Share This:

I am searching for information about my STEELE family. This is all I know.......Mathew STEELE died in Newtownlimavady in August 1818. He was married to Martha FERGUSON and they had seven children: Sarah, John, Martha, Elizabeth, James, Joseph, and Mattie. After Mathew's death most of the family immigrated to America. Mathew possibly had a brother Alexander. There is a cousin William RALSTON who lived in Lisdivin and Mountjoy, Tyrone County. 

I would appreciate any help. I've been unable to find any birth, baptism, marriage, or death records. I wonder if there are any Steele's left in Limavady who might be my cousins.



Thursday 29th April 2021, 12:13PM

Message Board Replies

  • The 1831 census of Drumachose lists 3 Steel households: Alexander, Jane & James. Here’s Alexander who had 2 households under his roof. There were a total of 6 people, 3 male and 3 female, all Presbyterians:

    The other 2 families were Presbyterian too. That’s indicative of Scottish origins, usually in the 1600s.

    Birth & death registration didn’t start in Ireland till 1864. Presbyterian marriages were registered from 1845. Prior to those years you need to rely on church records. Not all churches have records for the 1700s and early 1800s and of those that do, they are often not on-line.

    There are 4 Presbyterian churches in the area: Derramore, Drumachose, 1st Limavady & 2nd Limavady.  Derramore has the earliest records but they only start in 1825. So it’s unlikely that you are going to find any record of the family’s baptisms or marriage as the records just don’t exist. Presbyterians rarely kept burial records so unless Mathew has a gravestone, he is likely to be hard to find too.

    The townland where Alexander lived was Carran. He looks to have been a farmer as he is listed in the tithe applotment records for the townland in 1826:

    Griffiths Valuation for 1856 lists an Alexander Steele in Carran. He had plot 10 which was a 24 acre farm. That farm, today is on the Edenmore Road which is on the southern outskirts of Limavady. Some of the farmland has been built on with modern housing, and some remains in agricultural use.  It’s hard to tell from Google Earth whether any original buildings are still standing. On balance I think they have gone but you would need to check that.

    This family farming in the townland in 1901:

    Both had left by the 1911 census.

    Some mentions of Ralston in Lisdivin:

    Firstly from the Abercorn estate papers:

    Secondly a will:

    In the Name of God Amen I NANCY McELHENNY of Lisdivin in the parish of Donagheady County of Tyrone being weak in body but of sound and perfect mind and memory Blessed be Almighty God for the same so make and publish this my last will and testament in manner and form following (that is to say) first I give and bequeath unto my son WILLIAM McELHENNY the sum of ₤180. I also give and bequeath unto my daughter MARGARET McELHENNY the sum of ₤180. I also give and bequeath unto my son JAMES McELHENNY the sum of ₤130. Exrs. first paying my daughter MARGARET the Bond debt JAMES owes her, then he to receive the remainder of the ₤130. I also give and bequeath unto my son JOHN McELHENNY now in America if alive the sum of ₤130 and if dead his share to my son WM. And my daughter MARGARET equally divided. I also give and bequeath unto my granddaughter MARTHA SMYTH the sum of ₤30 provided she behaves to the satisfaction of my Exrs. and if not the sum of 5 s. only. I also give and bequeath unto my daughter NANCY SMYTH and her five oldest children the sum of ₤50 to be equally divided amongst them the children not to receive theirs until the day of their marriage or Nancy’s death whichsoever may take place soonest. I also give and bequeath unto my son WM. and my daughter MARGARET all my household furniture equally divided. I hereby appoint my son WM. McELHENNYand my daughter MARGARET McELHENNY my sole Exrs. of this my last Will and Testament.

    In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 10th day of September 1825


    Proved at London 22nd May 1827 before the Judge by the oaths of WILLIAM McELHINNY the son and MARGARET McELHINNEY otherwise McELHINNYspinster the Executors to whom admon. granted having first sworn by Commission duly to administer.

    No Ralstons listed in Griffiths in 1858. They had evidently died out or left. The only church with any records for Donagheady in the 1700s is the Churhc of Ireland. Their records start in 1697. There’s a copy in PRONI in Belfast. Personal visit required to view them. There are 4 Presbyterian churches in the parish: 1stDonagheady, 2nd Donagheady,  Donnemana & Magheramason. There is also a Reformed Presbyterian church at Bready. The earliest records are 2nd’s which start in 1838. The tithe records for that parish have been lost. So again you will struggle to find much on this family for the period you need.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 29th April 2021, 05:10PM
  • THANK YOU SO MUCH!  I appreciate your help with my search. This is very useful information. Thank you for volunteering your time to help people like me.

