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An excerpt from archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

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


The surname 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.

Within the archives researched, many different spelling variations of the surname Rourke were found. These included One reason for the many variations is that scribes and church officials often spelled an individual's name as it sounded. This imprecise method often led to many versions. O'Rourke, O'Rorke, O'Rork, O'Rourk, O'Roark, Rourke, Rorke, Rourk, Roarke and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Rourke research. Another 240 words (17 lines of text) covering the years 1046, 1172, and 1771 are included under the topic Early Rourke History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Rourke Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


To escape the religious and political discrimination they experienced primarily at the hands of the English, thousands of Irish left their homeland in the 19th century. These migrants typically settled in communities throughout the East Coast of North America, but also joined the wagon trains moving out to the Midwest. Ironically, when the American War of Independence began, many Irish settlers took the side of England, and at the war's conclusion moved north to Canada. These United Empire Loyalists, were granted land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula. Other Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, however, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America and Australia. Many of those numbers, however, did not live through the long sea passage. These Irish settlers to North America were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. Irish settlers made an inestimable contribution to the building of the New World. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the Irish name Rourke or a variant listed above, including:

Rourke Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Daniel Rourke, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1773

Rourke Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Hugh Rourke, who arrived in America in 1801
  • Patrick Rourke, who landed in America in 1802
  • Henry Rourke, aged 26, landed in Missouri in 1841
  • Robert Rourke, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1842
  • Thomas Rourke, aged 21, landed in Mobile, Ala in 1848

Rourke Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • John Rourke, aged 20, landed in Red River, Canada in 1811
  • Ellen Rourke, who arrived in Canada in 1823
  • Timothy Rourke, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1833
  • Patrick Rourke, aged 38, a weaver, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Sea Horse" in 1833
  • Christopher Rourke, aged 5, arrived in Saint John, NB aboard the ship "Sea Horse" in 1833

Rourke Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Daniel Rourke, a smith, arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Mary Rourke, aged 18, a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Rodney"
  • Patrick Rourke, aged 26, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Lismoyne"
  • Lawrence Rourke, aged 28, a sawyer, arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Sir Thomas Gresham"

Rourke Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Michael Rourke arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "John Masterman" in 1857
  • Elizabeth Rourke arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "John Masterman" in 1857
  • Elizabeth Rourke arrived in Nelson aboard the ship "Golconda" in 1859
  • Owen Rourke, aged 22, a labourer, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Dallam Tower" in 1875
  • Ellen Rourke, aged 29, a servant, arrived in Taranaki aboard the ship "Hermione" in 1878


  • Russell A. Rourke (1931-2003), American government administrator; Secretary of the Air Force 1985–86
  • Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke (b. 1952), American film actor, recipient of a Golden Globe award and a BAFTA award, nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Academy Award
  • Constance Rourke (1885-1941), American author and educator
  • Thomas J. Rourke, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Connecticut State House of Representatives from Farmington, 1902
  • Russell A. Rourke, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 36th District, 1974
  • Robb Rourke, American Libertarian politician, Candidate for Texas State House of Representatives 144th District, 2012
  • Peter Rourke, American politician, Socialist Labor Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, 1915
  • Patrick H. Rourke, American politician, U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, 1898-1911
  • Joseph T. Rourke (b. 1906), American Democrat politician, Member of Connecticut State Senate 10th District, 1939-40
  • John F. Rourke (b. 1861), American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Rensselaer County 1st District, 1922-23; Defeated, 1923



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.


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  1. MacLysaght, Edward. Mores Irish Familes. Dublin: Irish Academic, 1982. Print. (ISBN 0-7165-0126-0).
  2. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of Ireland. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1969. Print.
  3. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  4. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  5. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  6. Donovan, George Francis. The Pre-Revolutionary Irish in Massachusetts 1620-1775. Menasha, WI: Geroge Banta Publsihing Co., 1932. Print.
  7. Hickey, D.J. and J.E. Doherty. A New Dictionary of Irish History form 1800 2nd Edition. Dublin: Gil & MacMillian, 2003. Print.
  8. Heraldic Scroll and Map of Family names and Origins of Ireland. Dublin: Mullins. Print.
  9. Rasmussen, Louis J. . San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists 4 Volumes Colma, California 1965 Reprint. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1978. Print.
  10. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  11. ...

The Rourke Family Crest was acquired from the archives. The Rourke Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 10 November 2015 at 09:05.

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