O'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. 
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. 
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, 1771, 1591, 1532, 1536, 1562, 1562, 1564, 1566, 1576, 1578 and 1578 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 (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...
In the United States, the name O'Rourke is the 2,393rd most popular surname with an estimated 12,435 people with that name.  However, in Australia, the name O'Rourke is ranked the 843rd most popular surname with an estimated 4,677 people with that name. 
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
O'Rourke Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
Some of the first settlers of this family name were:
O'Rourke Settlers in Canada in the 20th Century
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
SS Southern Cross
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.