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Mr Thomas Chambers

My name is Thomas Chambers, living in Florida/Wisconsin in USA.  I am looking for information on my ancestorsin Ireland, who according to one of my relatives, came from Newtownstewart.

My wife and I will be traveling to Ireland/England in June 2018, so I am trying to find out as much as I can prior to our trip.

Here is what I know:

My Great Great Grandfather (Thomas Chambers) was born in 1823, emigrated to New York in 1852, married Anna Keily in 1854, and was a Druggist there until his death.  One of my relatives had documented Thomas's parents to be John Chambers (1796-1867) and Martha (1794-1866), Ardstraw Parish Church of Ireland, Newtownstewart, County Tyrone, NI.  I am trying to confirm that.

When Dr Thomas (1823) arrived in New York City he opened a Drug Store within a year or two.  This makes me think that he must have received a degree in Medicine or Apothecary in Northern Ireland before he emigrated.  I would like to confirm that too.  Also if John and Martha are the correct parents, were there other children?

Finally, I noted from the County Tyrone Graveyards listing that there is a Thomas Chambers of Liscleen (sp?) and a Mary Isabella Chambers buried at the Old Donagheady Burial Ground in Donemana.  I would like to see if they are related, and what the birth and death dates are for them.  For example, are they the parents of John?

Any help is appreciated.


Friday 19th January 2018, 01:27PM

Message Board Replies

  • Dear Tom:  

    Thank you for your post to the Ireland Reaching Out message board and welcome to the site!  We have a volunteer in the North who may be able to assist you with some of your questions and I will forward this post to him for his assistance.

     In the meantime, please keep us posted as to your travel plans, and if we can be of further assistance to you, please let me know at:  

    Many thanks for your interest in Ireland Reaching Out!  

    Kind regards.


    Monday 22nd January 2018, 12:27PM
  • Tom,

    If your family attended Ardstraw Church of Ireland, then the bad news is that their early records were mostly destroyed in the 1922 fire in Dublin. They have almost no baptisms or burials prior to 1882 and no marriages prior to 1845. The only records that do still exist are:

    Sunday register, 1821-57, recording details of

    collections, numbers attending services etc., with

    occasional baptisms and publication of banns.

    This document is in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast under ref T2728. (Personal visit required to view it).

    Statutory death registration began in Ireland in 1864 and so John & Martha’s deaths both sneak in. I see a death for a John Chambers regd in Strabane on 3.1.1867 aged 71 and one for Martha on 9.6.1866 aged 74. They would appear to fit with the information you have. It would be worth looking at those death certificates to see where they lived, what their occupations were and who the informants were at their deaths (could be a son or daughter). You can view the original certificates on-line on the GRONI website, using the “search registrations” option:

    You will need to open an account and buy some credits. It costs £2.50 (sterling) to a view a certificate.

    If you post the information from the certificates here, I’ll try and see what other records may exist for the family. I looked to see if John left a will but he did not, or at least not one that required probate.

    Regarding connections to other people named Thomas Chambers, bear in mind it’s a pretty common name in Ireland. In the 1901 census there were 2596 people named Chambers of whom 100 were named Thomas, and 4 of those lived in Tyrone. These people are not all going to be related to each other. The family in Liscloon you have spotted were Presbyterians:

    Regarding qualifications to be an apothecary, I am not sure what were required in the mid 1800s.  The only university in Ireland then was Trinity in Dublin, till Queens University in Belfast opened in 1849. (Folk who did not go to Trinity often went to one of the 4 big Scottish universities ie Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrew’s and Aberdeen). So you could contact those 5 universities to see if they have any record of Thomas studying there, but I suspect he may just have been trained locally in Ireland by someone else in that profession. He may not have had a university qualification.

    Monday 22nd January 2018, 06:59PM
  • Thank you Jane and Elwyn!  This is great to be able to connect with someone from the area.

    I viewed the death certificates for John and Marsha and unfortunately no one from the family was present at the time of death.  But here is what I found.

    John Chambers:

       Died 3.1.1867 on Main Street Newtownstewart, Ardstraw.  He was a clerk.  Present at death was Andrew Monteith.  Registered by D J Rutherford, M. D.

    Martha Chambers

    Died 9.6.1866 on Main Street Newtownstewart, Ardstraw.  Listed as "Gentlewoman".  John Chambers was occupier present.  Registered by D J Rutherford, M. D.

    I believe they were Presbyterian.

    I also found this regarding the family:  (just doing a Google Search)

    William Henry Ferris, pastor of Sullivan St. Methodist Church, married to Mary Ann Chambers born Newtown-Stewart 9.9.1828 daughter of John & Martha (McCleir) Chambers.  They settled in New York City.  He died there at 129 Perry St, 29.7.1865 and was buried at Shrub Oak Cemetery.

    This may be one more clue into the family.  That is, the McCleir family connection.

    I will continue to try to find documentation to show that Thomas was indeed the son of John and Martha.

