Steele Surname Genealogy

Steel and Steele
surnames came from Scotland and the north of
England.  There were two possible origins
for these names:

  • that
    they may have
    started out as nicknames – describing someone who was inflexible and
    firm, i.e.
    as hard as steel.   
  • and/or
    that they may have
    derived from the place-name of Steel, found along the Anglo-Scottish
    border in
    Ayrshire, Berwickshire and Dumfriesshire and also in Northumberland and

Steele Resources on

Steele Ancestry

England.   The
main early sightings appear to have been in Cheshire.

Cheshire.  The Steeles
at Sandbach
dated back to Richard Steele who had acquired Giddy
Hall in the
early 1600’s.  The main line followed his
son William to Ireland where he was appointed Lord Chancellor in
1656.  A branch
via John Steele returned to England in the early 1700’s and became
Steel in
Suffolk.  Other Steeles remained at

plates and cups in the silver communion service used at the old
Sandbach parish church bear the following inscription: ‘The gift of
Steele, second son of Richard Steele of Sandbach, for the use of the
parish of Sandbach forever. 1656.’”

Steele line in Cheshire was to be found at Barthomley where Richard
Steele was
born around the year 1550.  Three Steele
descendants were massacred at the local church on Christmas Eve 1643 by
Royalists.  Richard Steele, not one of
these, moved to London and became a nonconformist minister.  Later Steeles in Barthomley held Buddylee
farm.  Another Steele farming family
there, indebted, emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1795.

Elsewhere.  Steeles in the village of
Fairsted near
Basildon in Essex appeared around the year 1500.  John
Steele emigrated from there to America
in 1631.

Steeles in Broughton in Hampshire went back to William Steele, a local
carpenter in the early 1600’s.  Four
generations later the Steeles were well-to-do timber merchants, with
Steele – following his brother Henry – also active as pastor of
his local Baptist
church.  His daughter Anne Steele, born in 1717,
became a
prolific hymn writer.

Samuel Steele, born in 1708, was the first of his line in
Coleford, Gloucestershire.  He had two
sons – Elmes a surgeon and Samuel an army officer in Canada.  Six
of Elmes’s sons
followed in these footsteps.

was believed to have been below-board as an assistant surgeon on the Victory at Trafalgar, another was
drowned during a naval exercise in the Baltic.
Three served as soldiers throughout the Peninsular War, one of
whom died
from his wounds at Waterloo and another was said to have been the
tallest man
in the British army during the subsequent occupation in Paris.” 

Another naval officer Elmes Steele retired
early and emigrated to Canada in 1832.

In general, it should be said however, the Steele surname was to be
found mainly in the northwest of England, in a line stretching north
Staffordshire through Cheshire and Lancashire into Cumberland. 

Scotland.  Early
Steels in Scotland
were spelt Steill, possibly from the parish
Berwickshire of that name.

The Steels of Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire had joined
the army of Covenanters at war with the Stuart kings.
The aged father Robert Steel was slain in
1679, whilst his son Captain John Steel at that time narrowly escaped
death.  After years on the run David Steel was murdered
outside his
front door by Royalist dragoons in 1686.

Descendants of these Steels have

  • the
    Steels who fled to Ireland and subsequently emigrated to
  • and
    David Steel, the UK Liberal party leader from 1976 to 1988.

Steel, a shipowner from Kirkwood in Lanarkshire who had made his home
Liverpool in the mid-19th century, was the forebear of an English
family.  There were seven Steel sons, of
whom four played first-class cricket for Lancashire and one Allan or AG
times for England.

Ireland.  There
were English Steeles and Scottish Steels
in Ireland.

The English Steeles were based in Dublin following William Steele’s
appointment as Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1656.
His grandson Sir Richard Steele, born there,
made his name as a politician and playwright.
He co-founded in 1709 with his friend Joseph Addison the
magazine The Tatler (which continues to this
day).  Richard’s grandson, also named
Richard, emigrated to Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s.

According to family
tradition three Steel brothers, loyal to the Covenanter cause, had been
to flee Scotland.  It was said that one
of the rebel John Steel ended up in Donegal.
Many of these Steels later also emigrated to Pennsylvania.

Other Scottish Steels were to be found at Castleblaney in
Monaghan.  The lads here formed the
“Steelboy insurrection” against English rule in the early 1770’s.  For nearly three years the Steelboys
slaughtered cattle and destroyed the property of new tenants.
Steel then departed
for Pennsylvania in 1774.

America.  John
and George Steele from Essex were early arrivals
in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631.
They moved inland four years later to be among the first
settlers of
Hartford, Connecticut.  Daniel Steele
Durrie’s 1862 book was entitled Steele
Family: A Genealogical History of John and George Steele

Steele descendants migrated to New York (and
the numbers here included the landscape architect Fletcher Steele) and
to Ohio
and California.

Steele was a West Point graduate and a hero of the Mexican and Civil
Wars.  In 1853 he returned to Ohio and told his brothers of the
opportunities in California, convincing them to make the journey and
there with their families.”

