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The Richard Cheney Legend

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The Richard Cheney Legend

The Richard Cheney Legend links together several Richard Cheneys in England with a prominent Richard Cheney settler in Maryland as ancestors and descendants.

The Richard Cheney who was born in England is NOT the Richard Cheney who lived in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

Short Version of the Legend

  1. A real Richard Cheney in Kent is shown as the father of
  2. A fake Richard Cheney allegedly born in Kent and died in Cornwall shown as the father of
  3. A real Richard Cheney in London who actually died young -- but who is said to be the same person as
  4. A real Richard Cheney in Maryland, origin unknown, who is the ancestor of at least one President, President Barack Obama.

Longer Version of the Legend

  1. John Cheney of Calle and Higham in Kent is a real person who married Elizabeth, daughter of Hugh Gyles, and had a son William. [1] In the legend, John Cheney is given an additional and fictitious wife Mary, with whom he has a fictitious son, Richard. The 1526 will of Humphrey Cheney, father of John, mentions a grandson William but not a grandson Richard.

Richard Cheyney, Immigrant to Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is often shown as Richard Cheney the son of Richard Cheyney (Jr) and Anne Ellinor of London, who were married at St. Mary Woolnoth Church in London on June 3, 1612. However, the 1625 will of Richard Cheyney (Sr) shows Richard (Jr) deceased at that time, and names only one son of Richard (Jr), namely Bartholomew. That is sufficient to resist making this cross-Atlantic connection.

Because the ancestral line through St. Mary Woolnoth is both attractive and frequently shown, it is displayed below to avoid confusion!

In the most frequently found narrative, Richard Cheyney, the immigrant, is the same Richard Cheney who was baptized 14 June 1616 at St. Mary Woolnoth Church in London. [2] The most common internet account gives this line of descent:


  1. Humphrey Cheney , b. Kent 1457, son of Robert Cheney and Ann Lovelace. Two known sons, John and William.
  2. John Cheney , b. 1490, son of Humphrey. This John is confirmed by the Visitation of Kent. [3]. But the visitation shows John having a wife Elizabeth Gyles and son William, but not a second marriage to Mary Giles or any children, including Richard (I) from such a marriage.
  3. Richard Cheney (I) b.1524 in Kent. There are real issues related to the very existence of this person. (1) There is no evidence that his supposed father John married a Mary Giles and had a son named Richard. (2) There are no records of any events involving this Richard during his lifetime. (3) There is no record of his death. (4) The suggestion that he died in Cornwall, at the other end of the island, is given with no explanation. (5) His 1591 death in Cornwall is taking place at about the same time that his supposed son is getting married in London!
  4. Richard Cheney (II), b. London Jan 23, 1566 and d. London, 1625. This Richard is the same as Richard Cheney Goldsmith. He married Elizabeth Offley / Elizabeth Offley at St. Mary Woolnoth Church, London, Feb 6, 1590/1591. [2] All of this is substantially documented. What is not at all documented is who Ricahrd's parents were. Elizabeth was baptized at this church; they had 6 children who were baptized there, including a son Richard.
  5. Richard Cheney (III) , b. London 1594, son of Richard (II). Baptized at St. Mary Woolnoth. Referred to as “Gentleman.” Married Anne Ellinor June 3, 1612, and died in London 1633. She is also associated with St. Mary Woolnoth Church, and died 1633. His father’s will names him, his wife Anne, and their son Bartholomew. However, there is no mention of a son Richard.
  6. Richard (IV), born in London 1616. No documentation has been found for the birthdate 1616, which, however, is seen often. There is, however, a parish record for Richard Cheney, baptism dated June 14, 1616 at St. John Parish, Hackney, London, England and death on April 23, 1690 in the same parish. His father was Willyam Cheney, not Richard.[4]This Richard, if he weren't already dead, would have been 9 years old when Richard III's will was being written in 1625, but he is not mentioned in the will. So there is no reason to believe that this Richard is the same as Richard Cheney, Immigrant to Maryland. The London Richards were probably literate; there is no evidence that Richard Cheney, Immigrant, was literate. He did sign some documents with an “X”.

