Proving my ancestry through DNA matches

great grandfather pedigree
This is my great grandfather’s pedigree chart. His father was James Rourke and his grand father was John O’Rourke born around 1790.

Recently, I was able to prove my three times O’Rourke great grandparents through a DNA match even though my match had no idea she had any O’Rourke’s in her ancestry. Not only was I able to finally verify my three times great grandparents names, I helped her add two more generations to her family tree.

In the O’Rourke branch of my tree going back past my two times great grandparents has proven difficult. I have not been able to locate my two times great grandfather’s James Rourke (O’Rourke) baptismal record in the Kilbroney church records in County Down. I have always made an educated guess as to who is parents were and it differed from what other family members thought.

There are two possible explanations why I can’t find James Rourke’s records. Several pages of the Kilbroney Parish church register are faded and his record may be hiding in there somewhere. The other explanation is that his parent’s never got around to baptizing him.

This is what I do know about James Rourke. He died in 1905 at the age of 80 in the townland of Ballintur in the Kilkeel civil registration district in County Down, so his birthdate must have been around 1825. He married my two-times great grandmother Mary Hughes in 1859, so he would have been about 34 years old. He had five children, his first born being my great grandfather John in 1861 and the last being my great grand uncle Francis in 1868.

I also used the Griffiths Valuation document to determine that his father’s name was John. In the Griffith’s Valuation, a John Jr. leased the same land until his death in 1869, when James Rourke took over the lease.

Based on the information above and Kilbroney Parish records of other Rourke’s in Ballintur, I determined his parent’s names were John Rourke and Mary Flanagan. There was another John Rourke who lived in Ballintur at the time. He was married to a Mary Sloan. Also, there is a baptismal record for a James Rourke born to the latter John and Mary in 1809.  I don’t believe this was my two-times great grandfather based on his given age at the time of his death. Also, he would have been about 50 years old when he married Mary Hughes. Not impossible, but I don’t believe likely.

Kilbroney Parish marriage regiser
The Kilbroney Parish register. Richard White and Ellen (Elenor) Rorke were married Feb. 4, 1846.

Another O’Rourke DNA match and a fourth cousin

A few weeks ago, I was comparing matches in my DNA account, tree when I noticed just about every one of my known O’Rourke cousins matched someone with the username megmac4190. Ancestry also estimated megmac 4190 to be my fourth cousin.

After contacting megmac through Ancestry’s messaging system, she got back to me a few days later and said she wasn’t aware of any O’Rourke’s in her tree, but that her great grandparents were James White and Mary Sands of Kilfeaghan townland in County Down. Kilfeaghan borders the townland of Ballintur and is just a few hundred yards from where my ancestors lived, worked and died.

After a few hours of research, and an exciting discovery, I wrote back to her:

James White baptism
James White’s baptismal record dated Oct. 20, 1853

Your great grandfather James White’s parents were Richard White and Elenor or Ellen Rourke (O’Rourke). They were married Feb. 4, 1846 in Kilbroney Parish. Elenor was my second great grandfather James Rourke’s older sister. 
Elenor was born in 1823 in Ballintur, Killowen, County Down to John Rourke and Mary Flanagan, my 3 times great grandparents and also your 3 times great grandparents. I believe John Rourke (O’Rourke) was born around 1790. I don’t know when Mary Flanagan was born but they were married Oct. 29, 1815 in Kilbroney Parish. John Rourke and Mary Flanagan had 12 children (one died in infancy).
Ancestry estimates us to be fourth cousins. Based on the fact that we share 3 times great grandparents, we are fourth cousins. You also match five of my third cousins who are “known” O’Rourke’s as well as my sister.
Now you have some ancestors to add to your tree. I just added all of John Rourke’s and Mary Flanagan’s children to my tree today. I previously only had my two times great grandfather James.
I had fun today trying to figure out our connection.

How I determined our relationship

Roark-Flanagan marriage record
John Roark and Mary Flanagan’s marriage record dated Oct. 29, 1815

I first went to Ross Davies’ County Down Family History Research site and search under the White/Whyte surname for any mention of a Roark, Roarke, Rourk, Rorke or Rourke. I also searched under Sands for the same. I found a record for a marriage of a Richard Whyte to Elenor Rorke in the Kilbroney Parish in 1846. I then painstakingly searched the Catholic Parish records and found that Richard and Elenor had a son named James in 1853, the same year that megmac’s great grandfather was born.

What I didn’t know is who was Elenor and how was she related to me? So, again, I went back through the Kilbroney Parish records beginning with the year 1820. I based that on her marriage year of 1846. Finally, in 1823, I found and Elenor baptized on April 6, 1823. Parents were James Roarke and Mary Flanagan, the same people I believed to be my third great grandparents!

Interestingly, I found another Elenor Rourke born in 1822 to a Felix Roarke and Alice Hanlon, but I don’t believe this is megmac’s two times great grandmother because we are fourth cousins. I believe Felix Roarke is probably related to each of us, but much further back. Fourth cousins share three times great grandparents.

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4 thoughts on “Proving my ancestry through DNA matches

  1. Impressive!

    Do you think your 2x great grandfather James O’Rourke (who married Mary Hughes) was born and baptized between Bridget (April 11, 1826) and John (November 13, 1829), instead of in exactly 1825? There is a 3 year gap there, and they were having children more often than that. — I’ll email you with more.

    A slight correction: in paragraph 5 you say “Also, there is a baptismal record for a James Rourke born to the latter James and Mary in 1809.” From looking at what I have of your tree and the baptismal records, I think you meant ‘the latter John and Mary’. I wish they had used a few different Christian names :). The only way I can keep them straight for myself is by referring to their marriage mates.

    1. Hi Ed.,
      I think it’s entirely possible that James was born between Bridget and John. In fact, it makes more sense than the 1825 date. If he was born in 1825, John Rourke and Mary Flanagan would have had one child per year for four straight years. (I will correct my post, thanks.)

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