Guild of One-Name Studies
One-name studies, Genealogy
Variants: Chawing, Chewin, Chewing, Chewings, Chowan
Category: 3 - A study where research using core genealogical datasets and transcriptions is well under way on a global basis.
Contact: Dr Penelope Christensen
The Chowings One-Name Study was registered with the Guild in 1988 and grew out of an interest in my great grandmother Grace Chowings’ family. They originated in West Central Devon in the 17th century, migrated north-east to the Okehampton area north of Dartmoor and she moved to Surrey and then Greenwich in SE London.
The aim is to collect data on everyone recorded with this fairly rare surname and assemble them into pedigrees on AQ (Ancestral Quest) as far as possible. I am concentrating on the English lines first and these are being added to FamilySearch online with sources in the Notes so they are widely available.
The study comprises the name containing two syllables, the main variants being CHOWEN(S), CHOWIN(G)(S), CHEWIN(G)(S). Many other spellings mainly caused by illiteracy and poor hearing have been seen in 17-20th century records, including CHAUIN, CHAWAN, CHAWEN(S), CHAWHIN, CHAWIN(G)(S), CHAWN, CHEOINGS, CHEUEN(N), CHEWEN(S), CHEWN, CHOINGS, CHOOING(S), CHOUAN(S), CHOUEN, CHOUGHAN, CHOUIN(G)(S), CHOWAN(S), CHOWENG(S), CHOWIMS, CHOWINE(S), CHOWINGE, CHOWYN, CHUWEN(S), JOWEN(S), SHEWEN, SHEWING and SHOWEN.
There is another, more common, Devon surname CHOWN which I have not collected, but which my study has shown to have been used interchangeably with CHOWEN and variants, and probably accounts for the many missing Civil Registration and other records. The moral here is if you can’t find them under a two-syllable variant, try the one-syllable CHOWN(E)(S) as well as the variants CHOUN(E)(S).
Other Devon names with which members of this study has been confused are CHANNING(S) and CHANNON. In Cornwall CHEWIN has been confused with CHEGWIN, and in the Midlands with CHEUIN and CHEVIN.
There is a geographically distinct family of CHOWNING(S) emanating from around Tonbridge and Maidstone in Kent who confusingly, may derive from Nicholas CHOWNE MP (before 1517-1569) of Wrotham, Kent and Aldenham, Herts.
Deviants occurring in transcriptions include AKESSON, CHEAUIN, CHEIOIN(G)S, CHENREYS, CHEURINGS, CHOEN, CHONIN, CHERING, CHERVERS, CHONINGS, CHORAGE, CHOROISES, CHOURINGS, CHOWDEN, CHOWER, CHOWLING, CHOWM, CHOWRING(S), CHUNE, CLOWING, CROWIN(S), EWINGS, SHAWN
CHEWAN(E)(S), CHEWON(NE), CHEWOONE, CHOWON and CHOW-WIN occur in more modern English records and may be Asian.
Emigrants to the USA through Castle Garden and Ellis Island include CHEWANS, CHOWAN & CHEWION from Russia, CHEWERING from Germany, CHEWIN from France and Poland, CHOWAINE from Poland and CHOWEN and CHOWAN from Hungary. The modern descendants in the New World are therefore of diverse origins.
The standard sources are not very helpful as none mention CHOWINGS or CHEWINGS. Bardsley (1901) considered only CHOWN and CHOWNE from the midlands and south east England. He states that they were patronymic names meaning son of Chun, an ancient given name, derived from the Welsh cun meaning a leader or chief (Harrison 1912, 1918). He also considers the suffixes -ing and -win to be patronymic so making a double patronymic by extension to CHOWING and CHOWIN.
Baring-Gould lists CHOWEN and CHOWNES as coming from CHAWNEY or CHAWNES in Leland’s Battle Abbey Roll of 1066 (but this is disputed and the name is not in Domesday). These names derive from a place called Canci near Amiens, France.
Neither Reaney (1976) nor Hanks & Hodges (1988) list CHEWINGS, CHOWEN or CHOWINGS, although the latter book gives CHOUAN as a nickname for a raucous person, derived from the Old French chouan a screech owl.
There has been no study of the West Country bearers of these names.
Some early English CHOWNs
Name & RIN
Francis Chowne or Chune
Chouan was used as a nom de guerre by the Chouan brothers, most notably Jean Cottereau, better known as Jean Chouan, who led a major revolt in Bas-Maine against the French Revolution. Members of this revolt (and even French royalists in general) came to be known as Chouans, and the revolt itself came to be known as the Chouannerie.
The GOONS 1881 Surname Distribution Project showed 122 occurrences of the two-syllable surname (Chowan(s), Chowen(s), Chowin(g)(s), Chewin(g)(s)). 118 were in England, 3 in Wales and 1 in the Royal Navy. The greatest number (68) were in Devon, with 20 in Cornwall, 17 in Somerset, 6 in Berkshire, 3 in Denbighshire, 2 in Middlesex and 1 each in Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent, Surrey & Yorkshire.
Civil registration births 1837-1975 show greatest numbers in the Devon districts of Okehampton (76), Plymouth (50), Tavistock (30) and Exeter (25). Neath (31) shows the movement into South Wales for mining jobs from 1872.
Guppy (1890) felt that CHOWEN and CHOWN were mostly confine to Devonshire where they together comprised 0.07% of the stable, yeoman farmers.
My research so far has concentrated on three West Country counties, mainly Devon. Families have also been found in the Cornish parishes immediately west of the southern half of the Devon county boundary, and in the North Petherton area of Somerset.
In parish registers, apart from a couple of early isolated Somerset marriage entries (Chawine 1595 in Dunster and Chawen 1629 in Chard), families bearing the two-syllable name occur first from 1647 in west central Devon with concentrations for two centuries in Coryton, Hatherleigh, Lifton and Bridestowe. They spread out in the 18th century, particularly to Plymouth & Stoke Damerel but also to Lewtrenchard and Northlew, and from 1788 in Jacobstow. The 19th century saw the name established from 1802 in Marystow, from 1852 in Okehampton, from 1868 in North Tawton and from 1883 in Torquay. The first Cornish ones appear in Stoke Climsland from 1751 and Maker from 1783. The earliest Somerset families were in North Petherton area beginning in 1790 when a William CHOWINGS and his sister Anne born in Hatherleigh migrated there and gradually changed their name to CHEWINGS from whence all the rest of this spelling seem to derive.
The censuses from 1841 to 1911 show movement into Greater London especially Middlesex and Surrey as well as general dispersal of the population.
The Chowings Archives contains all English civil registration BMD 1837-2005 and census 1841-1911 together with a large collection of parish register and miscellaneous entries from England. Probate 1858-1997 is detailed as well as most PCC 1383-1858, Death Duty Registers 1796-1903, and county collections. Scottish, Irish and British Overseas civil registration indexes are covered. FindMyPast, Deceased On Line, SoG, FamilySearch and Ancestry collections are monitored. Marriages have been submitted to the GOONS Marriage Index. I should like to pass along this study to another interested researcher now.
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