Normandy was originally occupied by Gallic tribes. The distinguished name Chesnay is considered to have its origins in this ancient land. In the lst century the Romans invaded. With the departure of the Romans there was chaos. The Duchy was firmly established after the year 911 when Rollo, Earl of Orkney invaded the territory. Rollo became the first Duke of Normandy. The name Chesnay was first found in Normandy, where the family dates back to the Gauls in the sixth century when their root name of Cassamus started according the French historian Morlet. After the 9th century the family allied and intermarried with the Vikings or Northmen, where they are recorded as an ancient Norman family with seats and estates.

History has changed the spelling of most surnames. Usually a person spoke his version of his name, phonetically, to a scribe, a priest, or a recorder. Some variables were adopted by different branches of the family name. Hence, we have variations in the name, Chesnay, some of which are Duchesne, du Chesne, Duchèsne, Duchès, Duchène, Duchêne, Duchêsne, Chisne, Chauny, Chesne, Chesneau, Chenay, Chesnaie, Chagneau, Lequesne, Duquesne, Quesne, Chaigne, Chene, Chénier, Chaine, Chand, Chesnot, DuChaine, Duchesneau, Duchesnaux, LeQuesne, Chassaing, Duchand, Duchaine, many of them are still in use today.

When William, Duke of Normandy conquered England in 1066 Normandy became a part of the crown. In the 12th century, Henry II of England, Duke of Normandy married Eleanor of Aquitaine, thus acquiring her lands. Henry III finally conceded his continental claim in 1259.

The family name Chesnay became influential in Normandy, in the north of France, where they were a family of great influence and power. They later branched into the neighbouring provinces of Picardy and Brittany where they were established with seats and estates. Many branches of the family formed as the family acquired lands and estates throughout France. As a reward for their support during the various wars or through the many marriages, many members of the family were granted the title of Ambassador or politician. Due to the diversified cultures and languages of France, the name, pronunciation and spelling changed slightly with each branch of the family, although DuChesne, and Duchene later became a common variable throughout. Early forms of the name were Cassan, Delcasse and Ducasse. During the medieval times often the family often spelt their name as Duquesne and LeQuesne. The family grew and branched into Bourbon where they were the Duchesnois, Lords of Bourbon with lands and estates and popular spellings of the family in this region was Chagneau, Chagnoux, and Chagnot. Later branching into Auvergne and Limousin, the family could be found as Cassagne and LaChassagne. By the 13th century the family were well established in many regions and several members who distinguished themselves by their contributions toward the communities in which they lived and were rewarded with lands, titles and letters of patent confirming their nobility. Rogiers De Chaigne is recorded as holding lands in Picardy in the 1200's, Jehanot Du Chesne is mentioned in the royal cartularies in 1342, Matheus Cassien of Morcourt in 1340, Jobertus Chenet appears in Picardy in 1227. By the end of the 1500's the family could also be found as Chenay, Chesnay, Chesnaie, and Cassou in the north, and Cassagne-LaCassagne, Chassagne, Cassan, Chassang, and Chassaing in the south. As a result of their high position in society, the Duchesne's formed many alliances with other prominent families and in this way, titles were granted and exchanged according to these pacts. The Duchesneau or Le Chesnot were Lords of Brittany until the 1700's when the title was transferred to the Le Forestier family. The LeChene or Duchene's were the lords of Normandy until 1710 with the marriage of the heiress to a De Prie. Showing their prominence, the Duchesne or Le Chesne were Lords of Brittany, Poitou, Normandy, 1'Ile de France and Sologne. Due to their great wealth, the Duchesne family held the lands and manor of the Canton of Belfont. Notable amongst the family in this period was Lords of Normandy.

France adopted the role of European cultural leadership in the early 16th century. The New World challenged. The explorers led missionaries to North America who settled in New France, New England, New Holland and New Spain. Jacques Cartier made the first of three voyages to New France in 1534. Champlain came in 1608. He made twenty voyages to France to attract settlers. He brought the first true migrant, Louis Hébert, a Parisian apothecary, and his family, who arrived in 1617.

In 1643, 109 years after the first landings by Cartier, there were only about 300 people in Québec. Migration was slow. The fur trade attracted migrants, both noble and commoner. By 1675, there were 7000

French in Québec. By the same year the French Acadian presence in the Maritimes had reached 500. The French founded lower Canada, thus becoming one of the two great founding nations of Canada. Amongst the settlers in North America for this distinguished name Chesnay were Madame Duchesne, aged 40, who settled in New Orleans in 1823; JB Duchesne, aged 44, who settled in New Orleans in 1822; Andre Duchene who settled in Philadelphia, Pa. In 1795; Francis Duchand who settled In Philadelphia, PA. in 1773; Anthony Duchaine who settled in New York in 1687; and David Duchan, aged 30, who settled in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1820.

The family name Chesnay has made many distinguished contributions in France and New France to theworld of science, culture, religion, and education: Richard Douglas Duchesne, Publishing Company Executive, Concord, New Hampshire; Louis François Duchêne, Director, Center for Contemporary European Studies, England.

