Show ContentsPhythian History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The notable Phythian family arose among the Cornish People, a race with a rich Celtic heritage and an indomitable fighting spirit who inhabited the southwest of England. While surnames were well-known during the English medieval period, Cornish People originally used only a single name. The way in which hereditary surnames came into common use is interesting. As the population of medieval Europe multiplied, people began to assume an extra name to avoid confusion and to further identify themselves. Under the Feudal System of government, surnames evolved and they often reflected life on the manor and in the field. Patronymic surnames were derived from given names and were the predominant type of surname among the Celtic peoples of Britain. However, the people of Cornwall provide a surprising exception to this rule, and patronymic surnames are less common among them than other people of Celtic stock, such as their Welsh neighbors. This is due to the greater influence of English bureaucracy and naming practices in Cornwall at the time that surnames first arose. This type of surname blended perfectly with the prevailing Feudal System. One feature that is occasionally found in Cornish surnames of this type is the suffix -oe or -ow; this is derived from the Cornish plural suffix -ow. is a patronymic surname that came from the ancient Latin given name Vivianus, which itself comes from the Latin word vivus, meaning alive. One source notes that the "Vyvians of Truro are derived by certain genealogists from one Vivianus Annius, a Roman general, son in law to Domitius Corbulo!" [1]

Early Origins of the Phythian family

The surname Phythian was first found in Cornwall where the family has held a large estate named Trelowarren in the village of Mawgan-in-Meneage since 1427.

The Halliggye Fogou at Trelowarren is the largest fogou in Cornwall. Sir Richard Vyvyan referenced the fogou at Halligey, Trelowarren in his journals. In 1982, the site was excavated after routine ploughing of the field, breached the roof of the main chamber. This hole has since been turned into an entrance stairway for visitors.

The first record of the surname was "Sir Vyel Vyvyan, Knight, who lived in the 13th century, and whose descendant John, having married an heiress of Ferrers, succeeded to the lordship of Trelowarren in the reign of Edward IV. " [2]

The lands and castle of St. Mawes, Cornwall were once held by Michael Vivian, Esq. of Trelowarren, who was made the first governor of this fortress. Another source claims that "in the reign of Elizabeth, it was sold to Hannibal Vyvyan, Esq. of Trelowarren. But whatever doubts may arise as to the exact time when these lands came into the Vyvyan family, it is certain that they retained it for several generations, until the days of Charles II. when Sir Wyell Vyvyan is said to have sold the land on which the castle stands, and the annexed estate, to John Earl of Bath, by whom it was again transferred to Sir Joseph Tredenham." [3]

Early History of the Phythian family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Phythian research. Another 111 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1545, 1575, 1601, 1607, 1610, 1613, 1635, 1640, 1644, 1660, 1665, 1681, 1724, 1727, 1736 and 1772 are included under the topic Early Phythian History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Phythian Spelling Variations

Cornish surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. The frequent changes in surnames are due to the fact that the Old and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules. The official court languages, which were Latin and French, were also influential on the spelling of a surname. Since the spelling of surnames was rarely consistent in medieval times, and scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded rather than adhering to any specific spelling rules, it was common to find the same individual referred to with different spellings of their surname in the ancient chronicles. Moreover, a large number of foreign names were brought into England, which accelerated and accentuated the alterations to the spelling of various surnames. Lastly, spelling variations often resulted from the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. However, they became increasingly Anglicized, and Cornish became extinct as a spoken language in 1777, although it has been revived by Cornish patriots in the modern era. The name has been spelled Vivian, Vey, Vye, Vyse and others.

Early Notables of the Phythian family

Notable amongst the family at this time was Hannibal Vyvyan (1545-1610), of Trelowarren in Cornwall, an English Member of Parliament, High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1601,Vice Admiral of South Cornwall from 1601 to 1607; Sir Francis Vyvyan (1575-1635), of Trelowarren in Cornwall, an English Member of Parliament; Sir Richard Vyvyan, 1st Baronet (c.1613-1665), an English politician who sat in the...
Another 60 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Phythian Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Phythian migration to the United States +

A look at the immigration and passenger lists has shown a number of people bearing the name Phythian:

Phythian Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John B Phythian, who landed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1827 [4]
  • Charles G Phythian, who arrived in Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1829 [4]

Australia Phythian migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Phythian Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Phythian, English convict from Lancaster, who was transported aboard the "America" on April 4, 1829, settling in New South Wales, Australia [5]

Contemporary Notables of the name Phythian (post 1700) +

  • Mrs. Charles M. Phythian, American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Montana, 1944

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  3. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  4. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  5. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2014, November 26) America voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1829 with 176 passengers. Retrieved from on Facebook