I suspect pronounciation may be a way of distinguishing family groups.
Could it be that Cheneys descended from New England Cheney ancestors tend to pronounce it "chee-knee", while those descended from Maryland Cheney ancestors would pronounce it "chay-knee"?
I ran into this with my Beall ancestors. In our family we always pronounced it "beel", but the major Beall family in Maryland pronounce it "bell". Subsequently, Y-DNA testing has demonstrated that the two groups of Bealls, though giving their children similar names and living contiguously, are simply not related to each other.
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