    Thank you again.  Tom Chambers

    Tuesday 23rd January 2018, 07:57PM
  • Tom,

    I looked in Griffiths Valuation for 1859. John Chambers is not listed in Main St, Newtownstewart. However there is someone of that name listed as having a garden in Upper Street. So that suggests to me that possibly the Chambers lived with someone else, and rented the garden to grow vegetables. The informant at John’s death (Andrew Monteith) is listed in Main St where he had a house, outbuildings, a yard and a garden, and so perhaps they lived with him. Just a few houses along from the police barracks.

    I looked at the revaluation records and the garden in Upper St remained in John’s name till 1875 when a William Graham replaced him. Presumably, if it’s the right John Chambers, the Griffiths clerks took a while to update their records.

    No Chambers in Newtownstewart in the 1901 census.

    Here’s a link to Slater’s Commercial Directory in 1846 which gives some information on the town:

    Tuesday 23rd January 2018, 09:53PM
  • I  have new information to share.  Thanks, Elwyn for your reply.

    I now have two documented sources that indicate John and Martha (McCleir) Chambers, Ardstraw, were the parents of my great great grandfather Thomas Chambers.

          I have found ( a baptismal record for 17 May 1823 for Clones, Monaghan that lists parents John Chambers and Jane Neil with child Thomas Chambers.  This is the exact date of Thomas birth.  Is this coincidence, or is it possible that Jane was his mother?  Clones is not far away.

    I can't remember where , but there was a record that showed John Chambers having two lots on Upper St in Newtownstewart.  One said (office).  I will try to find that.  But it indicated that he had an office of some sort.

    I also have two documented sources that show Mary Ann Chambers (1828-1902) was the daugther of John and Martha Chambers, Newtownstewart.  She married William Henry Wildey and they lived in New York City, close to where Thomas Chambers lived.

    I do not know when Thomas and Mary Ann emigrated to New York (still working on that).  I thought Thomas was on the ship John Stuart in 1852, but I now think that was the wrong Thomas.

    Finally, we will be visiting Newtownstewart in June of this year and would like to visit the Ardstraw Cemetery and Church.  (hopefully there is a grave marker for John and Martha there).  Right now it looks like we will be in Newtownstewart on June 14-15. Is there anyone there that can go with us?

    Elwyn, how would I go about contacting the Universities in Ireland/Scotland to see if Thomas attended Apothecary School there?

    Slowly making progress.  Thanks for your help.


    Wednesday 21st February 2018, 07:35PM
  • Tom,

    Clones is 100 miles from Newtownstewart and with a common name like Thomas Chambers I would doubt the Clones family has no connection with the Ardstraw family. I also suspect the Clones record is Church of Ireland whereas you say your family were Presbyterian. (Ancestry doesn’t have many Presbyterian records which is why I think the Clones records are probably COI).  Protestants generally didn’t rush to baptise their children and the date of baptism is often a month or two after the date of birth and in some cases years later. So just a coincidence. I would also advise a little caution over the date of birth that you have. Most people in Ireland didn’t celebrate birthdays and often had no idea when they were born, so when officialdom asked for one, they just made a date up. Consequently, should you find a record of Thomas’s birth or baptism, it may not be the date he used in America.

    Alexander Irvine was born in 1863 in Antrim town and became a Minister living in the US. This extract from his book “The Chimney Corner revisited” perhaps explains why people often had to guess their ages:

    “My mother kept a mental record of the twelve births. None of us ever knew, or cared to know, when we were born. When I heard of anybody in the more fortunate class celebrating a birthday I considered it a foolish imitation of the Queen’s birthday, which rankled in our little minds with 25th December or 12th July. In manhood there were times when I had to prove I was born somewhere, somewhen, and then it was that I discovered that I also had a birthday. The clerk of the parish informed me.”

    The references to having “offices” probably comes from Griffiths Valuation (which I referred to in my previous post). Offices doesn’t have the meaning it has today. Offices were outbuildings (which is why I used the word outbuildings rather than offices to avoid confusion). Offices, in a town like Newtownstewart, were small outbuildings where you might keep a few chickens, tools or perhaps a pig. Not somewhere you would run a business from. If Thomas was a clerk, he probably worked in a business in the town somewhere.

    With regard to contacting the Scottish Universities, just google them and you’ll get their websites and use the usual “contact us” facility. I have e-mailed all of them several times over the years and found them quite helpful. Not all students matriculated in those days. You had to pay extra to take the final examination and some didn’t bother. It was sufficient that you had attended for 3 or 4 years, to use the training. Employers then didn’t bother whether you had actually qualified or not. So you might find a record of attendance but no final matriculation.  Doesn't mean they were thrown out. Just they didn’t want to pay.

    You ask if anyone might be available to meet you when you visit later this year. We do have 2 parish liaison volunteers in Co. Tyrone (though not in Newtownstewart itself). I’ll ask them if they might be free to meet you.

    Friday 23rd February 2018, 08:45PM
  • Thanks for the information, Elwyn.

    I went back to look at the Disinterment Record for Mary Ann Chambers.  It lists John Chambers and Martha McClear (McCleir) as parents, and at the bottom of the record it lists Occupation of Father as "Linen Merchant".

