This very unusual name derives either from the Olde French 'Chesne' meaning 'one who dwelt by the oak trees' or from 'Chenu' - also Olde French, a nickname for an old man or one who was very grey. The English developments appear to be Cheynell, Chennell and Chennel, the plural as it occurs being (probably) a patronymic and meaning 'the son of Chennel(l)', although it can be a dialectual additive to aid pronunciation. Although never common, the name is well recorded in Berkshire in the 17th century. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Chenell. which was dated 1620 (Baptised) at Aldworth, Berkshire. during the reign of King James I of England and VI of Scotland 1603-1625. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.