A Coat of Arms (sometimes erroneously referred to as a Family Crest) is a heraldic design, which originated in Europe. The designs vary greatly (with a complex system on how each is to be designed) but generally, an arms is made up of a Shield in the center (painted in various colors) with two animal or human figures, known as "Supporters", on each side. On top of the shield is a Helmet (the style of which reflects the bearer's rank) out of which comes the Crest (see photo for detail).
One of the most difficult genealogical tasks you may face in researching your Italian roots is in tracing the ancestry of an Italian foundling.
Known in Italy as Trovatelli or Proietti, a foundling is a child abandoned at birth, for one reason or another. The most common is that the child was born out of wedlock, but others, such as; the family being to poor to care for another child, are not unheard of.
These infants were usually left at a foundling home. The foundling homes were a place where Italian women could legally abandon their children, with complete anonymity (although, often times, especially in small towns, the identity of at least the mother was generally known). Sometimes children were left with tokens to indicate their parentage, in the event the mother or father should ever want to reclaim them, although, this was rare.