During the course of our research we also determined the most ancient Coat of Arms recorded against this family name Chesnay.

The Coat of Arms for the family name Chesnay was:

On a blue background there is a gold hand with a silver wing holding a silver sword.


Careful and painstaking research by professional historical analysts over the last ten years has been employed in the preparation of this Surname History. Reference and source material itself has been qualified for relative accuracy and certain works which have been judged to be fictionalized, exaggerated, whimsical or romanticized have been excluded as contributors leaving a large nucleous of material which have been serious attempts to achieve accurate documentaries. Those books, documents and manuscripts which have been used as source material have been cross referenced and verified with the aid of computerized technology wherever possible. In general, only events and people have been cited where full supportive evidence is available. Conjectural or speculative links have been used minimally, and usually are so stated in the narrative.

The following source materials within their respective time periods, either directly or indirectly, have been used to provide data for this thumb-nail sketch of the history of the surname.


The History of the Anglo Saxons, by Turner.

The Naires, Surnames and Nicknames of the Anglo Saxons

The Triads

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle (449-1066 A.D.)

The Northern Picts

The Handbook of the Cornish Language

The Norman People

The Falaise Roll


The Ynglinga Saga

The Histories of Gildas and Bede

Chronicum Scotorum

The Book of Kells

O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees

The Irish Annals

Annals of the Four Masters

Annals of the Caledonians

The Annals of Galloway

The Orkneyinga Saga

The Annals of Ulster

The Breton Chronicle

Oghami Inscriptions of Ireland and Wales

The Inquisitio Davidus

The History of Dumfries:and Galloway

Celtic Britian

The Pictish Chronicle

The Highland Clans (Moncrieff)

Origin of Anglo Norman Families

The Highland Clans and Regiments (Innes)

Celtic Scotland


Roll of the Battel Abbey




Fox or Sciven,

Dives, De Magny

and, Bayeux Tapestry.

The Wace Poem

The Falaise Roll

Triads of Arthur.

Four Ancient Books of Wales

History and Treatises on Family Names by;

Turner, Bardsley, Lower, Kemble, Birch, Cotter,

Reaney, Guppy, Spiegelhalter, Searle, Wade.

Liber Wintoniensis, (1066 A.D)

The Domesday Book (1086 A.D)

inquisitio Eliensis (Ely, Norfolk, and area, 1086 A.D)

The Shaftesbury Rental (1090 A.D.)

Liber Wintoniensis (1103 A.D.)

Lindsey Survey (1115 A.D)

Pipe Roll (1131 A.D.)

Liber Wintoniensis (1148 A.D.)

Pipe Roll (1159 A.D.)

Liber Niger Scaccarii (1166 A.D.)

Pipe Roll (1174 A.D.)

Bolden Book (1183 A.D.)

Pipe Roll (1190 A.D.)

Curia Regis Roll (1196 A.D.)

The Black Book of the Exchequer

Assize Rol Is (1219-1230)

Pipe Roll (1230 A.D.)

Manorial Rolls (1247-1287 A.D.)

Hundrendorum Roll

Rotunda Oblitus et Finnebus (1275 A.D)


Burke's General Armoury

General Armoury Two

Burke's Peerage

Burke's Dormant Peerage

Burke's Extinct Peerage

Burke's Landed Gentry

Burke's Commoners

Burke's Family Records

Burke's Irish Family Records

Burke's Who's Who


The Elizabethan Roll

Bolton's American Armory

Mattews American Armory and Blue Book

Canadian Blue Book

Who's Who U.S.A.

Welsh Surnames (T.J. and Prys Morgan)

History of Surnames (C.L Ewen)

A Catalogue of British Names (Thomson)

New England Historical

Baltimore Genealogical

Virginia Heraldica

Crozier's Armory

Arthur Davies (F.D.1 and F.D.2)

Fairfax Book of Arms

Surtees Society Manuscripts

Smith's Ordinaries

Herald and Genealogist

The Harleian Manuscripts

Books by Charmbers, Halliwel, Richardson, Smith & Dugdale

Exchecquer Rolls of Scotland

Irish Families (MacLysaght)


British Family Names (Barber)

Landvkist Scandinavian Names


Various Rental Listings

Highlanders (Skene)

Stoddart Scottish Arm (1370-1678)

Scottish Ordinaries (1672)

Scottish clan Parliamentary Records

Scottish Heraldry (Innes)

The Surnames of Scotland (BlacK)

Clan Histories

Patronnymica Britannica (Lower)

Family names of Newfoundland (Seary)

United Empire Loyalists Lists

Reitstaps Armorial

The Scotch Irish

Irish Pedigrees (O'Hart)

Fairbairns Crests

Passenger Lists

Various Family Cenealogies

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario County lists

The Steel Bonnets

Histories and Bibliography Copyright © 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 THE HALL OF NAMES

Mailing Address:

Hall of Names Ontario East Inc., P.O. Box 1296, Kingston, Ontario K7L 4Y8 (613) 549-6320

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