Steinbeck's Ballykelly roots part 2

Mulkeeragh townland was church land but became part of Phillips' Limavady estate early in the seventeenth century. William Conolly, Speaker in the Irish House of Commons purchased the entire estate in 1697. In his will the lease for years which he held from the See of Derry he bequeathed to 'my agent Robert McCausland, Esq as an acknowledgement for the faithful service he has done me'. Thus, the church lands of Drumachose, Tamlaght Finlagan and Balteagh, originally leased by Phillips, passed to the McCauslands and became the Drenagh estate.

The Hamiltons have a long association with Mulkeeragh townland. The story of Stenbeicks' Hamilton family roots, however is a rather complicated one!

The earliest record I have been able to locate is in the Conolly archives in PRONI. 

A very interesting document in the Conolly papers in PRONI contains a list of tenants who proposed to emigrate to New England in 1718 and who had disposed of their lands before emigrating (also lists the new tenants on the lands).

Conolly Estate, Limavady (PRONI T2825)
A List of persons in the Manor of Limavady, which are gone or going to New England and how they disposed of their lands, dated 24th August 1718.

John Hamilton, of Mulkeeragh, gone (replaced by His wife Allison ye land)

What is interesting here is that John Hamilton left for America and his wife Allison is listed as the new tenant. John Hamilton is listed in the 1740 protestant householders' returns for Mulkeeragh in the parish of Tamlaght Finlagan so it is entirely possible that John returned to Ireland.

There are a number of Hamilton baptisms and marriages in the local Ballykelly Presbyterian registers (baptisms 1699-1710 and marriages 1699-1740) but unfortunately no townland address is give in these early registers. I have transcribed (and databased) these records from the originals held in the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast. Written in a distinct hand they are amongst the earliest Presbyterian records in Ulster. Two examples are given below:

Ballykelly Presbyterian registers (spelling as in original) 
Baptised 8 April 1705 Betty of William Hamilton

Married John Hamilton in Ballykelly cong(regation) & Jean Miller in ye parish of Desert and allowed benefit of proclamation in ordeur to marriage 5 July 1710 (note Desert probably refers to Desertoghill parish).

We have no way of knowing if these Hamiltons were related to those in Mulkeeragh but it does show the preponderance of the surname in the Ballykelly area in the early 18th century. Hamilton is of course a common name in Ulster.

There is then a long gap in the records as the next reference is found in the 1831 census returns when we find a William Hamilton resident in Mulkeeragh. 

1831 census Mulkeeragh, Tamlaght Finlagan
No 2. William Hamilton one family present 6 males 2 females in total 8 all Presbyterian.

Interesting that this William Hamilton does not appear in the tithes book for Tamlaght Finlagan parish, which is an indication that he did not hold land. His wife appears to have been Jane Little. An entry in the Ballykelly Church of Ireland registers as follows:

1822 Nov 25th Anne dau of William Hamilton & Jane Little his wife near Sheephill (page 122).

Sheephill is the English translation of Mulkeeragh. 

Ballykelly Presbyterian registers records a number of children to a William Hamilton of Sheephill (Mulkeeragh)
Hugh Hamilton 2 Dec 1826
James Hamilton 18 Jan 1829
Joseph Hamilton 1 July 1831

In addition an early register for Ballykelly Male School exists (SCH1081)
June 1930 No 82 William Hamilton aged 10 Sheephill
May 1st 1831 No 118 David Hamilton aged 5 Sheephill

The family of William Hamilton appears to have disappeared from Mulkeeragh by the time of Griffiths Valuation (1858). Evidence suggests that they may have moved to Drumreighland.

Where does Samuel Hamilton the great grandfather of Steinbeck fit into this picture?
Back to the Ballykelly Presbyterian registers.  It is generally agreed that an entry dated for 1830 refers to Steinbeck's maternal grandfather:
Samuel Hamilton bapt 7 Oct 1830 son of John Hamilton

Other children of John Hamilton baptised in Ballykelly Presbyterian registers:
William Hamilton 1817
Elizabeth Hamilton 1819
Thomas Hamilton 1826
Robert Hamilton 1828
Margaret Hamilton 1833

No John Hamilton was recorded in Mulkeeragh in 1831. There was of course a William Hamilton in Mulkeeragh 1831 who fits the profile as a brother (or cousin) of John Hamilton.

