Recorded in a range of spellings which include Chafeney, Chafney, Chifney, and Chifeny, this is apparently an English surname. It appears to originate from a "lost" medieval village probably called in Olde English "Cauve-eg" of similar and meaning Chaffinch island. This may not have been an island in the modern sense, the word "eg" was often used in a transferred sense, to mean a place that was cut off by a forest from other habitation, and it could refer to a small hamlet or a single farm. It is also quite likely that "Cauve" did not refer to the brightly coloured bird, it may have been a personal or nickname for the owner of the island.An estimated three thousand and more British Isles surnames are known to originate from now "lost" medieval villages. Many of these were tiny and were either absorbed by advancing towns or died out as agricutural methods changed over the centuries. When this happened, the people left taking, or being given, as their surname, the name of their former home. Spelling being at best erratic, and local dialects very thick, soon lead to the development of "sounds like" spellings. In this case examples of the surname recordings taken from early surviving church registers of the diocese of Greater London include: Peter Chafney whose daughter Mary was christened at St Botolphs without Aldgate, on June 3rd 1716, and Sarah Ann Chifney, who it seems was originally recorded in 1753 as Chafeney, and who married James Cock at St Leonards church, Shoreditch, on August 18th 1783.
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