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.

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Genealogy questions provide few answers

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I have learned a lot about the genealogy of my grandparents John and Mary (Rogers) O’Rourke since then. First of all, I received a lot of inquiry about my posts on my great grandparents and suggestions why there might be a discrepancy in Mary’s birthday. Most who contacted me thought there may have been two Mary Rogers, one born on the day I found in the Northern Ireland Civil Records: March 16, 1866 and the other the birthday Mary gave to the Social Security Department when claiming benefits: June 12, 1869.

John O'Rourke
John O’Rourke

My cousin wrote to me she thought the “earlier” Mary Rogers may have passed away as a toddler (fatal childhood diseases were common back then) and then three years later, Hugh Rogers and Mary Rooney had a another child and named her Mary. My cousin might be correct, but here’s why I don’t think it is: I found a death certificate for Mary (Rooney) Rogers – Mary’s mother – dated in 1868. It is commonly known in my family that Mary Rogers O’Rourke and her siblings were orphans, though I can’t find a death certificate for her father, Hugh. Mary Rooney Rogers’s death in 1868 fits this narrative.

Another sister discovered

Another interesting fact that came to light was that Mary and her sister, Rose, had another sibling – Kate Rogers. Kate Rogers is actually in my family tree, but I have no idea how I “found” her, so I didn’t include her information in my original post. I have one source attributed to Kate and that is the 1901 Census of Canada. I have Kate’s birth date as Aug. 15, 1863 and living in Montreal, Canada in 1901. Kate is listed as married to a John Murphy and they had four children: Michael Murphy, Joseph Murphy, Julia Murphy and Andrew Murphy. John Murphy is listed as having been born in Scotland, but of Irish origin. They were Roman Catholic and John’s occupation is listed as Carter (A Carter typically drove a light two wheeled carriage). Beyond that, I have no more information on Kate and her family.

Continue reading “Genealogy questions provide few answers”

An O’Rourke-Rogers family genealogical conundrum

Mary Rogers O’Rourke

Tracing my great grandmother’s genealogy has been a challenge. For one thing, I had no idea what townland in Ireland she was from. All the information I initially knew was only that she was from Kilkeel. Even though Kilkeel is a small fishing village, it’s a large civil registration district that encompasses the south end of the Mourne Mountain area in Northern Ireland.

The second challenge has been a bit more daunting. In fact, it’s a conundrum and I don’t know quite what to make of it – there is a three-year difference in my great grandmother Mary’s age from her birth records than future records that document her life. Mary’s later records – those when she lived in Birkenhead in Britain and subsequent records after she immigrated to the United States give her age as three years younger than her original Irish birth records state.

I’ve been doing genealogy for a long time now and I know even if it’s written down on an official government document doesn’t mean it’s factual. People make mistakes all the time: they make stuff up, government workers incorrectly document facts, and there are misspellings, etc. etc. But my great grandmother Mary’s records after 1890 are consistently three years off, all the way to her death in Burien, Washington.

Was it deception?

This begs the question: was Mary deliberately deceiving people of her age? I’d like to think not but I don’t know the answer. If someone has an explanation why something like this happens, I’d like to hear it.

Now, it was common in the mid-19th century for people not know the exact date they were born, especially before civil records existed in Ireland, but my great grandmother was born in 1866, four years after civil records were implemented in Ireland. Also, I imagine 9-year-olds know they are not six-year-olds. In birth records, Mary was born before her sister Rose. Later records give her age as younger than her sister.

This is probably why I’ve had such a difficult time “looking” for my great grandmother in genealogical records. I even went as far as hiring a professional genealogist a few years back. The problem was I also had her incorrect birthplace, which is common since the survivors giving the information may not know the exact birthplace. Her obituary, which I came in possession of about 10 years ago, states she was born in Downpatrick (maybe a mistake for County Down).

I may never know why there is a discrepancy, but he following is a short narrative of my Irish great grandmother’s life that I’ve compiled with genealogical records: Continue reading “An O’Rourke-Rogers family genealogical conundrum”

My most amazing day in the home of the O’Rourke clan

Creevelea Abbey
Creevelea Abbey

Today was my best day so far in Ireland. For one, it didn’t rain. Well, it didn’t rain significantly. It was windy and cold and a few drops fell from the sky, but I can’t have everything, can I? The other reason is that I finally fulfilled a long-time dream of mine — to travel to Breifne, where the O’Rourke clan originated.

After spending for days in Dingle, I was off by bus to Sligo in northwest Ireland. I woke up Sunday morning in Dingle and it was pouring — really coming down. Since Sunday was a travel day, I wasn’t too disappointed.  I got completely soaked walking to the bus stop because I was too cheap to take a taxi (it was only three or four blocks away). The wind was howling so hard it turned my umbrella inside out and it broke. I deposited in the trash at the SuperValu (that’s how it’s spelled) in Dingle. I can buy another one. There’s no umbrella shortage in Ireland.

The trip on Bus Eireann took 10 hours and I changed buses three times. I had two layovers of 90 minutes — one in Tralee and another in Galway. By the time I got to Galway, it had stopped raining. The last leg — from Galway to Sligo took two and a half hours and we stopped at every one-horse (or one sheep) town along the way. When I arrived in Sligo at 8:20 pm, my hotel was right next door to the bus station. Continue reading “My most amazing day in the home of the O’Rourke clan”

Getting ready for my solo adventure

Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland
Rostrevor, County Down, Northern Ireland

In three weeks I’m leaving for Ireland for my first solo trip ever. I will be going to Ireland to meet long lost relatives, to research my genealogy and to have some fun. My last trip to Ireland two years ago was a blast but I went with four friends and it was a compromise every day. I wanted to do a lot of genealogy, but it was nearly impossible with four others and one car. Let’s face it, not everyone is interested in my family history.

I often wonder why I focus more on my father’s family than I do my mother’s side. I think part of has to do with my name — O’Rourke — one of the Irish clans from long ago. From as far back as I can remember people would ask me if I was Irish. Duh. Also, my father died when I was young and I was estranged from my O’Rourke relatives for 40 years. It was only in 2006, with the help of the Internet (it was before social media) that I was able to contact my Uncle Denny or Dennis O’Rourke. Uncle Denny was a Catholic priest when I was a child and 40 years later I found out he was married with two high school-aged children. One of his daughters, my cousin Katie, was interested in her family genealogy and told me the O’Rourkes were from a tiny town in County Down called Rostrevor. Continue reading “Getting ready for my solo adventure”