Rourke History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

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.

Early Origins of the Rourke family

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.

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 Rourke family

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

Rourke Spelling Variations

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.

Early Notables of the 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...
Another 258 words (18 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Rourke Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Rourke migration to the United States +

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 [2]
Rourke Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Hugh Rourke, who arrived in America in 1801 [2]
  • Patrick Rourke, who landed in America in 1802 [2]
  • Henry Rourke, aged 26, who landed in Missouri in 1841 [2]
  • Robert Rourke, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1842 [2]
  • Thomas Rourke, aged 21, who landed in Mobile, Ala in 1848 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Rourke migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Rourke Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John Rourke, aged 20, who landed in Red River, Canada in 1811
  • Ellen Rourke, who arrived in Canada in 1823
  • Patrick Rourke, who arrived in Canada in 1823
  • Timothy Rourke, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1833
  • Patrick Rourke, aged 38, a weaver, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick aboard the ship "Sea Horse" in 1833
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Rourke migration to Australia +

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

Rourke Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Patrick Rourke, a weaver, who arrived in New South Wales, Australia sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Daniel Rourke, a smith, who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Mr. James Rourke, (b. 1789), aged 45, English farm servant who was convicted in Lancaster, Lancashire, England for life for coining, transported aboard the "Bengal Merchant" on 27th September 1834, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [3]
  • Miss Elizabeth Rourke, (b. 1787), aged 50, English house maid who was convicted in Worcester, Worcestershire, England for 7 years for stealing, transported aboard the "Atwick" on 28 September 1837, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [4]
  • Mary Rourke, aged 18, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Rodney" [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Rourke 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:

Rourke Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Michael Rourke, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "John Masterman" in 1857
  • Elizabeth Rourke, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "John Masterman" in 1857
  • Elizabeth Rourke, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "Golconda" in 1859
  • Mr. John Rourke, (b. 1862), aged Infant, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Echunga" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 24th December 1862 [6]
  • Mr. John Rourke, (b. 1835), aged 27, British farm labourer travelling from London aboard the ship "Echunga" arriving in Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand on 24th December 1862 [6]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Rourke (post 1700) +

  • 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 [7]
  • Russell A. Rourke, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from New York 36th District, 1974 [7]
  • Robb Rourke, American Libertarian politician, Candidate for Texas State House of Representatives 144th District, 2012 [7]
  • Peter Rourke, American politician, Socialist Labor Candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, 1915 [7]
  • Patrick H. Rourke, American politician, U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, 1898-1911 [7]
  • Joseph T. Rourke (b. 1906), American Democrat politician, Member of Connecticut State Senate 10th District, 1939-40 [7]
  • John F. Rourke (b. 1861), American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Rensselaer County 1st District, 1922-23; Defeated, 1923 [7]
  • ... (Another 6 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. Stanley Rourke, English Lift Attendant from England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking [8]
USS Arizona
  • Mr. John P. Rourke, American Seaman First Class working aboard the ship "USS Arizona" when she sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, he survived the sinking [9]


The 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. ^ 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 Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 7th October 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/bengal-merchant
  4. ^ Convict Records of Australia (Retreived 23rd August 2020, retreived from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/atwick)
  5. ^ South Australian Register Wednesday 21st February 1855. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) Rodney 1855. Retrieved http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/rodney1855.shtml
  6. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  7. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 10) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  8. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 7) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/
  9. ^ Pearl Harbour: USS Arizona Casualties List Pearl Harbour December 7, 1941. (Retrieved 2018, July 31st). Retrieved from http://pearl-harbor.com/arizona/casualtylist.html


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