Roche coat of arms :: Genealogy
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Roche coat of arms

Journal by douglasthompson


Original Arms

Gules (red), with three roaches naiant (horizontal) in pale argent (silver).

In mythology, fish are associated with knowledge of a particular kind. The 'Otherworld' or "Subconscious" is often represented by water - river, lake or sea - where fish can live and represent Special Powers. The Red background is for Blood or Life.
Our Arms have nothing to do with Rock, but are simply Arms which invoke a motif with mythological connotations reflecting the family's historical knowledge of, or association with, the Norse Sagas and other forms of what some consider to be Religion, others Mythology.

There can be no denying our attraction to the metaphysical over the ages - whether Pagan or Christian.

Later "differenced" Versions include:

A Crest

On a rock proper, an osprey (or other bird of prey) rising argent beaked and legged,
holding in its dexter claws a roach argent.

These late additions had nothing to do with the original purpose of identifying knights on the battlefield. Normally associated with the Romantic period, we find a bird of prey on arms for Roach - an osprey. Later, other predatory birds associated with the sea being used.
To be honest, I don't get it. Arms featuring three roaches and, at the crown, one trapped by a predator? If the bird were meant to be England, so dominant at sea, why admit it - even if the Roache in question were Loyalist? Honestly, I can only imagine some later-day Herald of Arms, during the Romantic period or shortly before, having fun at our expense.

Not too much should be made of them because they became prominent due to the requirement to "difference" heritable arms, and during a time when "differencing" was taken to extremes.

Motto: God is My Rock

It has been suggested the motto (also added later) may have been a reference to the Book of Psalms, Chapter 18, Verse 2, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress...."
Certainly, it meant a firm foundation - but for a Roach predator? People inclined to this Christian interpretation might also see in the three fish in relation to the Trinity, without realizing the the rock is displayed as a foundation or place of rest for the osprey, and not the Roach it plans to have for dinner.

Some, with reference to Old French, rendered it "Mon Roche (because God was Male); later, others "corrected" it linguistically to "Ma Roche" (because in French, rock, "la roche" is feminine - "la" not "le"; "ma" not "mon". Intererstingly, "la Rocque" is female, but smaller. They were also more inclined to the Lion that the Fish, in general.

Alternatively, on other arms in our surname, an antique five-pointed crown or "ROCHE" has been placed atop the shield or on the head of a Lion (the arms of another family of the name), within the Peerage, but of different Pedigree.

A five-pointed crown in mythology is associated with regal authority; and the Lion with courage - the symbol of a great Warrior or Chief. But either these motifs can render the same potential interpretation.
Some believe the Lion to be reflective of a Dragon or Tiger - respectively, Teutonic or Lombard (Italian) - which pre-date Charlemagne, Emperor of the Franks - with whom the Lion is often associated.

I have also seen Lions with the tail of a fish in place of hind paws (mermaid-like), no doubt a reflection of long association with the sea for reasons of war, trade and a source of nourishment.

De la Roche, of course, was continental, pre-dates de Roch, and almost always relates to a town or city of origin - and occasionally to a mountain fortress (during the Crusades). Surnames by then has been established, a fortress on a rocky height near a city or town of note might be named Roche if it were owned or held by them.

Fish and water have very definite mythological connotations - metaphysical, in fact - subjects to which many of our surname have been drawn. The red background was likely associated with Life itself. This seems a little esoteric for the Norse, Franks and Germans - for them and the English, the Raven and Lion seem more appropos.

Alternate Arms

Scholars debate how many branches of the "Roche" family exist in Ireland. Estimates have varied from three to five, but whole (especially later) peerages, and, therefore, pedigrees, have been excluded or manipulated through this exercise. Others, still, have been removed from the Peerage.
Given those stripped of Peerages during the Reformation; those still in dispute or unresolved; the mischief worked by "antiquarians"who "fiddled pedigrees when they could, and the fact that a Republic has no legal basis on which to grant Arms, the issue is moot.

Roches, by name, are found elsewhere in the British Isles, in most of western Europe, and, more rarely, further to the East. It will, of course, be in the language used by the culture occupying a given county or region, and in each case is subject to different spellings.

Modern geneticists - as with much of recorded history - have literally revolutionized our cultural history and mythology. They have shown there are three distinct branches (Haplogroups) using the surname Roche (spelling varies) in Ireland and the Diaspora countries of if Norse, Celtic or Mid-Eastern origin.

There would, of course be others - similar German names and arms might be expected for be Haplogroup G, for example.Whole countries and regions have yet to be tested to determine their Haplogroups/types; but, allowing for cultural and biological diversity, plus multiple spellings of any name in every language, there are, no doubt, many of our name around the world.

As with Ireland, however, many Roches would not be even distantly "related" because of the various and sundry ways that surnames came into existence and have been modified over time. Some seem to confuse Rochford with de la Roche and it would seem more credible that Arms with a Lion rampant might well be Norse (of Charlemanic association) that our seemingly more humble (don't you believe it) fish. Any confusion may derive from the fact that the Lion motif has a five pointed crown (a roche) on its head.

Fear not, family historians; it's in the genes.

Surnames: ROCHE
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by douglasthompson Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2010-04-17 19:02:36

douglasthompson , from Jax.FL U.S.A., has been a Family Tree Circles member since Sep 2009. is researching the following names: THOMPSON, ROCHE.

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