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The arms of Dr. George Cheyne as shown in Alexander Nisbet's System of Heraldry (1722)

Clan Cheyne

Cheyne are a Scottish kin group or family which does not have a recognised chief and is therefore considered an armigerous clan.


This name is thought to be of Norman or French origin, from Quesney near Coutances. It means 'oak plantation'.<ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 371</ref> This is through the word chesne. <ref>David Dorward, Dictionary of Scottish Surnames, 44</ref> Dorward states that a family from Quesney moved to Buckinghamshire, and later, around 1200 to Scotland, during the reign of William the Lion. <ref>Dorward, Surnames, 44</ref>

According to Black, some early clerks confused the word for 'oak' with that meaning 'dog' and styled the name 'Canis' by mistake. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 371</ref>

Rabel del Chene witnessed charters by William de Vipont to the monks of Coldingham in North Durham between the years 1147 and 1160. <ref></ref>

The earliest record of the family in Scotland is when William de Chesne witnessed 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.<ref></ref>

Middle Ages

Reginald le Chein was Great Chamberlin of Scotland from 1267 to 1269.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 371</ref>

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. <ref></ref> Reginald was Thane of Fermantyn, which was an area in Aberdeenshire. <ref></ref>

The second Reginald was also a supporter of the Baliol claim to the Crown of Scotland.<ref></ref>

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. <ref></ref>

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". <ref></ref>

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. <ref></ref>

He signed the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 371</ref><ref></ref> 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. <ref></ref>

Cadet Houses

The principle area associated with the family was Esslemont. Cadet houses, or branches of the family, had lands in Straloch, Dundarg and Pitfichie.

Thomas Cheyne of Essilmont (1515-64) married Elizabeth Gordon in 1547. <ref></ref>

Notable Family Members

James Cheyne of Pennan (b.1565) and his relative Alexander Cheyne, were outlawed around 1601 and the inhabitants of Aberdeen were officially barred from communicating with them. This may have been for divorcing his first wife in 1598 and then marrying Elspeth Gordon of Gight. The ceremony was not performed by a minister, but a relative, another James Chene. <ref></ref>

Alexander Chene was described as his kinsman James' 'constant abettor in crime and companion in disgrace'. <ref></ref>

More creditably, later family members were known as medical doctors. The most significant of them was Dr. George Cheyne (1671–1743) a society doctor and pioneer of early vegetarianism. <ref></ref>

Dr. George Cheyne

William Cheyne (d.1932) was a surgeon and bacteriologist who was a pioneer of antiseptic surgical methods in Britain. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 372</ref>

Further Information

Cheyne Family Website, a genealogy project: