I have placed the information that I have gained on Chownings on this website, but no one realizes any more clearly than I do that the research is far from complete. Given the spotty nature of the early records, Chowning family researchers may never trace the actual ancestral line of George Chowning, the immigrant ancestor. believe that there is enough historical data to support the hypothesis that Sir Adam de Chevening, of Chevening in the county of Kent was the earliest known ancestor of the Chownings in England and the United States.
Edward Hasted is his book The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, vol. III (1797-1801; reprinted 1972, p. 107-108.) states that:
Besides the above manor, there appears to be ANOTHER MANOR in this parish, called likewise THE MANOR OF CHEVENING, and subordinate to that before-mentioned [another Manor of Chevening held by the see of Canterbury]. Adam de Chevening, who had been one of the justices in the great assize in the reign of king John, possessed this manor in the next reign of Henry III and resided here. His descendent, William de Chevening [d. before 1334], held it of the archbishop in the 20th year of king Edward III when he paid respective aid for it as half a knight's fee.
The family of Chevening, or Chowning, as it began to be called , was succeeded in the possession of the place soon after by the De La Pole ; one of whom, John De La Pole, held it in the 10th year of king Henry VI.
Another quotation is of interest here:
The name Chevening means 'Cefin's people' derived from the Saxon name of the first family of people to settle in the area, or 'the people of the ridge' in the pre-Roman Celtic tongue; either suggests an ancient origin. Many of the field names in the [Chevening] area are Saxon. (The History of the Parish of Chevening, published by the Chevening Parish History Group, 1999, p. 23)
From the above quotes, two things seem clear: the name Chevening is derived from the Saxon tongue and not old French, and that the form of the name Chowning was being used in the 15th century. As a knight holding lands which were subinfeudated [sublet] to him by the de Crevequer family, Adam de Chevening could have been of Norman ancestry, but the name Chevening did not identify a town or location in France. I think it quite reasonable to trace Chowning, Chewning and other forms and spelling of the name to Chevening in Kent.
Line of Descent to George Chowning
The actual line of descent is entirely another matter. In researching the name "Chowning" and "Chevening" I discovered Connie Burkhead's website in which she printed a file which comes from an English researcher through several other hands. The URL for the website is http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Garden/9603/page49.html. I wrote to Connie asking her if I could use the information with full attribution to those who provided her with the information. She graciously agreed to that.
I discovered Connie's website in 2003 before my husband and I went to England for a week. We were able to be in Chevening on a Sunday morning and attended services in St. Botolph's church which had probably first been established sometime in the time period of the 8th to the 10th centuries. I did some research on Chevening and Adam de Chevening in Maidstone, photocopying some pages from Hasted and purchasing the book on the history of Chevening. I was also able to copy some abstracts of de Chevening family deeds from an official British Internet archive website.
However it was not until recently that I sat down and began trying to develop a systematic file for the de Chevenings/Chownings. Using the information from Connie's website, the aforementioned deed abstracts, and information from an entry in the patent rolls for Henry III, also found in the Maidstone library, I entered the information into my genealogy software. I have used the structure of the pedigrees as found on Connie's website as a point of departure. I have written about what I believe to be the research issues in the individual entries for the Chownings in the Chowning section of the family history file, but I would like to summarize them here.
Sir Adam de Chevening I
In attempting to establish the time frame for the earliest Adam, one goes to the history books. Hasted does not give a date for Adam de Chevening's possessing the manor -- merely indicates that it was in the reign of King John. The Parish history book says "The earliest mention of the manor of Chevening II in existing records are of Adam de Chevening, who "held the manor from 1199 to 1216." No sources for the "existing record"s are cited in the book. Hasted states that Adam de Chevening was "one of the justices in the great assize of king John." (p. 107-108) The dates given in the Chevening Parish history book for Adam de Chevening's possession of the manor exactly coincide with the dates of the reign of King John. In trying to establish an approximate date of birth for Adam de Chevening, the justice, one can possibly assume that he was sublet -- or subinfeudated -- and knighted because of his service to the king. Therefore, he had to have at been at least 21, and almost certainly older than that in 1199. As a justice he must have been literate to some degree. I would assume that he probably was at least 30 years old or older when he was elevated and rewarded for his service to King John -- therefore born sometime around 1170 or earlier.
Another issue with the reference to the period of time that Adam de Chevening held the manor was that King John's reign ended in 1216 the same year that was reported to have been the last year that Adam de Chevening held the manor. Did Adam de Chevening hold the manor after 1216? If not, why not? Assuming he was born in 1170, Adam would have been 46 years old.
The next record we have for and Adam de Chevening is as a justice for the assize of Henry III in 1234. Assuming Adam was born in 1170 he was 64 in 1234. So it is entirely possible -- even probable -- that the justice under King John was the justice under King Henry. That would mean that the first Adam de Chevening held the manor at least until 1234.
Simon de Chivenning
The web page on Connie Burkhead's website lists Simon as the earliest Chevening ancestor. The following information for Simon de Chivenning:
SIMON DE CHIVENNING
Notes for SIMON DE CHIVENNING:
Was Bond in 1236 in Kent. Catalog of Ancient Deeds, Vol. 5
Bond by Simon de CHIVENNING to Aaron son of Abraham the Jew for 10 L [pounds] to be paid at midsummer,( 21) Henry III 15 Apr,( 20) Henry III (1216-1272)
(21) Soame folio 8. #95
(20) Parish Records, Ann Chewning, widow, mother to Mr. Cheuninge
I have not had an opportunity to check the Soame folio reference. I have to doubt the reference to parish records. No date is given for the parish records. However, the parish records of Chevening begin in 1561. It doesn't seem reasonable that the parish record cited referred to Simon de Chivenning. Also, because of the records for Adam de Chevening begin in 1199, Simon isn't the earliest Chevening male in the area.
The most logical explanation is that Simon is the son of the first Adam. We don't know any more about Simon than the reference to the bond. He was obviously involved in a loan of some kind. We don't know if he had male children. If he did, it is possible that Simon could be the ancestor of some later Chewning/Chowning surnamed males. From the reference it does not appear that Simon carried the title of "Sir". However, until the Catalogue of Ancient Deeds and the Soame folio reference are checked we cannot be certain.
The "Lost" Generation -- How Many Adam de Chevenings?
It is at this point that the timeline must be considered. I think my assumption for the date of birth of the first Adam de Chevening is within a reasonable time frame. I think it is possible he could have been born earlier, but not much later. It also seems probable that he is the Adam who had to have died after the record of an Adam as a justice in the assize of 1234.
The next record we have of a Sir Adam de Chevening is from the information on the website which states that in a deposition made in 1301 that he was 60 years old. "Aged 60 at witness at proof of age of Maud w. of Maurice le Brun and d.h. of Philip de la Rokele, 16 June 1301." From the entry it appears that the "Knights of Edward I", Catalogue of Ancient Deeds and the manuscripts of the Harleian Society are given as sources for his age. It will take some digging to verify the accuracy of the quotation.
However, assuming that the date of birth is correct, it doesn't seem possible that a man born about 1170 would be the father of a son born 1241. He would have been about 71 years old -- an improbable age to be a father.
Therefore, I am inserting a generation here. The father of Adam de Chevening (b. 1241) could have been Simon de Chivenning noted above, or it could have been another Adam de Chevening. At any rate, I am arbitrarily entering another generation here. I will perfectly comfortable taking it out, if anyone presents evidence to the contrary.
Because of the date of the land sale and because the deed says "From John de Chevening, son of Adam de Chevening, knight, to his brother, Adam, to receive all lands and tenements with the rents which John had inherited from his father" I believe that John and his brother Adam are the sons of this "lost generation" Adam whom I shall call Sir Adam de Chevening II
From John de Chevening, son of Adam de Chevening, knight, to his brother, Adam, to receive all lands and tenements with the rents which John had inherited from his father, except from Elvedonne and Menefelde and Hawysesole in Chevening. Copies (one made 28 Aug. 1710) of the entry on the paten rolls - ref. U1590/T5/2 - date: 1281
I created Excel files and then saved them as .pdf files to show the time lines for the early de Chevenings and the data entries which give the dates. This may help to understand the issues in researching the early de Chevenings. You will need Adobe Acrobat on your computer to read these files.
Sir Adam de Chevening III
Sir Adam de Chevening was born in 1241 according to his deposition in 1301. He died after 1317 if the following information from the website is accurate:
He was penalized in 1317 in Kent, England. At Westminister Morrow of St. John Baptist - Between John de Chipstede & Beatrice his wife Plts, and Adam de Chivenyng deft, of one mill, 40 acres of land, 8 acres meadow, 8 acres wood and 36 acres of osier, with appurts, in Chivenyng.. Source: Archdeaconry Court of London, v. I, p. 9.