    Nancy Steele Kemper


    Friday 30th April 2021, 10:57AM
  • One extra item. 

    I found a death for Catherine Steel of Carran, a farmer’s widow. She died 1894 aged 81. So presumably Alexander’s widow. He looks to have died before 1864 as there’s no death certificate for him, plus she is shown as having replaced him in 1862 in the Valuation records on the PRONI website. So he presumably died around that year.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Friday 30th April 2021, 07:37PM
  • Thank you, again!  Do you know if the Londonderry Sentinel is available to browse on-line? I don't see it on



    Sunday 2nd May 2021, 10:43AM
  • The Sentinel is on the British Newspaper Archive site. That’s a subscription site:

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Monday 3rd May 2021, 12:11AM
  • Hello again Elwyn,  Please let me know if I'm asking too many questions.

    I'd like to search for Mathew's wife Martha Ferguson Steele. She immigrated to America with her family but I don't know when. I can't find any records about when Martha and her two daughters Sarah and Mattie (Martha) traveled. I do know her son John traveled alone from Londonderry to Quebec arriving July 5, 1831. Her son Joseph states in his Naturalization papers that he arrived in Philadelphia in 1836 (no other information), and I found a passenger list from the Ship Prudence, for a James Steele who traveled from Londonderry to Philadelphia arriving July 19, 1832. I don't know if Martha and her daughters traveled with James or Joseph or at a different time. 

    Also, I found an old note that says the 1831 census of County Londonderry lists a Martha Steele as head of household on Rosemary Street in Coleraine. Could this possibly be her? 

    I would appreciate any help or suggestions where I may search.

    Thanks again for your help,



    Wednesday 5th May 2021, 11:05AM
  • Nancy,

    There was a Martha Steel in Rosemary Lane, Coleraine in 1831. She was head of household and lived there with 1 male. Both were Church of Ireland (Episcopalian).

    Rosemary Lane was later re-named Park St. (It’s still there today).

    I looked for deaths in the Coleraine area 1864 onwards. There were none for anyone named Martha Steel/e. So either she had died before 1864 or she had left the area.

    Coleraine Church of Ireland has baptism, marriage & burial records from 1769, so you might want to check them for your Steele family, including Matthew’s death c1818. The records don’t appear to be on-line anywhere but there is a copy in PRONI (the public record office) in Belfast. It’s still closed due to Covid but when it re-opens you might want to get a researcher to look them up for you. Researchers in the PRONI area:

    The 1831 census doesn’t have any other Martha Steel listed as head of household, nor are there any widow Steels. But the 1831 census only exists for that 1 county (the rest was lost in the 1922 fire), so if the family were living elsewhere in Ireland in 1831 we won’t find them. But possibly worth checking Coleraine Church of Ireland records if you are curious. Were your family that denomination? That might help decide whether this is likely to be your family. Also how old were Martha’s children in 1831? She evidently was living with just 1 male. If she had reasonably young sons and unmarried daughters you might expect them to still be with her.

    An underlying issue here is that we just don’t have the range of records to find families easily in the 1830s. And even when records do exist they are often not on-line (as in the case of Coleraine Church of Ireland records).  Searching is not an easy task, especially if you are uncertain where the family lived.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Thursday 6th May 2021, 12:14AM
  • Elwyn,

    Martha and her family eventually immigrated to the States but I can't prove when. I know her sons came in 1831, 32, and 36, but I can't find Martha and her two daughters on any manifest. The family are all buried in a Presbyterian cemetery in Pennsylvania, USA , so the Martha in Coleraine is probably not her. 

    I've been searching on and off since 2012 for my Steele family in Ireland, and still hitting so many brick walls. The loss of all those records in Ireland is so devastating for everyone searching for their families. 

    I can't thank you enough for all your help with my search, and thank you so much for being a volunteer. Your time is invaluable to people like me.

    XO, Nancy Steele Kemper




    Friday 7th May 2021, 10:36AM
  • Nancy,

    In the 1800s, a large number of migrants bound for the US went via Canada and then across the land border. (It was a cheaper route).  Unfortunately Canada didn’t start keeping passenger lists until the 1850s, so if that’s how your family arrived around the 1830s, then there may be no passenger records to find. But worth checking land border records, where they exist, just in case.

    Elwyn, IrelandXO Volunteer ☘

    Saturday 8th May 2021, 04:49AM