James and Henry O'Rourke, Killowen to Cleveland

While looking through some other O'Rourkes in Cleveland, I came across first James then Henry O'Rourke and filed them in the "mysteries waiting to be solved" category. As soon as I started working on them I realized they were father and son. Here is a brief account of both of them—the details and sources are in the Trees > Ohio Families section of this site.

Court and Cloister of Colony Farm

Court and Cloister of Colony Farm

James O'Rourke

James O'Rourke was baptized February 12, 1854, in Kilbroney Catholic Parish, the son of Francis Rourke and Bridget Kielty of Ballincurry Townland, Killowen. He married Bridget McGivern about 1887. I looked high and low for the marriage record and didn't find it. Well actually only in the Kilbroney and Kilkeel Church records. I found three children for them: Catherine (baptized 1888 - ), Mary (baptized 1890- died 1898), and Henry.

Bridget McGivern died in 1894 and from there it looks to me like James' life went downhill. Previously, I think, he was farming one of his father's plots of land. Then in 1900 when Francis died, James is listed as a tenant on his own, but only for a year. By 1902 the parcel was being rented by Patrick Sloane. In 1901 James was in Ballincurry, not with his surviving children but with a nephew, Henry Burns [or Byrne].

I think he is the James O'Rourke who arrived in the United States on the SS Majestic, May 9, 1901. That man said he was 40 years old, from County Down, and headed to a friend's house in Cleveland. By 1910 James was in the Cleveland infirmary, where he died in 1917. He was waked from the home of Edward J. Smith at 3978 East 89th.

That last bit of information is what ties James and Henry together, so keep it in mind until we discuss ...

Henry O'Rourke

Henry was born April 5, 1893, and turns up on the 1911 census in the household of his uncle Bernard Byrne, in Ballindoalty, Killowen. Bernard was the widower of Henry's aunt Sarah Rourke. In May of that year Henry left for Cleveland on the SS Baltic, his destination being his "brother" James O'Rourke, Colony Farm, Warrensville, Ohio. Colony Farm was another name for the Cleveland Infirmary, so he was going to see his father. Henry couldn't live at the Infirmary. When he registered for the draft in June 1917 he was living at 3978 East 89th, the address from which his father was waked.

And then ... ?

And then, where did Henry go? I couldn't find a record of him in Cleveland or the Kilkeel Registration District after 1917. No marriage, census, death, WWII registration. Nothing.

Edited April 5, 2019

Thanks to a kind soul in Killowen, I learned that Henry died October 13, 1918, as a soldier in World War One. He was serving in the US 308th Military Police Company, 83rd Infantry Divison. He is buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, in Romagne, France. [Source for US Army information: Ancestry.com. WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings database on-line]

Which leaves James' daughter Catherine. She could be the Kate O'Rourke on the 1901 Census of the Laundry and Orphanage under the care of the Sisters of Mercy, Newry. That young lady was 13 and born in County Down. Her father's death notice indicates that she was alive in 1917, but doesn't say where. Was she ever in Cleveland? There were three Catherine O'Rourkes who married in Cleveland in that era, but she is none of them. Or did she remain in Ireland?


  1. The picture of Cooley Farms comes from a collection on the Cleveland Public Library site, which says it is free of known copyright.