Genealogy is only as precise as the data at hand, but I set out with the intention of trying to resolve what I considered to be an anomaly at the root of the family tree, and have so far been able to accumulate sufficient data that establishes a new version of the lineages in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Considerable evidence has been accumulated which permits a more detailed analysis of the various families living in Dunham Massey and Enville in the mid-eighteenth century. The combination of wills, marriage bonds and estate records builds up a picture of relatively affluent brothers, Joseph and Josiah Phethean. Both these brothers are variously described as “Gentleman” or “Yeoman”, which by definition implies that they were of a certain social status. The various legacies mentioned in the text are worth several thousand pounds per year by current values.
There are still many sources of information that remain unavailable. I have yet to establish where Josiah of Dunham was born, or where he married Martha. Since I have been unable to find any early Phethean records at Bowdon, it is possible that the family did not move to the Bowdon area until the 2nd Earl of Warrington inherited the Dunham Massey Estate in 1694.
There is an enormous variety of Phethean spellings in Cheshire in the seventeenth century (see http://www.phethean.co.uk) and it would be of great interest to try to track some of these families and look for some common links.
Other sources of data in Cheshire include Hearth Tax returns of the late seventeenth century (this was a tax based on the number of fireplaces in a house, similar to the window tax of the following century), but coverage of the county is poor and the data is only available by personal inspection at Cheshire Record Office.