Newman seems to support such speculation when he writes, "The Cheney (Cheyney)family of ancient antiquity was ennobled in England, but through extravagance and being royalists during the civil wars lost most of their property. There is every reason to believe that the Maryland emigrant was a scion of the ennobled family. He was lettered (could read) and the fact that he financed his own passage and that of his wife is further indication of his social level.

Just as there is a variety of undocumented information circulating about Richard, so is there about his wife Charity.

  • Nearly all sources agree her name was Charity. Some show her given name as Mary Charity. Her maiden name is variously given as Wood, Woodward, Woodwards, Woodman, Ryan or Unknown. There is no evidence that Charity’s full name was Mary Charity, or that her family name was Wood, or any of the others given. Where she came from is also unknown.
  • In one account, Charity is Mary Charity Woodward b. 20 Nov 1628, as recorded at St. Petroch, Exeter, Devon, England and the daughter of Ezekiel Woodward. Additional evidence disputes accounts of Richard Cheyney's English connections:
  • Sharon Doliante states: Richard Cheyney, Sr, born: (ca) 1630, died after 3-6-1685 (date of his will) and before 8-16-1688 (date his estate was appraised) married Charity, who died in the mid to late 1600's: he then married Elinor(eleanor) who survived him. [5]
  • Newman writes, "It is evident that he was single when he arrived in the Province, because between the years of 1634 and 1682 no female by the name of Cheney was listed among the immigrants. He, however, married twice, but the name of his first wife is unknown." [6]
  • A record (which will be given in full, infra), in the Hall of Records, Annapolis, shows that Richard Cheyney and Charity, his wife, arrived in Maryland by 1658, and without children.
  • They were allowed 50 acres each, for their own transportation in to the province. It is evident, therefore, that they came after 1651, since for a period up until June 20, 1652 [7], persons were allowed 100 acres each for settling in Maryland. The Richard Cheney who immigrated to Maryland should not be confused with Richard Cheney, son of Richard of London, who was dead when the latter wrote his will in 1625.


    1. The Visitation of Kent, 1619, in Publications of the Harleian Society, Vol XLIII, 1848, p. 43., http://www.uk-genealogy.org.uk/endland/Kent/visitation/index.html
    2. 2.0 2.1 Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths from J. M. S. Brooke and A. W. C. Hallen. "The Transcript of the Registers of the United Parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth and St Mary Woolchurch Law, in the City of London, from their Commencement 1538-1760... London: Bowles & Sons, George Street. 1886, p. 23
    3. The Visitation of Kent 1619 in The Publications of the Harleian Society, Vol. XLII, 1848, p. 43. Vance Mead, Genforum Medieval Genealogy Forum #2360, April 13, 2009.
    4. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JQTB-T46 : 30 December 2014, Richard Cheney, 23 Apr 1619); citing SAINT JOHN,HACKNEY,LONDON,ENGLAND, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 569,924. (Added by [Mack-1127] Nov. 11, 2017)
    5. Sharon Doliante, Maryland and Virginia Colonials
    6. Newman, Anne Arundel Gentry.
    7. Maryland Archives, vol 1, p. 331-332. http://msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/speccol/sc2900/sc2908/000001/000001/html/am1--331.html "Richard Cheyney demands one hundred acres of land in behalf of himself and Charity his wife. Warrt to lay out for Richard Chenyey one hundred acres of land" (Ret. 22 feb next /1658. Per Betty H. Reed, bettyhreed@comcast.net, on Janet Lockard (clanlockard@comcast.net). “My Paternal Ancestors: File on Ancestry.com, Accessed Apr 19, 2009” . Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, Vol 20, No. 1, Winter 1979

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