He apparently had a son, Adam de Chevening who very possibly did not live to have male issue though he and his father were involved in the purchase and sale of land between 1295 and 1312. From the records of the sale of land between Adam de Chevening and his brothers there were apparently three sons of the man I call Sir Adam de Chevening III: Adam, William and Walter.
Adam, son of Adam de Chevening to Walter De Chevening. All lands, meadow and wood of Adam de Chevening in the Rye except a meadow in a field called Chealvenelese - ref. U1590/T5/8 - date 1324
Close called Pistelhamme abutting E. to road from Chepsted to London in Chevening - rf. U1450/T4/8 - date 1326. Adam de Chevening to brother William and wife Joan.
It is the William de Chevening that research reports that carried on the family title and lands. That does not say that he is the direct ancestor of George Chowning (1620) of Wrotham, Kent. It merely says that he is the Chevening/Chewning/Chowning for whom we have the most significant records.
Sir William de Chevening
There is some confusion in the records about William de Chevening. In 1334 "Widow of William de Chevening taxed 10 s. 6d in Codsheath Hundred. Kent Lay subsidy 1334/35." http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/141.htm There is another record that the Widow of William de Chevenigg was taxed 10s. in the hundred of Codsheath in 1334/5. This record is almost certainly referring to the same widow which means that William, brother of Adam had died by 1334/35. Walt. de Chevinigg is the next name on the list so he would be living next to her on the property perhaps.
Halstead states: "Adam de Chevening, who had been one of the justices in the great assize in the reign of King John, possessed this manor in the next reign of Henry III and resided there. His descendent, William de Chevening, held it of the Archbishop in the 20th year of king Edward III , when he paid respective aid for it as half a knights fee."
This would indicate that perhaps there was a second Sir William, son of the first who held the lands in 1347. He would not have reached his majority by 1334/35 since his mother Joan paid the tax during that year and sold a dwelling house from the land in 1344..
Kent Lay Subsidy
It may be well at this time to indicate the number of Chevenings or variations of the name that were taxed in Kent in 1334:
Adam de Chevening taxed 2 s. 0d in Codsheath Hundred. Kent Lay subsidy 1334/35. http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/141.htm
John de Chevening taxed 2 s. 0d in Lathe of Suton; Hundred of Rokele. Kent Lay subsidy 1334/35. http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/159.htm
Robert Chounyng taxed 1s 0d. Foreign Hundred of Rochester. The part of the Hundred lying outside the city boundary; this may correspond with the Parish of St. Margaret, Rochester lying outside the city walls, distinct from the Parish of St. Nicholas inside the walls. http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/141.htm
Thomas Chounyng taxed 2s 0d. Foreign Hundred of Rochester. The part of the Hundred lying outside the city boundary; this may correspond with the Parish of St. Margaret, Rochester lying outside the city walls, distinct from the Parish of St. Nicholas inside the walls. http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/141.htm
Walter de Chevenig taxed 1s. 8d in Codsheath Hundred. Kent Lay subsidy 1334/35. http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/141.htm
Widow of William de Chevening taxed 10s. 6d in Codsheath Hundred. Kent Lay subsidy 1334/35. http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/KRV/18/3/141.htm
Which of these men, if any, is the direct ancestor of George Chowning of Wrotham, Kent?
Sir John de Chevening
Sir John de Chevening was a son of one of the Williams and the apparent heir to the title and lands of Chevening.
Sir Reynold Chevening
Sir Reynold de Chevening was a son of John and the apparent heir to the title and lands of Chevening. The information on Connie Burkhead's site states: He was a Cobeham Knight in 1403." This might mean that he was a knight in the service of John de Cobeham, Baron. (http://schulers.com/books/ja/c/Chaucer_s_Official_Life/Chaucer_s_Official_Life9.htm)
Son of Sir Reynold Chevening. It is probably during his lifetime that the lands of Chevening were sold to the De La Pole family in 1452.
From Hasted: This family of Chevening, or Chowning, as it began then to be called, was succeeded in the possession of this place soon afterwards by that of De la Pole; one of whom, John de la Pole, held it in the 10th year of the reign of Henry VI  soon after which it was passed away by sale to Isley; and William Isley, in the next reign of king Edward IV [1461-70, 1471-83] gave it by deed to John Harneys; in whose posterity it continued for some descents, till at length a female heir carried it in marriage to John Mills, in the beginning of the reign of Henry VIII as appears by a recovery, exemplified in the 7th year  of that reign. Harneys may be the son of Elizabeth de Chevening whose husband was Edmund Harneys.
