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Heraldry
A Merrill Memorial

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A Few Questions of Heraldry - CHAPTER IX, pp 110-112

Merrill-Morrill Arms

   A gentleman of my acquaintance named Morrill, a descendant from the early Morrills of New England, wears a ring in the chaton of which is cut a coat of arms which may be described: Or, a bend gules, in base a cross crosslet of the last. This is given by Burke as a Morrell and also as a Murrill coat of arms. In both cases, according to Burke, the crest is a demi-lion rampant, but with variations.

   Mr. Morrill has for years made a study of heraldry. In 1899 he had a search made of the records of the Heralds' College in London, and was informed that this coat of arms was borne by various individuals of the names Merell, Merrell and Morrell in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was convinced that these names, as well as Murrell and Meverell, and the same names with i instead of e in the last syllable, are all derived from the same source.

   Burke gives as a Merill coat of arms: Or, on a bend gules, a crescent argent, in base a cross crosslet of the second. Burke in this case gives no crest or motto. This latter coat of arms is identical with the Morrell and Murrill arms just mentioned, save for the crescent blazoned on the bend.

The Crescent of Cadency

   The crescent is a mark of cadency, denoting a second son. Mr. Morrill explained the Merill arms by the assumption that the bearer, being a second son, had assumed the crescent as a mark of difference in his coat-armor, and that he had also seen fit to modify the spelling of the family name. But the crescent as a mark of cadency should be placed in the "center chief point" (in the upper part of the shield, just under the helmet.) It is not impossible that, as often happened, a branch of the family added the crescent as a charge, not as a mark of cadency, to distinguish it from other branches.

   On the walls of the Newbury Historical Society's rooms in Newburyport twenty-five or thirty years ago I saw among other coats of arms of old Newbury families one ascribed to the Merrills. I made a copy, which is reproduced herewith. This, so far as the blazonings on the shield are concerned, is identical with the Merill arms described by Burke.

Moses7 of Newburyport

   My inquiries elicited the information that Miss Susan-E. Merrill of Newburyport had furnished the copy which was in the Historical Society's possession. She was a descendant of Thomas3 Merrill (Abel2) whose deed in 1726 was sealed with wax in which was impressed the coat of arms given on page 107. Her line was through Thomas4, Nathan5, Orlando-Bagley6, and Moses7. The latter (her father) was born 23 May, 1798, and died 13 April, 1843.

   Miss Merrill told me that the copy of the coat of arms which was in the Historical Society's rooms was made by her sister from one which had belonged to her father. Of the origin of her father's copy she knew nothing. She showed me the latter: the only differences between that and the one here reproduced were that the scroll was without a motto in the earlier copy, and the shield was surmounted by the crest without the helmet. The bird figured in the crest seems to be a martin. In the Historical Society's copy its color is gray, like the helmet, and the twig held in its bill is green.

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