John Hamilton appears to have resided in the village of Ballykelly in 1831:
No 31 John Hamilton one family 6 males & 3 females all Presbyterian

So it seems likely that Samuel Hamilton baptised 1830 in Ballykelly Presbyterian was actually born in Ballykelly rather than Mulkeeragh.

When Steinbeck visited Mulkeeragh in 1958 he was armed with some important family tradition.

(In the 1920's one) of my uncles made the trip (Joseph Hamilton of Chicago). He reported that he had wept out of pure sentiment the whole time. He also reported that the family was just about played out; there remained two sisters and a brother—Katherine, Elizabeth and Thomas —children of my grandfather's brother, all old and all unmarried. They lived in the "new house" (the old house had burned down several hundred years ago). 

Steinbeck mentions 'children of my grandfather's brother' - this refers to William John Hamilton.

In the Ballykelly school male registers (SCH 1081) I found the following:
No 50. Wm Jno Hamilton, Ballykelly, aged 6 entered 1st March 1830
No. 239 Saml Hamilton, Ballykelly (no age) entered Feb 1835

A rather faded entry for Saml Hamilton entry number 239 Ballykelly Male School register

Here is perhaps confirmation that Steinbeck's maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton was educated in Ballykelly School in 1835. His older brother William John Hamilton had entered the same school in 1830.

In 1858 William John Hamilton married Jane Ritche of nearby Tully.
Civil marriage Ballykelly Presbyterian 25 Nov 1858
William John Hamilton, Mulkeeragh, farmer son of John Hamilton farmer to Jane Ritichie of Tully dau of William Ritichie farmer: Witnesses - William Ritchie & William Crawford

This marriage was also recorded in the Coleraine Chronicle newspaper 4 Dec 1858
At Ballykelly on 25th November by the Rev. T.Y. Killen, Mr. William John Hamilton of Mulkeragh to Jane, second daughter of the late Mr. William Ritchie, Tully, near Newtownlimavady.

Children of the above William John Hamilton and Jane Ritichie
Catherine Jane Hamilton 1859
Alexander Clark Hamilton 1861
Mary Elizabeth Hamilton 1864
William Scott Hamilton 1867
Thomas Clark Latta Hamilton 1872

Some tantalising clues are contained in the naming patterns - since Clark & Scott families also resided in Mulkeeragh this most likely indicates maternal and paternal connections to these families.

It has been stated that Samuel Hamilton born c.1830 was son of John Hamilton by Esther Clark. Possibly this is oral tradition as the Ballykelly registers only name the father in the records before the 1840s. The fact that William John Hamilton gave two of his children the Clark name is suggestive in itself. Also interesting is the name Scott as mentioned Scotts were also in Mulkeeragh. The surname Latta has a resonance in Donegal particularly Taughboyne area but I have also noted the surname Lattin in the Roe Valley of which Latta may be a corruption.

We have to explain then how William John Hamilton came to reside on a farm in Mulkeeragh when his family were resident in Ballykelly in 1831 headed by his father John Hamilton. It will be noted that William John Hamilton's marriage certificate of 1858 indicates that both he and his father John were farmers. William John Hamilton is not listed in the Griffiths valuation (1858) for Mulkeeragh.

Indeed the records fail to note the presence of any Hamilton farm in Mulkeeragh for a considerable period of time from 1794 to 1858. There are however, Clarkes and Scotts listed in the townland as farmers in this period. Perhaps, the family legend that the old Hamilton house burned down has some substance to it!

McCausland estate survey and map of 1794 (TH Mullin notes Coleraine Library Book 5 pages 32-47) lists the following as tenants and farmers in Mulkeeragh - 
John Thompson, Mr Edward Ross, Henry Montgomery, Widow Clarke, and Samuel Clarke (note - John Ritchie was listed in Tully)

McCausland estate rental 1826/1827 Mulkeeragh (D1550)
No 1 was Samuel Clarke paying annual rent of £27-13-10 and No 2 William Scott £28-12-4 (note - John and William Richey listed in Tully)

It is also noted that in the 1831 valuation field book only four houses were valued above the three pound threshold namely Moore, Arbuckle, Clark and Scott
1831 Field Valuation Book Mulkeeragh, Tamlaght Finlagan

No Hamilton was listed in the 1794 survey, tithes (1826), 1827 rentals or Griffiths valuation (1858) indicating that in the period 1794 through to 1858 that no Hamilton held a farm in Mulkeeragh. 

