who tended the main fields on an estate. The third is a Scots-English-French styling of the Germanic personal name Maino or Meino which translates to mean “strength” or “might” so in this context, it would be patronymic. The fourth is Scots-English which is geographical as it derives its origin from the French province of Maine.

Surnames, as can be noted from the information above, often were adapted from wide variety of sources, from a person's occupation or topographical landmark found near the individual's home or birthplace, or possibly from the name of the village in which the person lived or was born. Surnames were sometimes patriarchal or matriarchal, created by combining the person's given name plus the name of their father or mother. In some instances surnames were also created from defining physical traits; such as a person's hair color, eye color, height, among other things.

While the use of surnames was a common practice in medieval France among the aristocracy, it was not until after the mid-sixteenth century that it became commonplace in the British Isles and across the remainder of Europe. The small size of the settlements and villages which existed during the earlier periods across most of Europe often meant there was no need for surnames as everyone within these communities knew each other and a given name would usually suffice. However, as communities grew and people began to migrate on a larger scale, the Norman aristocracy's penchant for using surnames was found to serve several practical purposes; it allowed people the ability to distinguish themselves, one from another, and it gave the government a reliable way to track people for tax, census, 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 Robert Main found in Assize tax rolls dated 1204. Some other early variations of the name include; Maine and Mayne among others.

With the discovery of America and the addition to the British Commonwealth of countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it was not long before people began to immigrate to these outlying areas. The use of surnames made tracking of immigrants easier. Some of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname was John Main who landed and settled in Massachusetts in 1679. Pierre Main was one of the early settlers to Canada, landing and settling in Montreal in 1714. William Main was one of the early settlers to Australia, landing in South Australia in 1854 and John and Margaret Main along with their children, Maggie, John, and Robert landed in Auckland in 1864.

Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Main are found in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Main live in Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

There are many persons of note with the surname Main, such as Australian born Albert Russell Main. He studied zoology at the University of western Australia, served in the Australian Imperial Force, and the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. After the war he returned to zoology. He received his Ph.D. In Philosophy in 1956 and he became a Professor of Zoology in 1967.

Main was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 1969.

Maine Coat of Arms Meaning

The four main devices (symbols) in the Maine blazon are the chevron, pheon, unicorn and covered cup. The three main tinctures (colors) are gules, sable and ermine .

The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.1. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 2. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 3, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.

Sable, the deep black so often found in Heraldry is believed to named from an animal of the marten family know in the middle ages as a Sabellinœ and noted for its very black fur 4. In engravings, when colors cannot be shown it is represented as closely spaced horizontal and vertical lines, and appropriately is thus the darkest form of hatching, as this method is known 5. Although it may seem a sombre tone, and does indeed sometimes denote grief, it is more commonly said to represent Constancy 6.

Ermine is a very ancient pattern, and distinctive to observe. It was borne alone by John de Monfort, the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany in the late 14th century 7 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 8. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.9. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.

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 10, or additional cross-pieces used to strengthen the shield and painted a different colour.11. It has also acquired the meaning of “Protection… granted… to one who has achieved some notable enterprise” 12, possibly becuase of its resemblance to the roof truss of a house.

Given the martial nature of the origins of Heraldry, in the identification of knights and men-at-arms it can come as no surprise that mediaeval weaponry of all types are frequently to be found in a coat of arms 13. The pheon is a specific type of arrow head with barbs and darts and hence quite distinctive in appearance. 14 Like the other symbols related to arrows, Wade suggests the symbolism is that of “readiness for military service”. 15

In the mediaeval period there was no real percieved difference between real and mythical animals, after all, much of the world remained unknown and who was to say what strange and magical creatures existed in distant lands? As heraldry developed a whole menagerie of imagined creatures 16 came into being, and their various representations became more or less standardised in form and appearance. The unicorn is an intresting example that is still part of our own mythology today. The unicorn as illustrated on even the most ancient coat of arms is still instantly recognisable to us today, and shares many of the same poses that both lions and horses can be found in. 17. Wade, the 18th century heraldic writer suggested that were adopted as symbols because of “its virtue, courage and strength”. 18

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  • 1 The Siege of Carlaverock, N. Harris, Nichols & Son, London, 1828, P180
  • 2 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 313
  • 3 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53
  • 4 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Sable
  • 5 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 26
  • 6 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P35
  • 7 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P69
  • 8 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P39
  • 9 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 28
  • 10 A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, (various)
  • 11 The Pursuivant of Arms, J. R. Planche, Hardwicke, London 1859
  • 12 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P45
  • 13 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 89
  • 14 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Pheon
  • 15 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P111
  • 16 Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P164
  • 17 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Unicorn
  • 18 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P85