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Blazons & Genealogy Notes

Barry nebulée of six erm. and ar.

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


The surname Mares originates from several sources. The first is geographical in origin, coming from the Catalan region of Spain, it translates to mean “by the sea”. The second source is also geographic, coming from the French “marais” which translates to marsh, from this the Anglicized Mares was derived. The remaining two sources of origin are metronymic or patronymic, the Dutch variation comes from the personal name Marie and the Czech or Slovak variation derives from the given name, Marek or Martin.

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 Mares include but not limited to; Marais; Mareys; Marets; Marays; Marrey; Du Mares; and Du Marest among others.

The earliest record of any variation of this surname is that of William de Mar which appears in official documents dated 1235 housed at Kelso Abbey. The task of record keeping was primarily under the jurisdiction of the Church, local priories, and government offices. 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.

Surnames in Europe prior to the mid-sixteenth century were largely unheard of. Residents found little need for surnames in the small settlements and villages which existed during earlier times 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. There was a limitless supply from which surnames could be 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 so much more. Soon, surnames would come not just to represent an individual but whole families.

After 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. Some of the first recorded immigrants to America bearing the surname was Mary Mares who arrived in or around 1650 and settled in Virginia. Anna Mares landed and settled in Virginia in 1635 and John Askew arrived and settled in Maryland in 1654. Francios Mares was an early settler to Canada, landing and settling in Quebec, Montreal in 1655.

Worldwide, the highest concentration of people with the surname Mares are found in Spain, Belgium, Austria, United States, and Serbia. By state, the largest percentile of those with the surname Mares live in New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, and Texas.

One of the earliest fore-bearers of any variation of the surname, Earl of Mar, can be found in the Peerage of Scotland, first created in 1014. This Earldom is thought to be the oldesist peerage not only in Great Britain but in the entirety of Europe. The family seat was located at Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeen, Scotland. The ruins of the castle are still visible and open to the public.

Margaret of Mar, 31st Countess of Mar is the current bearer of the Earldom of Mar as well as Clan Chief of Mar. She is a member of Parliament and is an advocate for many charitable and voluntary organizations, using her position to be a voice for their causes.

The heiress presumptive to the Countess' peerage is her eldest daughter, Helen of Mar, Mistress of Mar.

Mares Coat of Arms Meaning

The main device (symbol) in the Mares blazon is the barry nebulee. The two main tinctures (colors) are ermine and argent.

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 1 It has a long association with royalty and the nobility in general and hence represents “Dignity” wherever it is found 2. The ermine pattern is white with, typically, a three dots and a dart grouping representing the tail of the furred creature.3. The ermine spot is sometimes found alone as a special charge on the shield.

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) 4. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5.

When the field of the shield is filled with alternately coloured horizontal lines, this is known as barry, obviously because it is like having many separate bars across the field 6. As well as being drawn with straight edges, there some decorative effects that can be used, and, with careful, these can be very pleasing. The decorations are typically much smaller than those used on the major ordinaries, such as the fess so care must be taken to ensure clarity. Nebulee (sometimes nebuly is a very pleasing pattern of interlocking curves, the name refers to “clouds” as it is reminscent of their soft abstract edges.

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  • 1 A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P69
  • 2 The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P39
  • 3 Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 28
  • 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 A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Barry