Yet, in his will of 1879 it is clear that William John Hamilton was a farmer of some means:

The will of William Hamilton Mulkeeragh who died 28 April 1879 farmer left his wife Jane the farm held under Conolly Thomas McCausland Esq and all property. To son Thomas Clark Latta Hamilton -- to inherit farm on his mother's death. Legacies of 200 pounds each to daughters Catherine Jane and Minnie when of age (21) or upon marriage. Exors were John Ritchie of Tully and Robert James Irwin of Ballyspallen 
Will dated 27 April 1879 witnesses by John Limerick & Matthew Watt.
Effect £780 2s. 3d (probated 1881)

William John Hamilton died in 1879 at the relatively young age of 55 (giving a lifespan of c1827-1879). He appears then to have been the older brother of Samuel Hamilton the emigrant (c1830-1904). 

A search of the Griffiths' revision books (PRONI online) indicates that William John Hamilton came into possession of a farm of some 45 acres before 1877 from William Scott (4a in the Griffiths books). Upon his death the farm passed to Thomas CJ Hamilton and then to Jane Hamilton his children.

A headstone in Tamlaght Finlagan Church of Ireland graveyard (also contains Presbyterian burials) helps to solve the riddle of inheritance.

In memory of William Scott/Mulkeeragh/who died 17 April 1875 aged 89 years/also his nephew William John Hamilton died 28 April 1879 aged 55 years/ and his son Alexander S Hamilton died 15 Nov 1861 aged 8 years/ also his son William S Hamilton died 4 Sept 1876 aged 9 years.

Thus, William John Hamilton inherited the farm in Mulkeeragh from his uncle William Scott (c.1785-1875).

The 1794 survey lists a William Scott in Mulkeeragh. A William Scott was listed in the tithes for Mulkeeragh 1826. In 1831 census No 7 Mulkeeragh William Scott was listed as head with 1 male and 1 female in family as well as 1 female servant total of  3 Presbyterians. That he had a servant indicates someone of above average means. This is confirmed in the 1831 field book which reveals his house and offices was valued at £6 and liable to rates.  William Scott of Mulkeeeragh is listed as one of the highest cess payers in the Barony of Keenaght in 1843 (Derry Journal 24 Oct 1843).

An interesting snippet from the Belfast Newsletter (19 Sept 1828) reporting on Keenaght Branch of the NW Society reveals that William Scott of Mulkeeragh was one of the more progressive farmers in the district. In the list of farming servant premiums for long and faithful service 1st premium went to Patrick McBride who has served Mr William Scott of Mulkeeragh for 37 years (that is from 1791 to 1828). This probably refers to William Scott senior. William Scott (c.1785-1875) who was William John Hamilton's uncle was probably son of William Scott senior.

1794 is the earliest reference I have been able to unearth of a Scott in Mulkeeragh. The Clarke family were of greater antiquity in the townland.

The late Julia E Mullin in her book the Presbytery of Limavady stated 'During siege times pewter plates belonging to the congregation were buried in the garden of the Hamiltons of Mulkeeragh' (p34). 

Further light is shed on this story in an article in the Northern Whig newspaper article dated 13 March 1928 (centenary celebrations of the building of the new church).
'The collection plates used at these services were loaned especially for the occasion. They are pewter plates with a history. They originally belonged to the Clarke family of Mulkeeragh and they were buried for safety in the garden there when the Earl of Antrim's 'Redshanks' were pillaging the country on their advance to the siege of Derry. Showing every evidence of antiquity, but remarkably well-preserved, the plates are now the property of the Hamilton family, Mulkeeragh, who are direct descendants of the original Clark family'.

The 1740 Protestant householders' returns gives Hugh Clerk (sic) in Mulkeeragh.

A Samuel Clark of Molkira (sic) had effects administered in 1794 (Derry Admin Bonds). Widow Clarke is listed in the 1794 McCausland survey alongside Samuel Clarke probably her son.

A Samuel Clark was listed in Mulkeeragh in the 1826 tithes, 1827 rental and 1831 census 4m/5f and 1 f servant 10 Presbyterians present in the household. In the 1831 valuation the Clark household was valued at £4-12 

A headstone in BK Church of Ireland records the following:
Sacred to the memory of Samuel Clark junior departed this life 18 Aug 1837 aged 40 and of his parents Samuel & Martha Clark of Mulkeeragh.