This they did in the next five years, leasing land at
Rancho Punta Año Nuevo and setting up five dairy farms.
Their story was told in C.B. and W.H.
Steele’s 1971 book The Steeles of Punta Año Nuevo.

Meanwhile another Steele line, in this case
via New York, produced Elijah Steele who had arrived in California in
1850 and
was an Indian agent in northern California.

Pennsylvania.  The Steele arrivals into
Pennsylvania were
more numerous and included English (or Anglo-Irish) and Scottish (or
Irish) Steeles.

The Anglos included:

  • Richard
    the grandson of Sir Richard Steele, who was granted lands in the
    vicinity of
    Mercersburg in the 1730’s.  Three of his
    sons, including Captain Andrew Steele who fought in the Revolutionary
    later settled in Fayette county, Kentucky. 
  • and
    George Steele from Cheshire who
    came to Chester county in 1795.  His line
    was covered in Frederick Steele’s 1896 book The
    Descendants of George Steele of Barthomley. 

amongst the more
numerous Scots Irish in Pennsylvania were:

  • William
    Steele who arrived in 1750
    and made his home in Steelville, Chester county.  His
    grandson Franklin headed west in 1838 and
    was an early settler in Minneapolis.
  • the
    Rev. John Steele who came to Carlisle in
    Cumberland county in 1759 and served as the pastor of the Presbyterian
    there for twenty years.  He was known as
    the fighting parson in the early years of the Revolutionary War.  The name of Ephraim
    first appeared in Carlisle in 1769.
    He was an influential merchant and landowner
    there for forty-five years.
  • James
    Steel from Monaghan who was in Cumberland
    county by 1774, but soon headed west to Westmoreland county where he
    died in
  • the
    various Steel Covenanter descendants in Donegal who came to
    Pennsylvania in stages between 1790 and 1824.  The
    Rev. David Steele was a Covenanter minister in
    Huntingdon and later
    served as a pastor in Adams county, Ohio. 
  • a
    later arrival in 1846 was a Steele widow and her four sons from
    Glasgow in Scotland.  Her eldest son
    started work in Philadelphia as a carpenter.

    1886 the four sons
    were partners in William Steele and Son,
    Carpenters and Builders
    .  No longer
    house builders, they had quickly moved into large-scale construction.  The project for which they became famous was
    the Shibe Park baseball stadium, completed in 1909.

Pennsylvania also had some German-origin
Steeles who had come as Stahls.
such was Johann Jakob Stahl who arrived in
Philadelphia from Rheinland-Pfalz in 1738.
Their son
Georg Stahl

George Steele.

Elsewhere.  John Steele of Rowan county,
North Carolina was a nephew of the Ephraim Steele in Pennsylvania.  He served as a Federalist legislator after
the Revolutionary War and was appointed comptroller of the US Treasury
George Washington in 1796.

Thomas Steele, a native of Dublin, had served on the
schooner General Putnam in defence of
New York during the Revolutionary War.
He settled with his family in Kentucky in 1798.
His grandson Alfonso fought with Sam Houston
at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 during the Texas Revolution.  On his death in 1911 he was the last
remaining survivor of that battle.

Canada.  James
and Thomas Steele, brothers from Antrim, arrived in Simcoe county
sometime in
the 1820’s.   Both settled in West
Gwillimbury township and both married McAfee girls.

Sam Steele, the son of retired British naval officer Elmes Steele,
was born in
Medonte township, Simcoe county in 1849.
He became an officer of the North-West Mounted Police, most
famously as
the head of the Yukon detachment during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898.

South of Simcoe county lay the city of Toronto where
Thomas and Milcah Steele arrived from Yorkshire in 1834.
Thomas and later his son John were
proprietors of the Green Bush Inn in
its Newtonbrook suburb.  Steele’s Corners
and Steele’s Avenue in the area were named after them.

Australia.  The early Steele accounts in Australia
related to convicts.

Betty Steele was a deaf young woman who was convicted of
burglary in London and transported to Australia on the infamous Lady Juliana in 1789.  She
ended up in Norfolk Island where she
pioneered a farm with her ex-convict husband James Mackey.
Freed in 1794 she, however, died just one
year later.  She might have been
forgotten had not her gravestone been discovered in 1971 almost two
years later.

George Steel from Suffolk came out to Tasmania as a fee settler in
1828.  Six years later he was convicted
of cattle stealing and sent also to Norfolk Island.
Freed in 1843 he lived out the rest of his
life in Liverpool, NSW.

Steele Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Steele Names

Sir Richard Steele was
an 18th century Irish
playwright, and politician, remembered as the co-founder of The Tatler.
Sam Steele was a famous
Canadian Mountie in the 1890’s at the time of the Klondike gold rush.
Frederick Burgett, was an American middleweight
boxing champion of the world in the 1930’s who later became a Hollywood

Tommy Steele,
born Thomas Hicks, was
regarded in the
1950’s as Britain’s first teen idol and rock and roll star.

from Scotland was the
leader of the Liberal Party from 1976 until its merger with the Social
Democratic Party in 1988.  

Danielle Steel

is an American writer, known for her best-selling romance novels

Select Steeles Today

  • 38,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 34,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 16,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)




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