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About the study
The registered variants of the name are Fithyan, Phitheon, Phithian, Phythian. Only Phethean,Phythian and Fithyan appear to be represented in England at the present day.
All the variants that I am researching are: Fethion, Fethyan, Fethyon, Fhithyan, Fithan, Fithean, Fitheion, Fitheon, Fithian, Fithion, Fithyan, Fithyon, Fitton, Fytheone, Fythian, Pheathean, Pheathian, Phethean, Phethein, Phetheon, Phethian, Phethion, Phithean, Phitheon, Phithian, Phithion, Phithyan, Phythean, Phytheon, Phythian, Phythion, Phythyan.
The Phethean surname has caused much discussion and one is often faced with the question "Is it Cornish" or even " Is it Greek". Traditional etymological studies have suggested that the surname (and the more common form Phythian) is derived from the early French/Latin root "Vivian / Vivianus" - from vivus "living". I have no evidence of a Cornish (or Greek!) connection. Its pronunciation and spelling are difficult and it appears in a variety of forms. There is much dialectical replacement of "f" and "v" cf Fivian and Fithian; also replacement of "th" and "d" cf Fidian. The initial "Ph" is probably just an artefact of transcription.
There are sparse records dating from 1250 - 1450 in various parts of the UK. The definitive spelling Phethean first appears in Tunstall, Staffordshire in 1459 where it was used as a first-name (Phethean of Tunstall) and then is found as a surname (and many derivative spellings) mainly in two locations in Cheshire - Brereton-cum-Smethwick and Warmingham from about 1500-1750. These sites are only about 15 miles from Tunstall but at present I have been unable to link the two locations.
Historical occurrences of the name
The surname is rare! The numbers below are from the Great Britain Family Names Profiler and the 1841 Census:
|1881 Phethean||1881 Phythian||1841 Phethean||1841 Phythian|