    By the way, Thomas Chambers and Mary Ann Chambers (Wildey, McGowan) are buried in the same NYC Cemetery, Green-Wood Cemetery.  I requested and just  received a bunch of information from that cemetery, most of which I already knew.  I chuckled when I read your comments about age.  In looking at the census records, I calculated Thomas birth to be 1823.  But I received a copy of the actual death record from the cemetery and it calculates to 1821, which is what my 3rd cousin's father came up with.  He actually visited the Greenwood Cemetery and probably ended up with the same info I just got.  Still not sure which is right!

    This week I will try contacting the Universities.  Also,I really wish I could find obituaries for Thomas and Mary Ann that would list all of the family members.  Finally, somewhere out there I should be able to find them on a passenger list of the boat they came to the USA on.

    Elwyn, thanks for your help and good advice.  I will keep plugging away!




    Saturday 24th February 2018, 05:06PM
  • Elwyn,

    I am still researching, but progress is slow.  By the way, plans for our trip to Ireland in June are progressing well.  We will be in Newtownstewart June 14-15.

    I came across this hint when tracing back the family of Anna Keily (1830-1884) who was Thomas Chambers wife in NYC.  Anna's father William Keily was a saddler in NYC.

    Eliza Keily    B;1834   D: 1874   age 40   Strabane   Vol 12   p.210   FHL Film # 101587

    So, I am wondering if Thomas knew the Keily family from that area before emigrating to the USA.   Can you find anything about Eliza?


    Thursday 15th March 2018, 09:02PM
  • Tom,

    Regarding your query about meeting one of our volunteers, I did e-mail 2 volunteers in Tyrone on 23rd Feb asking if either was available but so far have not heard back. I’ll see if there is some other way I can get in touch with them.

    Looking back over your previous messages, I notice that you mentioned the Chambers family were Presbyterian. There are 8 Presbyterian and 1 Reformed Presbyterian church in the Netwownstewart area, but none really has any records for the period you need. The earliest would seem to be Castlederg 1st which has baptisms from 1823 and Douglas with baptisms from 1831. Most of the others start in the mid 1850s.  (Most of the churches would have been there before that but either they didn’t keep records, or they have been lost).  If you are looking for gravestones, that gives you quite a choice of graveyards to visit, I suspect. Also check the Church of Ireland graveyards as many Presbyterians were buried in the Church of Ireland (it was open to all denominations).

    Being Presbyterian would reinforce my previous comment about them going to one of the Scottish universities, if they wanted a degree.  For a long time there were restrictions on Presbyterians attending Trinity in Dublin and so many went to Scotland instead. Most Presbyterians in Ireland are descended from Scots settlers who came in the 1600s so it was a natural choice for that reason too. But I remain doubtful that a degree was required in the early 1800s, to be an apothecary. I suspect it was a trade just learned by apprenticeship then. You could contact the Society of Apothecaries and ask them for advice on when qualifications became mandatory. See:

    Or see this which again suggests it was the mid 1800s before formal qualifications were introduced:

    I have looked for the death of Eliza Keily in Strabane in 1874 on both irishgenealogy and the GRONI websites, but I cannot find it. It’s possibly indexed incorrectly. What I suggest you do is order a research copy from GRO Roscommon. It should cost you 4 euros. The details they need are death, Strabane 1874, Vol 12 , page 210.

    You can e-mail your order to them and they will e-mail the certificate back to you.


    Friday 16th March 2018, 11:20AM
  • Breaking news!

    I just found out that George Chambers (Dublin) was the brother of Mary Ann and Thomas.  Recall they are children of John and Martha (McCleir) Chambers of Newtownstewart.   Here is the connection.

    Through an connection I found out that Mary Ann’s son William Wildey (1860-1939) "in 1874 living with uncle George Chambers in Highfield House, Rathgar, Dublin, Ireland"

    There is lots of info out there on George.  The death of John and Martha made it into Dublin newspapers.  This may be the reason.

    George made it into the 1901 census, just before his death, 23 Jun 1901.  He was secretary for the Star Life Assurence Co.  In the later City Directories he is listed as Esq. J. P.  When he died, their residence is listed as house 12 Stephen’s Green, North (Part) (Royal Exchange, Dublin).  He and his wife, Eliza, had three servants.

    There was also a Will that lists Joshua William Keohler as the executor and primary beneficiary.  His Wife Eliza Goodwin Chambers is listed as secondary beneficiary/executor.   I will need to find out more about Joshua.  Interesting to note that my middle name is Keller.  In some of the records for my GG Grandfather George Keller Chambers, they wrote it that way, Keohler instead of Keller.  Connection?

    Anyway, now there is a chance that I may find living relatives in Ireland.  This is an exiting finding. 

    I am hoping I can find a newspaper article or obituary that will give more information about the family of my 3rd G Uncle George Chambers of Dublin.

    I will keep searching.



    Tuesday 27th March 2018, 03:17PM