Family History

Bowdon Parish records

Still intrigued by Josiah Phethean’s status as the “first Phethean”, I set about trying to establish if there was any further information regarding either him or his wife Martha and if we could find any earlier ancestors in Dunham Massey or Bowdon. The main sources of information for this period are either the parish records or the Bishops Transcripts (BTs). BTs are the annual returns or transcripts of the parish records that had to be sent to the diocese every year – in this case to the Diocese of Chester.

Both the parish records and BTs for Bowdon parish have been microfilmed and copies are available for research from the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) Family History Centres. The original parish records have slightly more information than the BTs, but the BTs often survive when the original records have been lost or are of very poor quality. Some significant years are not recorded for Bowdon at all, one such gap being the years around the probable birth date of Josiah of Dunham c. 1671. Thus it was impossible to establish conclusively if Josiah was actually born in the parish.

From various films of the BTs I was able to come up with the following new information that is detailed below (Table 1) and includes the notes and comments that I made at the time of collecting this data. Note that some of the baptisms were described as “in house”. Commonly this type of baptism took place if the child was not expected to survive.

Some of the burial records have a sworn affidavit attached, which is due to the fact that Acts of 1667 and 1678 required that burial shrouds had to made of wool (a subtle form of tax to promote the home wool industry!) and that this had to be certified before a burial could take place. These acts were not repealed until 1814 but I have only seen a few such

Table 1: Parish Records and BTs from St Mary’s Parish Church,

Josiah Phethean, (Steward to 2nd Earl of Warrington at Dunham Massey for 40 years). Gravestone recorded in affidavits so compliance does not seem to have been absolute.

b. abt 1671 d 29 April 1741 Bowdon bur. 1 May 1741 Bowdon

wife: Martha ? b. abt 1677 bur. 4 Mar 1753 Bowdon

1 Son/daughters of a Josiah Phethean (also spelt Phithean) (possibly the one above, but no proof yet as only the father’s name appears on the baptismal records):

Joseph Phethean bapt. 25 May 1713 Bowdon

Martha Phethean bapt. 31 Jan 1716 Bowdon

Ann Phethean bapt. 26 Jan 1717 Bowdon (I have a death of an Ann 28 Apr 1718 at Bowdon – this could be her)

Josiah Phethean bapt. 15 Oct 1719 Bowdon

Joseph Phethean of Dunham, farming steward at Dunham Massey until 1774.

d. 2 Mar 1774 bur. 4 Mar 1774 Bowdon. Will at Chester (married: Esther Pool(e) m. 14 Oct 1764 Bowdon bur. 11 Oct 1771 Bowdon

2 Joseph Phethean of Bowdon, Gentleman and Esther Pool of the said parish married in this church by license this 14th October 1764 by C. Gaskarth. Signed Joseph Phethean, Esther Poole in presence of 3 William Taylor and J.Booth”

4 Children:

Bapt. 21 Aug 1765: Josiah s/o Joseph & Esther Phethean of Dunham in house.

Bapt. 20 Oct 1766: Elizabeth d/o Joseph & Esther Phethean of Dunham. d. 1836 bur. Bowdon

Bapt. 26 Oct 1767: Henrietta d/o Joseph & Esther Phethean of Dunham. d. 1815 bur. Bowdon

Bapt. 22 Dec 1768: Joseph s/o Joseph & Esther Phethean of Dunham in house. Bur. 19 Jan 1769.

Bapt. 24 Dec 1769: Esther d/o Joseph & Esther Phethean of Dunham.


Bapt. 10 Dec 1769: Nathaniel son of Joseph and Esther Phethean of Dunham in house. I wonder if these two were twins and one died?

Martha Phethean, (sister of Joseph Phethean of Dunham, farming steward) married the bachelor Nathaniel Dunster, brickman 3 Jan 1759 both of the Parish of Bowdon in the county and Diocese of Chester, in the presence of J. Booth and Thos. Burgess. Banns published 17th, 24th and 31st Dec 1758 by Mr. Lancaster, Vicar and Mr. Williams, Curate.

Martha Dunstar wife of Nathaniel Dunstar bur. Oct 30 1792 Bowdon

Unknown family:
Joseph Phethean bapt. 29 Nov 1740 in house.
Son of a Joseph Phethean and Elizabeth ? of Enville, Staffs
Elizabeth Phethean wife of Joseph Phethean, gent. of Dunham, bur. 15 May 1764 Bowdon

Significant points to be noted from the above data:

There are sons/daughters of a Josiah Phethean but early parish records hardly ever mention the wife’s name on a baptismal record, so there is no hard evidence that these are the children of Josiah of Dunham and Martha.

Joseph of Dunham married Esther Poole by license. This was usually if (a) one of the parties was widowed or (b) as an expression of financial superiority – it cost a lot more to marry by license rather than by banns. Could it be that Joseph had married twice? Esther died before Joseph’s will was written.

William Taylor, witness to Joseph of Dunham’s marriage is mentioned in Joseph’s will as his “brother-in-law”. Who did he marry?

Joseph of Dunham and Esther had a much larger family than was originally thought, although only three children were surviving at the time of writing of Joseph’s will. Esther and Nathaniel have very close baptismal dates and it is possible that these two children were twins and one was “baptized in house” since it was not expected to survive. In any case, by 1772 there is no record of either of these children surviving.

The family of Joseph of Dunham can now be depicted thus:

Figure 3: The family of Joseph of Dunham to include evidence from the parish records and BTs from St Mary’s parish church, Bowdon.

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