Arms of Sicily



           Many families are interested in their family's 'crest' or 'Coat of Arms'. 

          The use of these designs is greatly misunderstood.  The arms originated as a way of identifying individual nobles (and/or members of the 'aristocracy'), and originally only the first-born son of a noble could display the same arms on his banners, shields, weapons, etc.  Other male offspring of the noble who were not first-born, could use portions of their father's arms, but they had to be modified in some way.  For a detailed discussion of this point, CLICK HERE.  Eventually, consistent elements of these crests within a family came to be recognized as the noble family's 'Coat of Arms'.  Commoners HAD NO FAMILY CRESTS, and a noble's arms could only be passed down by primogeniture, not transferred, bought, or sold. 

           At their simplest, arms consist of a shield with a plain field or combination of fields, on which appear geometrical shapes or objects.   The items appearing on the shield are known as charges.

          Today, there is a thriving business for those claiming to 'find your family crest', on-line or elsewhere.  From my experience, these entrepreneurs either make up a crest that has images pertaining to the surname they are representing, or they provide a crest that is actually the arms of a noble family, but with no connection shown to the modern client's family.

         In my years of research for my family and others from  towns all over Sicily, including records back to the 1700's, I have yet to find a family that traces back to nobility.  Most, in fact, were of common origins: sharecroppers, peasants, day laborers, sulfur miners; or spinners, weavers and seamstresses, and occasionally artisans like stonemasons and cabinet makers.  Such families did not have 'family crests.'  Their surnames often came from the
labor they performed, like Pecoraro (shepherd) or a physical characteristic, like Curto (short).

         Many ordinary persons of Sicilian descent, however, share surnames with those of noble or once-noble ancestry.  This is explained when we recognize that in feudal times, surnames were not widely used except by the noble, rich or famous.  However, a noble might have dozens or hundreds of serfs and villagers under his aegis.  If one noble's chattel had to be distinguished from another's, they were called by the noble's surname.  Thus Filippo the contadino, working the fields of il Barone Coniglio, came to be called Filippo Coniglio; Leonardo, the shoemaker for il Conte Alessi became Leonardo Alessi, and so on.  When these folks married and had offspring, their children, even if they had moved to another place, might retain the surnames their fathers had been called by.

         The arms below carry the surnames of many Coniglio family members.  They're presented for illustration only. They DO NOT imply any connection between our family and nobility.  They can be considered to be the heraldic arms (araldica in Sicilian) or crests (stemme) of noble families with which members of our family once may have been associated, probably as subjects of the nobility who were entitled to the arms.  The names under each stemma are those of the earliest ancestors (that I know of) bearing the surname on the crest.  Clicking on those names will take you to that person's page.  Note that there are no known nobles in our ancestry!

          The name of each stemma may be slightly different than the modern surname: Alessio for Alessi; Pap
for Papia, etc.

The arms shown below are from the Nobilario di Sicilia by Dottore Antonino Mango.


Gaetano Coniglio's ancestors: Serradifalco

Filippo Coniglio


Gaetano Burgio

Leonardo Messina


Anna Mineo

Angelo Montalto

Angelo Porto


Rosa Alessi's ancestors: Serradifalco and Marianopoli

Calogero Alessi


Gioachino Abbate

Grazia Burgio

Antonio Cimino

Francesco Ferraro


Libertino lo Guasto

Leonarda Migliore

Giacomo Papia

Michele Vella


Salvatore Bongiovanni's ancestors: Montalbano di Elicona

M. Giuseppe Bongiovanni


Angela De Gaetano

Mastro Santo Corica


Filippo Furnari

Caterina A. Maiorana

Rosa Di Stefano


Mary Lanza's ancestors:

Salvatore Lanza











Other Families












  ~ The Lady of the Wheel (La Ruotaia), my first book, inspired by my genealogical research of Sicilian families.  It's a historical novella about foundlings and sulfur mine workers in 1860s Racalmuto, a town in central Sicily.
SICILIAN LINKS Sicilianit Is Sicily 'Italy'? The Sicilian Languge
Cognomi ~ Sicilian Surnames Ngiurii ~ Sicilian Nicknames Place-names as surnames Sicilian Coats of Arms
Foundlings The Sicilian Naming Convention

Given Names

Convert Latin given names to Sicilian
La Bedda Sicilia ~ My history of Sicily Heritage Path ~ original Sicilian records Civil Record Format ~ 1820 - 1910 I'm a Sicilian American
My Lectures on Sicilian Genealogy Sicilian Occupations in Civil Records Sicilian Records at the Buffalo FHC Orphans, Illegitimates, and Foundlings
Li Carusi ~ The Mine-boys Shortened Sicilian Given Names There is no letter "j" in Sicilian The Thing
  Womens' Surnames Masculine and Feminine Names  

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