John Rourke of Ballintur, Killowen, County Down

first revision book, Ballintur, page with Rourkes

John Rourke of Ballintur Townland, County Down, Ireland was baptized on January 19, 1827, likely at Killowen Chapel. He was the son of James Roarke and Nancy Colgan. The sponsors at his baptism were Patrick Doran and Mary Colgan. John's sister Margaret had been baptized in 1822 and his brother Edward in 1824.1When Griffith's Valuation of Ballintur was taken in 1863, there was no James Rourke in the area, so John's father had probably died. Instead there is a listing for John's brother Edward.

I had suspected that John Rourke was living in Edward's household at the time. The Valuation Revision Books, now at the Public Records of Northern Ireland (PRONI) website seem to confirm that theory.

The first Valuation Revision Book in 1865 shows Edward as tenant on the family property, renting from the Trustees of the Kilmorey Estate. The 'house, office, and land' for parcels 23A, 23B, 23C, 23D, 23Ea were valued at 18 Pounds, 15 Shillings.2

In 1867 the valuation was split almost equally between Edward and John, with each section valued at a little over 9 Pounds. It seems that he and Edward split the land between them. John leased parcels 23C and 23Ec, and Edward got 23D and 23Ea.

Edited March 2017 to add: John Rourke's first marriage was to Catherine Hughes in Kilbroney Parish, on January 10, 1866. The marriage probably explains why the valuation was split equally between John and Edward in 1867 if John had set up his own household. See the Ohio Families tree for details on the marriage.

In 1881 the ownership of the land came into the hands of the Earl of Kilmorney and in 1882 John and Edward Rourke are listed as paying him the judicial rent.3 In 1883 the value was revised upward slightly. Not much changed regarding the land after that.

A letter from a Peter Doran of Ballintur, dated Dec 28th 1888, to an unnamed brother, presumably in America says: "i sold Magee and John Rourke 10 hundred of straw at 2 shillings per hundred".4 This could be our John Rourke, as he was the only one by that name in Ballintur. Of course Mr Doran might have taken his wheat farther afield and sold it to a different John Rourke.

Edited May 2016 to add: Peter Doran's brother was William, living in Illinois. I believe the letter was actually written in 1883. See An Earlier Matt Sloan, Kilfeaghan to Cleveland.

As mentioned, John Rourke and Ellen Rogers were married in 1871. The date was October 1, and the location was most likely Killowen Chapel. The priest was named Daniel Mallon and the witnesses were James Magee and Mary Rourke. The record also states that John was a farmer in Ballintur at the time of the marriage, and his father's name was James. Ellen was of Ballincurry, and her father's name was William.5Witnesses at a marriage are usually close friends and relatives, so John might have had a sister Mary. On the other hand, Ellen Rogers may have had a good friend named Mary Rourke.John and Ellen had four children: James born November 10, 1872; William (January 23, 1874); John (about 1877); and Elizabeth (March 7, 1878).6 James and William emigrated to the Newburgh section of Cleveland, Ohio.7 John and Elizabeth remained in Ireland.

The oldest census that has survived is from 1901. John Rourke and (probably) his nephew Edward are living next to each other in households two and three in Ballintur Townland. John's age is given as 72 and his wife Ellen's as 64. Their son John was listed as 24 and their daughter Elizabeth as 20. They were all Roman Catholic, born in County Down. They could all read and write.Their home was a private dwelling with three outbuildings: a stable, a coach house, and a fowl house. The walls were made of either brick or stone and the roof was thatch. There were two rooms in the home, and two windows on the front of the house. This type of house was rated as a third class dwelling. There were four classes and fourth was the lowest.8In 1911 the family was still in Ballintur. They had added a cow house to the property, and the elder John had gone deaf. The census information includes the fact that the family spoke only English, and no Irish. Despite the new cow house, the dwelling was still third class.9

In 1913 Irish land reform came to Ballintur. The entries in the Revision Book for that year shows that all the property in the Townland was now held "in fee". This is the legal term for the common form of land ownership we are most familiar with in the British Isles and America.The record for 1913 says that the parcel of land previously rented by John Rourke was now owned by John Rourke. I don't know if this is the elder John or his son, since I don't know when in 1913 the revision was taken—the older John died January 21, 1913. His wife Ellen (Rogers) Rourke died March 13, 1918.

I don't know how long their son John lived and remained in Ballintur. I am fairly sure, but without confirmation, that John died single.

Their daughter Elizabeth is mentioned in her brother James' death notice in 1959 and died January 30, 1962. She might be the family member who received my aunt Theresa O'Rourke in the late 1950's or early 1960's when she visited Ireland. Theresa said the land ran down to the Irish Sea and I was also told that Elizabeth died in the home she was born in.

For John's two sons that emigrated to Cleveland see James O'Rourke, Killowen to Cleveland and William O'Rourke, Killowen to Cleveland.

For a list of all the Rourkes in Ballintur see the article Rourkes of Ballintur in the Valuation Revision Books.


Image of Valuation Revision Book is from the PRONI site and is subject to Crown copyright protection.


  1. Kilbroney Church Records, transcribed and emailed by Deidre McEvoy.
  2. Images of the Valuation Revision Books, at the Public Records of Northern Ireland (PRONI) website.
  3. Return of judicial rents fixed by Sub-Commissions and Civil Bill Courts, notified to Irish Land Commission, September - November 1882, Kilkeel, County Down, transcribed at Raymond's County Down Website.
  4. "Peter Doran, Ballintur, Co Down? to 'Dear Brother'" at the Irish Emigration Database.
  5. Kilbroney Church records (see note 1); Ireland Civil Registration Indexes, 1845-1958, at
  6. for James and Elizabeth's births: from filmed records in the International Genealogical Index at For William: family information, Social Security Death Index. For John: estimated from censuses.

  7. See the articles on this site entitled James O'Rourke, Killowen to Cleveland and William O'Rourke, Killowen to Cleveland.

  8. 1901 Census images at for Ballintur Townland, Kilbroney Parish, Killowen District Electoral Division in South Down, Co. Down. (Poor Law Union: Kilkeel).

  9. 1911 Census images at for Ballintur Townland, Kilbroney Parish, Killowen District Electoral Division in South Down, Co. Down. (Poor Law Union: Kilkeel).