This is a rather rambling account of the Hamilton, Clark and Scott families in Mulkeeragh. We are constrained by the limits of the records but we can be fairly certain that Steinbeck had deep roots in the valley of the Roe.



  1. In the evening of his days Robert Hamilton is enjoying a relaxation from the busy cares of active life, making his home in San Jose, where he has lived for many years. A native of Ireland, he was born May 12, 1829, a son of John and Esther (Scott) Hamilton. When only a lad of fourteen years he came to New York City, and in Brooklyn he learned the trade of a painter, following it until 1853, when he came to California by way of Nicaragua, intent upon finding his fortune as so many thousands were doing----in the gold mines of the state. Unfortunately, he caught a fever on the passage out and his health failed in the new country, and he was obliged to return east. After his marriage there with Rebeca Gregory he came again to California, bringing her with him by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Locating in San Francisco he followed his trade there for four years, after which he mined for a short time, and then came to San Jose. Here he purchased five acres of land and erected a house between the city and cemetery, and engaged in farming operations. For about four years he engaged in sheep raising, purchasing three hundred sheep for $900, and in four years had a flock of one thousand. This would have brought him considerable financial returns had not the drought of 1874 caused him to lose heavily, when he disposed of his interests in this line and returned to painting. He had sold his ranch in 1870 and built the house where he now lives, and later built the two adjoining cottages, all this being very valuable property. In 1898 he retired from active labor, seeking a well-earned rest. He began life with nothing, but pluck and energy have brought him success, and he merits well the general respect and esteem in which he is held.
    Mr. Hamilton’s wife died in 1885, at the age of sixty-eight years. They were the parents of seven children, of whom two only are now living, namely: Mrs. Susie R. Igler, of Portland, Ore.; and Robert G., who is manager of the Swiss-Italian Colony Company, of San Francisco. In memory of his first years in the state Mr. Hamilton is a member of the Pioneer Society.


    Pioneer Who Had Interesting Career Is Buried at Oak Hill Cemetery

    Alex P. Murgotten, secretary of the Santa Clara County Society of California pioneers, conducted the simple funeral services society yesterday afternoon have 3:30 o’clock at the San Jose Undertaking company for the late Robert Hamilton, uncle Judge J. E. Richards of the appellate court. Mr. Hamilton died Friday of an illness due to his advanced years. He was 87 years of age.
    The late Mr. Hamilton had an eventful life, two wrecks playing an important part in his career. As a boy 14, he was his he and his older sister, the mother of Judge Richards, came to New York from their home in north of Ireland. There he started to learn the painters trade. After a short time, he heard that there was plenty of work for painters in New Orleans and he made the long voyage there. Shortly afterwards, he notified his sister that he was leaving by ship for New York. The ship failed to arrive for weeks and weeks after it was due and his sister was greatly alarmed. Finally however, the vessel made port and she learned that it had been damaged at sea and had been forced to put into the island of St. Thomas for repair. There Mr. Hamilton assisted in the work of repairing the ship
    In 1853 he and his sister came to California via Nicaragua and they were again shipwrecked, both being rescued from the sinking vessel by means of rope. After this trip to California, they returned to New York, where he was married to Rebecca Gregory who return with him to San Francisco via Panama in 1858. They came to San Jose in 1865 and Mr. Hamilton purchased a small ranch in San Jose and the Cemetery on the Monterey Road. He followed his trade of painter here and accumulated a comfortable competence for his declining years.
    Mrs. Hamilton died in 1885 at the age of 68 years. Although seven children were born of the union but two are living. Mrs. D. C. Alger of Portland, Ore. and Robert G. Hamilton San Francisco
    A brother, Samuel Hamilton, was a resident for many years of Salinas, where he died a few years ago. The family is well known and highly respected there. W. J. Martin, formerly manager for the Col wholesale house, is a son-in-law of Samuel Hamilton. Another son was George Hamilton, manager of Paso Robles flour mills, and Mrs. Olive Steinbeck of Salinas and Will Hamilton of King City were son and daughter. The pallbearers of the funeral yesterday were FB Kennedy, BW Borchers, A P Murgotten, LD Stephens, Simeon Baker and HA De Lacy.

    San Jose Mercury News, published as San Jose Mercury Herald (San Jose, California) • 06-11-1916 • Page [13]


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