Author: Sarah Clowe, Director of Art Programs

Materials: paper, pencils, markers

What symbols would you used to represent your family?  Design your own family crest as you take inspiration from symbols used to represent a family that lived in Albany in the 1600s.

The original piece from the museum's collections is a stained glass window representing the family of Rutger Jacobsen Van Schoenderwoert.  It was first displayed in the Reformed Protestant Dutch church in Beverwyck (now Albany), erected in 1656. The windows were transferred to a new church in 1715 and returned to donor's descendents when that building was taken down in 1806. 

In this window we can find traditional shapes included in signs of heraldry, or pride in a family and their ranking in society.  The shapes in these traditional types of images, which you may also hear referred to as a coat of arms often have a large shield outline around the main parts of the image.  Outside of the shield you might find decorative elements like fancy leaves.  This particular piece of heraldic art is a little more updated to the family's current life in the 1600s rather than the traditions of generations before them.  

This family had business in brewing as well as trading with Native Americans.  The crossed boat paddles represent the trade and travel on the water, and the large bucket represents their work brewing beer.  What symbols might represent your family? Show us in your own family crest!

Once you've finished your art, feel free to email a picture to me at and I'll feature it in a Museum Makers gallery!

Family Crest Symbols

Create your own family crest!  Draw a large outline of a shield and use the following suggestions to create symbols that represent your own personal family to include inside.

Ideas for your family crest:

1. An important place for your family (a favorite park, your house, or somewhere you like to visit)

2. Pictures that represent the careers of the adults in the family

3. Images that show favorite hobbies (Instead of paddles like in the original museum piece you could include baseball bats if your family likes to play baseball)

4. Favorite animals, or even your family pet

Finishing the Design

If you have room beneath your shield design you may want to include your name or your family's last name like you see in the two images from the museum's collection below.  The second image is the Van Schaick Hatchment and contains symbols relating to the Van Schaick family. 

If you'd like to learn more about the hatchment it's featured in our museum audio tour here: Van Schaick Hatchment Tour Stop

Include your family's last name below the design and make it stand out by drawing a ribbon, or other shape around it.

Make it fancy!  You will often see ornamental leaf designs surrounding the symbols in a family crest.  Try framing the outside of your design with fancy leafs like in the two images from the museum below or come up with your own decorative patterns for the outside.

Add color!  To make your design bold color it in.

Collection Connection: Rutger Jacobsen Window

Attributed to Evert Duyckinck (1621-about 1702)
1656,Stained glass and lead inset in wood frame
Exchange with Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, 1984.22




Published  August 14, 2020