Adair heraldry


Blazon of Arms

This certificate was shared with us by fellow researcher Steven Addair. Steven’s sister, Colette Addair Tarver, visited Scotland and brought this blazon back.

Steven is researching the following line: Father – Henry Addair> Grandfather Thomas Addair > GGrandfather Henry Addair > GGGrandfather Moses Addair b 1830 or 1834 . GGGGRandfather John Adair > GGGGrandfather James Adair b 1752 ? The additional D in Addair seems to have been added during Moses Addair’s early life, no indication why. Researchers can reach Steven at

Many thanks to Steven for sharing this submission

Arms:  Per bend, or and argent, three dexter hands gules couped and erect

Crest:  A Man’s head affrontie, couped at the neck and distilling blood

Mottoes:  (above) “Loyal Au Mort” (Loyal to Death)

                (below) ” Moribus Victoria Dextris (Precise meaning  “Manners Victorious against the right hand.  Loosely:  Manners win over the strong hand, as in Diplomacy is superior to force

Authority Woulfe gives the Irish O’Daire as the descendants of Daire (same as the Latin “Darius”, meaning King; while Black’s “Surnames of Scotland” states that Adair and Edzear with the same, both forms being found on the same page as late as 1625.  Mr. Black feels certain that these are a form of Edzear.  He also does not believe the tradition that Fitzgerald of Adare, fugitive son of Fitzgerald, Earl of Desmond, Adare of Ireland, founded the family in Kinhilt, Scotland, around 1388.  There is earlier evidence of Adairs in Scotland.

The arms depicted above are the arms of Adair of Kinhilt, County Wigton, Scotland and Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland, according to Authority Papworth.  This Adair of Kinhilt uses the arms exactly as aobove, except that it does not include the lower motto “Moribus Victoris Dextris”.  We can assume that this motto was added later, perhaps by the American branch of this family.

The red hand was found all over the world, even amongst Native Americans, and on the walls of the caves of the prehistoric Cromagnons.  It symbolizes strength, force, and health.  In these arms it probably does have an influence from Irish sources, perhaps more from the traditional story of the Irish cheiftain who cut off his hand while racing through the surf, and threw it ashore to claim the first grasp and thus the first choice of the new land of Ireland that they were just approaching.  The same source was the origin of the famous Red Hand of Ulster used by baronets who settled there in later times as homesteaders.  Adair was there prior to the Red Hand of Ulster users.  

The crest of a bearded and bloody head probably commemorates some ancient hand-to-hand encounter, or perhaps the capture and execution of an enemy chieftain.  It may also symbolize some ancestral exploit in the Crusades (reference the explanation of colors).  The Irish generally cut off the heads of chiefs they had slain in battle, as they considered no man actually fully dead until his head was removed.  

Key to the Colors:
Argent with ore (silver and gold) symbolizes the will to avenge Christ’s blood.
Argent with gules (silver and red) symbolizes honest boldness.
Ore with gules (gold and red) symbolizes a disposition to shed one’s blood in order to acquire riches.

Family records report that these arms were quartered with Shafto – that is, the Adair arms and the Shafto family arms both be shown on one shield, the shield being divided into equal quarters.  The records do not show in which two quarters the Shafto and Adair arms go, nor whether there may be one or two others also quartered – as we are left with two empty quarters with this description.  Strictly speaking, a quartered shield tells who a man’s mother was, and is shown because she is an heiress, and the last of the family line.

A present-day Adair using the arms with the Shafto devices woudl be declaring that his mother was a Shafto, which does not apply, and is not authentic for future generations.  Arms were sometimes shown quartered in this manner on a slate tombstone, but even this was unusual.

Author Ellis of “Who Are You?” gives us “Argent a lion rampant azure between three hands gules” as the arms of the Scotch-Irish Adairs of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and South Carolina…with crest a bearded head on the point of a dagger dripping blood.  Here we see a very similar coat-of-arms, with the exception of the shield being all silver, and in the center a blue lion between the familiar three red hands.  

The blue lion is of great interest to Genealogist Joseph Ferrier, as it is almost always a Welsh symbol.  There are many heraldic lions, but few blue ones.  Historically, the Welsh heralds established these arms, already in use, in a systematic way sometime around 1200 AD, at the time of the early Tudors.

The Welsh-type coat-of-arms may have been the forerunner of the one described in present records of the Adair family.  The Scotch-Irish Adairs may have dropped the blue lion because it was indeed so definitely a Welsh symbol.

Patsy Lowrey Domengeaux, Heraldic Artist
Houston, TX, October 16, 1963

Notes from Eddie Geoghegan, artist and researcher, who provided the illustrated coats-of-arms, which dispute some of the observations covered above:

  1. “Authrity Woulfe gives the Irish O’Daire as the descendants of Daire”
    In fact, O’Daire is an Irish name in its’ own right and while often Anglicized as Adair, is not related to the much more numerous Adair name of Scottish origin.
  2. “The red hand was found all over the world…”
    In heraldic terms, the severed red hand is almost exclusively Irish.
  3. “The Blue Lion…is almost always a Welsh symbol”
    That is simply not true, there are many, many examples of the “lion rampant azure” among Irish coats-or-arms.
Royal Masonic Institution for Boys – Steward – 1968