Show ContentsO'Rorke History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Irish name O'Rorke has a long Gaelic heritage to its credit. The original Gaelic form of the name O'Rorke is O Ruairc, which means descendant of Ruairc and; Ruairc is a personal name imported by Norse settlers.

Early Origins of the O'Rorke family

The surname O'Rorke was first found in counties Cavan and Leitrim (Irish: Liatroim) anciently the western half of the kingdom of Breifne, located in Northeastern Ireland, in Leinster province.

Of note was Tiernan O'Rourke (d. 1172), King of Breifne, called in Irish Tighearnan Ua Ruairc; he was head of the clans known as the Ui Briuin, or as the race of Aedh finn, and ruled Breifne. He first appears in the chronicles in 1124, and at that date had a son, Gillabroide, who was slain in battle with the Connaughtmen. O'Rourke had a considerable body of cavalry, and was defeated by a similar force under Conchobhar MacLochlainn at Ardee, co. Louth, in 1128. In 1130 he defeated and slew Diarmait O'Maelsechlainn, king of Meath, at Slieve Guaire, co. Cavan, and in the following year he ravaged Cuailgne and Omeath, then districts of Ulster, now in the co. Louth. [1]

Nineteen other chiefs or tanists named Tiernan O'Rourke occur in the Irish chronicles, of whom the most important was chief of the race of Aedh finn and of Breifne, married Aine, daughter of Tadhg MacDonnchaidh, and died in 1467. [1]

Early History of the O'Rorke family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our O'Rorke research. Another 128 words (9 lines of text) covering the years 1046, 1172, 1771, 1591, 1532, 1536, 1562, 1562, 1564, 1566, 1576, 1578 and 1578 are included under the topic Early O'Rorke History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

O'Rorke Spelling Variations

The Middle Ages saw a great number of spelling variations for surnames common to the Irish landscape. One reason for these variations is the fact that surnames were not rigidly fixed by this period. The following variations for the name O'Rorke were encountered in the archives: O'Rourke, O'Rorke, O'Rork, O'Rourk, O'Roark, Rourke, Rorke, Rourk, Roarke and many more.

Early Notables of the O'Rorke family (pre 1700)

Notable among the family name at this time was Sir Brian-Na-Murtha O'Rourke (d. 1591), Irish chieftain, a younger son of Brian Ballagh O'Rourke. "His grandfather, Owen O'Rourke, who was ‘chief of his name,’ was slain at Dromore in 1532, his son Brian Ballagh, ‘the speckled or freckled,’ being declared the O'Rourke in 1536. Brian Ballagh spent a life of constant fighting against his kinsmen and the English, and died in consequence of a fall in 1562; he ‘had the best collection of poems, and of all his tribe had bestowed the greatest number of presents for poetical eulogies;’ he was ‘senior...
Another 258 words (18 lines of text) are included under the topic Early O'Rorke Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States O'Rorke migration to the United States +

Death and immigration greatly reduced Ireland's population in the 19th century. For the native Irish people poverty, hunger, and racial prejudice was common. Therefore, thousands left their homeland to seek opportunity in North America. Those who survived the journey and the quarantine camps to which they arrived, were instrumental towards building the strong developing nations of the United States and the future Canada. By far, the largest influx of Irish settlers occurred with Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s. These were employed as construction or factory workers. An examination of passenger and immigration lists has shown early immigrants bearing the name O'Rorke:

O'Rorke Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas O'Rorke, who settled in Virginia in 1652
O'Rorke Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Michael O'Rorke, who settled in Philadelphia in 1868

Australia O'Rorke migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

O'Rorke Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Daniel O'Rorke, aged 19, a farm labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Europa" [2]

New Zealand O'Rorke migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

O'Rorke Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Adelaide O'Rorke, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "St. Leonards" in 1873
  • Henrietta O'Rorke, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "St. Leonards" in 1873

Contemporary Notables of the name O'Rorke (post 1700) +

  • Patrick O'Rorke (1837-1863), Irish-American colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War
  • Barry O'Rorke (b. 1989), Irish Gaelic football and hurling player
  • Brian O'Rorke (1901-1974), New Zealand interior designer
  • Sir Maurice O'Rorke (1830-1916), New Zealand Speaker of the House 1879–1902
  • Colonel Frederick O'Rorke, Commander of Gibraltar

HMS Repulse
  • Mr. Frederick G Ororke, British Petty Officer, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse (1941) and survived the sinking [3]


The O'Rorke Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Serviendo guberno
Motto Translation: I govern by serving.


  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  2. ^ South Australian Register Monday 14th May 1855. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Europa 1855. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/europa1855.shtml
  3. ^ HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listrepulsecrew.html


Houseofnames.com on Facebook