The Cheyne Family WebSite - who we are

An Ancient Scottish Family


Many references, including R. W. L. Chesney, Le Fief de Quesneto, of the medieval period have shown that the family of CHEYNE, and those which have similar names, such as Chedney, Chasteney, Chene, Cheney etc., have a common origin in the medieval Quesneto or Caisneto, a Latinized form of Quesnai or Caisnei, a place-name in Normandy. Although there are several such places in that country there would appear to be little doubt that 'the fief of le Quesnay near St. Saens' is probably the true one. The village of le Quesnay is some 8 to 10 miles west of St. Saens, and in the early part of the 11th century was part of the land held by Roger de Mortimer of Duke William. Roger's castle of Mortuomari, some 14 miles to the east, on the Ponthieu border, was the scene of a battle in 1054, and owing to an indiscretion on his part at that time he forfeited his castle and its associated lands, including le Quesnay, and they became the property of William de Warenne.

The Scottish Branch

"There can be little doubt that the Cheynes in Scotland originated from one of the Norman families who came over to England at the time of the Conquest,.." (A. Y. Cheyne, The Cheyne Family of Scotland). In the Zetland Family Histories, there is the following: "Rabel del Chene witnesses charters by William de Vipont to the monks of Coldingham in North Durham between the years 1147 and 1160." .. and .. "William de Chesne witnesses charters granted between 1198 and 1214 to the monks of Holyrood by William de Vipont, son and heir to William de Vipont and Emma de St. Hilary".

An overview of the early Cheyne family

The Cheyne family is a very old one in Scotland.  We can trace its beginning there to the early 1100s. They appear to have come to Scotland from a Norman family that lived in England before the conquest (Chesney, Le Fief de Quesneto). 

In 1267, the first of three Le Chens to be named Reginald was Chamberlain of Scotland.   He married a sister of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, whose wife Margaret was the sister of King John Baliol.  His brother Henry was Bishop of Aberdeen.   Reginald, the first, was Thane (similar to an Earl) of Fermartyn. Fermantyn is that part of Aberdeenshire that is south of the River Ythan. Buchan is that portion that is north of the Ythan.  Both run to the west into modern mid Banffshire.

The second Reginald was also a staunch supporter of the Baliol claim to the Crown of Scotland. He married Mary, daughter and co-heiress of Freskin de Moravia (later Moray). He was Sheriff of Elgin in 1291 and in 1292 of Inverness. He fought on the side of John Baliol at Dunbar in 1296, but after the capture of his son, Reginald the third, he swore allegiance to Edward. He later became one of Edward's Justiciars "beyond of the mountains". He would have been portrayed as one of the "bad guys" in the movie Braveheart.

Reginald, the third, married Helen, daughter of Malise, 7th Earl of Strathern. By this time the family had vast land holdings. As stated above, he was taken prisoner by the English in May 1296 there to remain until his release in 1299. He took no part in political activities until after his father's death. After which, he was a devoted patriot, fighting on the side of the Bruce cause. He signed the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. He died in 1345 leaving two daughters. The daughters married into the Sutherland and Keith families and with them transferring the lands to those two families.

There are three books that chronicle the rise and fall of the Cheyne family that all serious researchers should consult:

R. W. L. Chesney, Le Fief de Quesneto, published in 1962 and 1975, traces the families now known as Cheyne, Cheney, Cheyney and Chesney from their Norman roots into England and later Scotland. 

Archibald Ythan Cheyne, The Cheyne Family in Scotland, published in 1931, traces the "landed family" from the mid 1100's to their end in the early 1600's. This is the most definitive Cheyne history in print, It is very well documented throughout.

W. D. Cheyne-MacPherson, F.S.A.(Scot), The Cheynes of Inverugie, Esslemont and Arnage and Their Descendants, published 1943, traces the cadet family of John Cheyne, in Claymires, Ellon circa 1600 to modern times. Included are the families that are now in Edinburgh, Australia and New Zealand. 

Permission to reproduce the history contained in the first and the third works above has not been granted; therefore, only the lineage has been used. The copyright on The Cheyne Family in Scotland expired during 2008. Scanned images of its pages are now attached to each persons biographical page herein. It is my intent to add additional information from other Cheyne sources as well such as The Thanage of Fermartyn, Buchan and similar works. I have accepted, without question, the lineage outlined by Chesney, Cheyne and Cheyne-MacPherson, except where noted.

Contemporary Cheyne Families

The problem for the modern genealogist is to find documented evidence on a connection between Old Parish Registers (OPR) and the "landed family" history. In the Cheyne family case, the "landed family" devolved about 1600. In most cases the OPRs do not exist before 1700. That one hundred year gap is our dilemma.

It is from the period after the Conquest that most present-day Cheyne descendants trace their roots. It is for this reason this home page has been created. It is hoped that it will serve the purpose of putting Cheyne descendants around the world in contact with one other. So obscure have been the origins of this proud name that many contemporary cousins have little idea of their origin.