The Source of
the Name Chaney
and a Chaney Coat of Arms

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Chaney CrestSeveral people have asked about the history of the Chaney name and if there is a family crest or coat of arms.  The question of a Chaney coat of arms is of only passing interest if one's lineage cannot be traced directly to a family that properly possessed one.  Here is an example of one Chaney coat of arms.  The crest is the shield-shaped element.

England was conquered by William and his Norman legions in 1066. Soon England was infiltrated by French law, custom, language and surnames. In 1086, William ordered a census that recorded the names of his tenants, under-tenants and an inventory of their possessions. This became known as the Domesday Book. The English had not previously used surnames but, under William, they were required to adopt them. Some took the name of there profession, such as Miller, Smith, etc. Others may have taken names reflecting physical attributes or where they lived. Many took surnames that imitated those of their Norman conquerors.

Various origins for the surname Chaney or Chaney have been recorded. One indicates that the family may have lived in a walled city near the gate which would have been blocked by a chain. Another asserts that the family lived in an oak grove and took the French word of that meaning as their surname. Some towns in France were named Quesnay, Cheney, Chenoy and Chesnoy, all of which derived from the Old French word "Chesnai," meaning "oak grove." In England, these towns were recorded as Chaney, Cheyney, Cheyne or Chene. Many of the early charter writers were ignorant of French, and to further create confusion, these French names had to translated into Latin for written records. Some of these clerks confused "chene" (oak) with "chien" (dog) and Latinized the name to "Canis."

An early entry in the Domesday Book of Sussex County was one Radulfus. He was a French immigrant from Le Quesnay, a town on the Norman coast. He was proud of his French origin and called himself Radulfus of Quesnay, which the English understood as Chaney.

The name has several spellings and variations: Chaney, Cheney, Cheyney, Chesney, Keynes, etc.

The Chaney coat of arms illustrated here is rather freely adapted from a line drawing published in a newspaper article, "What's In Your Name," By Charles Guarino And Albert Seddon, 1968, Sanson Institute. It was described as being blazoned: "Azure (blue) six lions rampant argent (silver), three two and one." This is not the only coat of arms for the name nor is it necessarily related to the families represented here.

Note:  Coats of arms were granted to individuals for the use of that individual and his right to pass it on to direct descendants, generally the eldest son.  Children other than the eldest son had to alter the coat of arms in some manner.  Other sons may not have had the right to use the coat of arms.  Therefore, a coat of arms was not granted to everyone possessing the surname but a specific individual and, possibly, his descendants.  Individuals with the same surname may have different coats of arms if each received a grant.  Determining if one is legitimately entitled to a coat of arms requires carefully tracing the lineage, for arms are passed from generation to generation in a family according to strict rules of inheritance.


Timothy Field Beard
      How to Find Your Family Roots

Kary L. Meyerink
      "Myths in Family History." Ancestry " (November/December 2002): 21-25.

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Updated 28 May 2015

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