This is an ancient Anglo-Irish and Scottish surname, but one ultimately of French origins. Introduced into England by the Normans after the Conquest of 1066, it later spread to both Ireland after the invasion of 1170 and Scotland at much the same time. In both countries it took the Gaelic form of MacCheyne or McCheyne. The derivation is generally from the Old French word "chesnai", meaning an oak tree, from the pre 5th century Latin "casnetum", and as such the surname may be either locational or topographical in origin. There is a claim in Ireland that some nameholders at least originate from Mac Seathain, meaning the son of John, which is possible. As a locational name it may originally have derived from any of the places named such as Quesnay in Calvados and La Manche, Le Quesnay in Seine-Inferieure, or Quesnay-Guesnon in Calvados. As a topographical name, Cheyne denoted residence near a conspicuous oak tree, or in an oak forest. In some few cases, the surname may have originated as a nickname for a man with a "heart of oak". The surname is widespread in Scotland, where the first known bearer of the name is William de Chesne, who witnessed a charter in 1200. Other recordings include those of Radulfus de Caisne in the famous Domesday Book of England in 1086, and Hugh de Cheisnei of Oxfordshire in 1166. Robert de Cheinnei appears in Lincolnshire in 1177; and Alexander de Cheyne of Sussex in 1296. Abram Cheynei was an early emigrant to the New World colonies, leaving London on the ship "Expedition" in November 1635, bound for the Barbadoes. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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