The surname Steer is derived from the old Danish word, Stiur, meaning wild ox. References to Stur, son of Ulf can be found in letters dating back to the reign of Ethelred around 1002. They also appear in connection with William the Conqueror, who awarded them land on the Isle of Wight. From there one branch of the Stur family settled in Devon - Roger le Stur who died in 1269 was known to have held land in the Manor of Honiton. The name became fixed as Steer throughout Devon in the mid 18th century.
The earliest ancestor I have been able to trace is Andrew Sture of East Allington, Devon. His son, Henry Steer was born there in 1715. The family were blacksmiths at Coles Cross - a small village within the parish of East Allington. Henry's grandson Philip had three children who had close connections with Guernsey. His eldest son, Thomas Lapthorn Steer and wife Sarah West settled in Guernsey in about 1840. His second son, Philip, married a woman named Julia Foster from Guernsey, before settling back in Devon, and his youngest daughter Matilda Elizabeth moved to Guernsey in 1851 where she married William Henry Foote. Matilda, my great great grandmother, lived to the age of 92 (see picture).
Thomas & Sarah raised a family in Guernsey, two of whom - Edwin and Frederick - turned their blacksmith skills to work at Keiller's Marmalade factory as tinsmiths. Edwin worked at Keiller's in Dundee for a while, and Frederick transferred to the new factory in Silvertown, when the Guernsey factory shut down. For more details see "The Secret History of Guernsey Marmalade" by W Mathew (published by La Société Guernesiaise, 1998).
Researching Steer Family History
Rootsweb supports an active Steer Surname Mailing List. To join, simply send an email with "subscribe" as the only words in the body of the email to STEER-Lfirstname.lastname@example.org or STEER-Demail@example.com for the Digest version. NEW John's Steer's Steer Family History web site is starting to pull together a lot of the work of many of the list members. Steer entries from Census and Civil Registration in England & Wales are among the first to be featured.
Last update: 21 Mar 2004