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

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

Early Origins of the O'Rourke family

The surname O'Rourke 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'Rourke family

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

O'Rourke Spelling Variations

Pronunciation, rather than spelling, guided scribes and church officials when recording names during the Middle Ages. This practice often resulted in one person's name being recorded under several different spellings. Numerous spelling variations of the surname O'Rourke are preserved in these old documents. The various spellings of the name that were found include O'Rourke, O'Rorke, O'Rork, O'Rourk, O'Roark, Rourke, Rorke, Rourk, Roarke and many more.

Early Notables of the O'Rourke family

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 Br...

O'Rourke Ranking

In the United States, the name O'Rourke is the 2,393rd most popular surname with an estimated 12,435 people with that name. [2] However, in Australia, the name O'Rourke is ranked the 843rd most popular surname with an estimated 4,677 people with that name. [3]

United States O'Rourke migration to the United States +

The 19th century saw a great wave of Irish families leaving Ireland for the distant shores of North America and Australia. These families often left their homeland hungry, penniless, and destitute due to the policies of England. Those Irish immigrants that survived the long sea passage initially settled on the eastern seaboard of the continent. Some, however, moved north to a then infant Canada as United Empire Loyalists after ironically serving with the English in the American War of Independence. Others that remained in America later joined the westward migration in search of land. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, though, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America, and those who arrived were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. In fact, the foundations of today's powerful nations of the United States and Canada were to a larger degree built by the Irish. Archival documents indicate that members of the O'Rourke family relocated to North American shores quite early:

O'Rourke Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Bernard, Charles, Hugh, James, Michael, Patrick, Terence, Thomas, Timothy, and William O'Rourke all, who arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1860
  • Annie O'Rourke, aged 24, who landed in America, in 1894
  • Bdgt O'Rourke, aged 16, who settled in America from Ballingarry, in 1898
O'Rourke Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Bernard O'Rourke, aged 11, who landed in America from Ballymahon, in 1904
  • Barbara O'Rourke, aged 39, who landed in America from Ireland, in 1904
  • Andrew O'Rourke, aged 26, who landed in America from Leitrim, in 1904
  • Anne O'Rourke, aged 17, who settled in America from Leitrim, in 1906
  • Annie O'Rourke, aged 20, who immigrated to America from Murroe, Ireland, in 1908
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada O'Rourke migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

O'Rourke Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
  • Annie O'Rourke, aged 25, who immigrated to St Mary's, Newfoundlland, in 1923

Australia O'Rourke migration to Australia +

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

O'Rourke Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Bridget O'Rourke, aged 22, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Victoria Regia"
  • Patrick O'Rourke, aged 20, a labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Royal Albert"
  • Margaret O'Rourke, aged 18, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Royal Albert"
  • Mary O'Rourke, aged 20, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1857 aboard the ship "Royal Albert"

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

  • Patrick Jake "P.J." O'Rourke (1947-2022), American political satirist, journalist, and writer, H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute and a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard, three of his books made the The New York Times Best Seller list
  • Meghan O'Rourke (b. 1976), American poet and critic
  • Charles C. O'Rourke (1917-2000), nicknamed "Chuckin' Charlie," an American college quarterback and defensive back, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
  • James Jerome O'Rourke (1915-1983), American canoer at the 1936 Summer Olympics
  • Jessica Lynne O'Rourke (b. 1986), American professional soccer player
  • Michael "Mike" O'Rourke (1862-1882), nicknamed "Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce", American professional gambler of the Old West, who Wyatt Earp saved from being lynched in Tombstone, Arizona Territory in 1881
  • Danny O'Rourke (b. 1983), nicknamed "The Pirate," an American soccer player
  • Heather Michele O'Rourke (1975-1988), American child actress, best known for her roles in the Poltergeist film trilogy and her lines "They're here!" and "They're baa-aack!"; she died at the age of 12 of cardiac arrest from a misdiagnosed intestinal stenosis
  • James Henry "Orator Jim" O'Rourke (1850-1919), American Major League Baseball player who played from 1872 through 1904
  • Frank O'Rourke (1916-1989), American writer
  • ... (Another 48 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Flight 191
  • Mrs. P O'Rourke (d. 1979), American passenger from San Francisco, California, USA, who flew aboard American Airlines Flight 191 and died in the crash [4]
Halifax Explosion
  • Mr. Thomas J.  O'Rourke (1850-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the Halifax Explosion (1917) [5]
HMS Hood
  • Mr. Patrick C O'Rourke (b. 1909), English Leading Seaman serving for the Royal Navy from Battersea, London, England, who sailed into battle and died in the HMS Hood sinking [6]
HMS Repulse
  • Mr. O'Rourke, British Petty Officer, who sailed into battle on the HMS Repulse (1941) and survived the sinking [7]
SS Southern Cross
  • Mr. Walter O'Rourke (1891-1914), Newfoundlander from Outer Cove who was aboard the "SS Southern Cross" when it is suspected she sank between the 31st March 1914 and early April during the storm with a heavy load of pelts; no survivors were ever found

The O'Rourke 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. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. "Most Common Last Names in Australia." Forebears,
  4. Flight 191's Victims - latimes. (Retrieved 2014, April 16) . Retrieved from
  5. Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from
  6. H.M.S. Hood Association-Battle Cruiser Hood: Crew Information - H.M.S. Hood Rolls of Honour, Men Lost in the Sinking of H.M.S. Hood, 24th May 1941. (Retrieved 2016, July 15) . Retrieved from
  7. HMS Repulse Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from on Facebook