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The Chenault Family National Association

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WHO ARE  WE?

The Chenault Family National Association exists to perpetuate the memory and the genealogy of the descendants and forefathers of Stephen Chenault, who arrived in America aboard the Nassau in March 1700/01 (old English calendar), where he appeared on the ship's manifest as Estienne Cheneau, a French Huguenot.  The association is made up of descendants and their spouses and includes those who spell their names Chenault, Chennault, Chernault, Chinault, Shinault, Shinaut, Shinall, and over 40 other variations of the name (see below).  All those who believe they may be descendants of the original immigrant are welcome to join us, and we shall attempt to help them trace their ancestral line to determine if they are descended from the immigrant, Estienne Cheneau.  Presently, almost a thousand descendants are on the association's mailing list, but more than 30,000 individuals, both descendants and spouses, are documented in the book entitled Descendants of Stephen Chenault (Estienne Cheneau).

The association was formed as an outgrowth of the annual national reunions which began in 1950 and have occurred every year since.  Although an informal association existed in the years before 1994, it was in that year that the association was officially created and bylaws adopted.  An annual business meeting of the association is conducted as part of the national reunion.  Minutes of the meeting from the last reunion appear on this site.  During the course of the business meeting the members are updated on the activities of the various committees, sites are selected for future reunions, modifications to bylaws are considered, and officers for the coming year are elected.

CHENEAU FAMILY COAT OF ARMS

Information regarding the Cheneau family’s coat of arms remained unchanged in each of the three editions of the Red Book. A review of the Chenault Family National Association’s files reveals that the coat of arms first appeared on correspondence and newsletters in 1955. Thus, the acceptance of this particular image as the family’s coat of arms has existed for over 55 years.

In the Charlton Rogers’ 1978 edition of the Red Book, the explanation first appeared that "Father Wassler of Canada who made a specialty of carving family crests from wood" had written that "The De Cheneau coat of arms certainly dates back to the 15th century. It seems strange that instead of plumes they surround it by grape vines and grapes. From the dark grapes we would conclude the people lived in or around Bordeaux. The half moon means that the bearer was the first son of the family and arrowheads that the bearer was in command of the archers. De Cheneau means of the little oak. The spelling varies in Canadian archives — Du Chesneau and the original spelling, Duchesneau." He went on to say, "The fact that it has no crest indicates that it is very old, and this is borne out by its not being quartered."

The explanation included in the book states that most agreed that it is the coat of arms for the family descending from Estienne Cheneau...including all spellings of the name in the United States. Dr. Frank Chenault did extensive research on the matter, as did William A. Chenault of Louisville, KY, who made many trips to France. They pointed out that "the Chenaults of Paris have the traditional plumes on their crest." It is not believed that our family descends from the Chenaults of Paris.

Although the history files of the association contain little information about this matter, a few handwritten notes have been found. However, it is unclear who wrote the notes as none of them bear either a name or signature. One of the notes appears to be the source of the information included in the 1978 edition of the Red Book compiled by Charlton Rogers. At the bottom of the note is an entry indicating that the source of the information is an original letter to Robert M. "Bob" Chenault from the Rt. Rev Msgr. Auguste M. Wassler from Carencro , LA, dated Feb 8, 1972. It also states, "Ludwig Kunninger carved the crest for Bob and Irene." Further, it mentions that, "the Msgr. was a friend of Ludwig and did research in archives of Quebec, Canada, spelling also Du Cheneau." Diane Moon, daughter of Bob and Irene, has graciously shared a picture of the crest carved for her parents. She is attempting to locate the original letter to share with the association also.

Auguste M. Wassler was born 23 Apr 1897 in Alsace, France, and died Nov 1984 in Carencro, Lafayette, LA. During the time he served at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church located there (1947-1968), he researched and prepared the designs for the coats of arms for the families in his parish, which he then took to his friend in Dallas, Ludwig Kienenger, a Bavarian woodcarver. The designs were used to create the pews of the church that are such a beautiful asset to the church today. Thus, his knowledge and expertise was certainly a major factor in making the case in favor of the current coat of arms for our family.

In addition to information provided earlier regarding this coat of arms, it has been determined that the presence of the grapes in the image has special meaning...liberality, felicity, peace, abundance, and wine-making. The appearance of red in the image means "warrior." One note to add, some have confused the appearance of either "de" or "du" preceding the name "Cheneau" to be a part of the family’s name. However, these words simply mean "of" meaning the coat of arms is of the family Cheneau.

As additional information is discovered concerning the Cheneau coat of arms, it will be added to this site.

VARIANT SPELLINGS OF FAMILY NAME

Variant surname spellings were provided by "Cousin" Lewis R. Breckenridge in 1996 and updated by "Cousin" Christopher Shinall in 1998.  Others have been added since that time and will continue to be added as they are identified.

Cheanault Chenalt Chenau Chenault Chenaur Chenaut
Chenautt Chenaux Chenea Cheneau Chenhall Chenhalls
Chennalt Chennault Chennaux Chennhall Chennhalls Chinal
Chinat Chinauet Chinaul Chinaull Chinaulle Chinault
Chinautt Chinot Schannault Scheinau Schinault Schinott
Shenar Shenard Shenault Shenaur Shenaurlt Shenaut
Shinal Shinall Shinalt Shinaul Shinauld Shinault
Shino Shinoe Shinoff Shinol Shinolt Shinot