Show ContentsRorke History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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

Early Origins of the Rorke family

The surname 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 Rorke family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our 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 Rorke History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Rorke Spelling Variations

Those scribes in Ireland during the Middle Ages recorded names as they sounded. Consequently, in this era many people were recorded under different spellings each time their name was written down. Research on the Rorke family name revealed numerous spelling variations, including O'Rourke, O'Rorke, O'Rork, O'Rourk, O'Roark, Rourke, Rorke, Rourk, Roarke and many more.

Early Notables of the 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 Rorke Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Rorke migration to the United States +

A massive amount of Ireland's native population left the island in the 19th century for North America and Australia in hopes of finding more opportunities and an escape from discrimination and oppression. A great portion of these migrants arrived on the eastern shores of the North American continent. Although they were generally poor and destitute, and, therefore, again discriminated against, these Irish people were heartily welcomed for the hard labor involved in the construction of railroads, canals, roadways, and buildings. Many others were put to work in the newly established factories or agricultural projects that were so essential to the development of what would become two of the wealthiest nations in the world. The Great Potato Famine during the late 1840s initiated the largest wave of Iris immigration. Early North American immigration and passenger lists have revealed a number of people bearing the name Rorke or a variant listed above:

Rorke Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Henryett Rorke, who arrived in Virginia in 1647 [2]
  • Thomas Rorke, who arrived in Virginia in 1652 [2]
  • James Rorke, who arrived in Virginia in 1652 [2]
Rorke Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Luke Rorke, who landed in America in 1801 [2]
  • John Rorke, who landed in Newport, Rhode Island in 1811 [2]
  • Owen Rorke, who arrived in Newport, Rhode Island in 1811 [2]
  • Patrick Rorke, who landed in Newport, Rhode Island in 1811 [2]
  • Bryan Rorke, who landed in Newport, Rhode Island in 1811 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Rorke migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Rorke Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • William Rorke, aged 34, a shoemaker, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the ship "Britannia" from Sligo, Ireland
  • John Rorke, aged 18, a shoemaker, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833 aboard the ship "Britannia" from Sligo, Ireland

Australia Rorke migration to Australia +

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

Rorke Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Miss Ann Rorke, (b. 1756), aged 57, Irish convict who was convicted in Dublin, Ireland for life, transported aboard the "Catherine" on 8th December 1813, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, listed as a transferred to Tasmania [3]
  • Mr. James Rorke, (b. 1783), aged 44, Irish farm servant who was convicted in Limerick, Ireland for life for highway robbery, transported aboard the "Eliza" on 19th July 1827, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [4]
  • Mary Rorke, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Navarino" in 1837 [5]
  • Mr. Francis Rorke, (Rourke, O'Rourke), (b. 1821), aged 16, Irish errand boy who was convicted in Roscommon, Ireland for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Calcutta" in 19th April 1837, arriving in New South Wales, Australia, he died in 1887 [6]

New Zealand 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:

Rorke Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Maurice Rorke, (b. 1850), aged 24, Irish ploughman from Kerry travelling from London aboard the ship "Tweed" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 4th September 1874 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Rorke (post 1700) +

  • W. H. Rorke (1901-1902), American college football coach, the fifth head football coach at New York University
  • Hayden Henry Rorke (1910-1987), American actor perhaps best known for playing the psychiatrist Col. Dr. Alfred E. Bellows on the 60's sitcom I Dream of Jeannie [8]
  • John Rorke (1807-1896), Irish-born, Newfoundland merchant and politician who represented Carbonear in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly from 1863 to 1882
  • Mary Rorke (1858-1938), English actress from London, active in the early films from 1915 to 1933
  • Joseph Rorke (1832-1907), Canadian businessman and politician represented Grey Centre in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 1886 to 1894
  • Gordon Frederick Rorke (b. 1938), Australian former cricketer who played in 4 Tests in 1959
  • Daniel Rorke, Australian saxophonist who resides in Norway

The 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. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retreived 2nd January 2021, retreived from
  4. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th February 2022). Retrieved from
  5. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) NAVARINO 1837. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 25th November 2020). Retrieved from
  7. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  8. ^ Hayden Rorke. (Retrieved 2011, January 21) Hayden Rorke. Retrieved from on Facebook