It is interesting to note that the names Isley and Harney are included in a deed of Elizabeth Chevening, daughter of Sir William Chevening and sister to Reynold who held the title. Perhaps it was through marriage that the lands of Chevening stayed within the family a little longer.
Abutting to other messuage [dwelling house], north and south, to the highway from Chipstead to London, east and the meadow of the heirs of John de Chevening called Mellehope, west Elizabeth, once wife Edmun Harneys of Chevning, widow, to Thomas Person, clerk, of Crayford. All rights to a messuage in Chevening, once belonging to Elizabeth Isley. - ref. U1590?T5/20 - date 1416.
Notes from Connie Burkhead's site states that John's will was probated in Chatham in 1457 which might have been in the Consistory of Rochester. It is presumably from this will that the names of his children were derived: Thomas, Reynold, John, Juliana. This will needs to be checked.
After John Chevenyng there are three more generations: Thomas, George (d. Wrotham, Kent, 1620) and George (d. Virginia aft 1657.) Information for the men and their families is found on the individual web cards and person sheets.
For this research I am greatly indebted to Connie Burkhead, Bob Brown and Marian
Flournoy for their willingness to share the work that Marian Flournoy had done
by an English researcher during her stay in England. I have created
these web cards for the generations between the first Sir Adam de Chevening
from the information from the website http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Garden/9603/page49.html
The information is sketchy; some documentation is there, but will be difficult
to check by US, researchers. However, I am extremely grateful for the information
that is available and appreciate Connie's putting it up on her website. I am
also grateful to Bob Brown and Marian Flournoy for sharing the information.
On the other Chownings and the allied families I am greatly indebted to William
"Billy" Chowning and his book on Theophilus Chowning which provided
much of the information and for A. M. Prichard's book on Read and Allied Families.
The material on the Ironmonger line to Henry I is from material by Paul C.
Reed published in The American Genealogist in the October 1994 issue. Normally,
I am highly sceptical of lineage to a monarch. However, Mr. Reed's footnotes
and source citations are so extensive that I feel confident in including the
generations to Henry I in this section.
I have attempted to verify these connections with my own research and have
been able to do so with probate records, deeds and church records in this country.
Once back to England, it becames a different story. I have photocopies of the
wills of George Chowneinge of Wrotham (1620) and his wife Martha (1640) but
I have not verified any of the sources in Marian Flournoy's information. However,
in 2003 I was able to go on line and get abstracts of early deeds which mention
the de Chevenings. I hope to investigate the citations to the publications of
the Harlein Society at some time, but perhaps other interested Chowning researchers
would like to work on these points. Right now, I am moving my attention to my
I want to make very clear that the Chowning section of the website, as are all the sections of my website, is a work in progress. All historical research, and especially all genealogical research, is the process of creating hypotheses to explain the evidence. If anyone who views these pages has questions, comments (positive or negative) I would like to correspond with you.
I question whether there are enough generations between Adam de Chevening and
George Chowneinge of Wrotham, and, at this point am not sure that George descends
through the titled lines. Early genealogical evidence is spotty at best, and
only the most prominent people created the documentary evidence that survives.
I do feel reasonably confident that in some way George Chowneinge is a descendedant
of Adam de Chevening. That is, I believe, the most supportable hypothesis.
One last note on the Manor of Chevening. It was sold by a de Chevening to the de la Poles, then to an Isley, a Harney, to the Lennards, and then to the Stanhopes. The Stanhopes were the family primarily responsible for the manor house as it currently stands. The Stanhopes donated it to the country and it is now the official home of the British Foreign Secretary. Thus, it may not be visited. The parish church of St Botolph does not contain any identified graves of any de Chevenings. My husband and I did attend Sunday morning services there and since the church was certainly there during the early generations of the de Cheveings -- even possibly in the time of the first Adam de Chevening, it is well worth a visit if a person gets to that part of Kent on a trip to England.
If any researchers are able to add to this research and clarify some of the generations, I would be most appreciative of any effort. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
In my own mind I believe that the hypothesis that Adam de Chevening is the earliest common ancestor that will be able to be identified for those who have the Chevening/Chewning/Chowning name in their lineage is sound, but I am also willing to be convinced otherwise. Whether George Chowning is a direct descendant of Adam through the lines published here is not certain, but I do believe that he descends from Adam de Chevening.
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids