The Irish Ancestry of Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke recently launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 US Presidential elections. Embracing his Irish heritage, both his paternal and maternal ancestors fled the ravages of the Irish Great Famine in the mid-nineteenth Century when the spread of the Potato Blight precipitated widespread starvation and disease throughout the country and migrate to the United States.

His paternal Great great great grandparents were Bernard (Barney) O’Rourke and Mary McDermott. Barney O’Rourke migrated to the United States from Co. Leitrim, when the effects of the famine were at their worst. Co. Leitrim was one of the most severely affected areas and the population of the County was reduced by a quarter between 1841 and 1851.

Mary McDermott was born in Ohio, the daughter of Hugh McDermottroe and Mary Creamer, who migrated to the United States shortly after their marriage in the Parish of Ardcarne/Cootehall in Co. Roscommon in 1844. Co. Roscommon was one of the first Counties to record Phytophthora infestans and widespread potato failure. In 1846, when passing through Boyle, Co. Roscommon, Joseph Crosfield reported:

In this place, the condition of the poor previously to their obtaining admission into the workhouse is one of great distress; many of them declare that they have not tasted food of any kind for forty eight hours and numbers of them have eaten nothing but cabbage or turnips for days and weeks.

Beto O’Rourke also claims maternal Irish ancestry. His maternal third great grandparents were Edward Fyans, from Trim in Co. Meath and Mary Ann McGrath from the townland of Garryhunden in Co. Carlow.

Paternal Ancestry of Beto O’Rourke

Robert Francis “Beto” (1) O’Rourke was born on September 26, 1972 to parents, Patrick Francis O’Rourke and his second wife, Melissa Martha Williams who married in El Paso on 6 March 1971. (2)

He has two younger sisters, Charlotte Jasper and Erin Brooks.

His father, Patrick Francis O’Rourke was was the son of John Francis (Frank) O’Rourke and Mildred Rowena Jasper. He died prematurely in July 2001 in El Paso following a cycling accident and was buried in Memory Gardens of the Valley, New Mexico.

Beto’s grandparents, Frank O’Rourke and Mildred Jasper, married on 11 May 1940 in Alamogordo, Otero, New Mexico. Frank was an Accountant who died, aged 54, on 16 November 1966 in Santa Fe. Mildred, a Secretary with Reynolds Electrical, died almost a year later on 6 September 1967. Both are buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, El Paso.

Franke O’Rourke was the son of James Francis O’Rourke and Anne Lloyd who married in Bucklin, Ford, Kansas on 18 April 1906. (3)

The Census of 1900 records both Anna Lloyd and James Francis O’Rourke in the household of Lewis Goodwin who was a Hotel Proprietor in Talmage Village, Otoe, Nebraska where Anna Lloyd was a Servant and James Francis O’Rourke was a Liveryman. (4) Anna Lloyd recorded that she was born in Wales in March 1876 to Welsh-born parents. James was born in the US, but confirmed his father was Irish-born.

James Francis (Jimmy) O’Rourke died in El Paso on 3 December 1933 from Influenza/Pneumonia and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, El Paso, Texas. Anna O’Rourke (nee Lloyd) died on 18 April 1963 in Garden Grove, Orange County, California and was also buried in Evergreen Cemetery. (5)

Jimmy O’Rourke was baptised on 12 December 1880, the son of Bernard (or Barney) O’Rourke and Mary Anne McDermott with Bartholomew Connors and Catherine O’Brien as sponsors. (6)

Bernard O’Rourke and Mary Anne McDermott married in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. St. Joseph, Missouri on 26 August 1866. He became a naturalised American citizen on 10 March 1868. (7)

In 1880 the family were living on 8th Street, St. Joseph, Buchanan, Missouri with children, Alice (10), Dominic (8) and Barney Jr. (3). Jimmy was not born until later in the year. The census confirmed that Jimmy’s father, Bernard was born in Ireland, whilst his mother, Mary Anne McDermott, was born in the US to Irish emigrants.

Bernard O’Rourke died on 28 August 1896 in Talmage, Otoe County, Nebraska following an accident when his team of horses panicked, and he was crushed by his wagon. He was buried in St. Benedict’s Cemetery, Nebraska City.

His widow, Mary Ann (nee McDermott) died suddenly on 27 January 1923 while visiting her sons in El Paso. Double Lobar Pneumonia and ‘La Grippe’ (Influenza) were recorded as the cause of her death and she was buried in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery, Herington.

The US Census of 1860 records Barney O’Rourke and his brother, Dominick living in Nebraska City with their older brother, James O’Rourke with his wife, Mary and their young family. The two oldest children of James and Mary, Michael (7) and Dominick (6) were born in Ireland and their daughter, Mary Ann (3) was born in Kentucky. Mary Ann O’Rourke was born in Fleming,

Kentucky on Christmas Day 1856 to James O.Rurk (sic.) and Mary Amorn (sic.). (8)

Using the marriage record of Barney’s brother James O’Rourke and the baptisms of his first two nephews we have been able to confirm the location in Ireland from where the O’Rourke family hailed.

James O’Rourke from Killasnet and Mary Mourne from Drumlease married in Co. Leitrim on 8 April 1849. (9) Their two sons were baptised in Killasnet, Co. Leitrim: (10)

Michael 18 September 1852 Lantaggart (Townland)

Dominick 10 October 1853

When Barney O’Rourke and Mary Anne McDermott married in St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. St. Joseph, Missouri on 26 August 1866, the Church Registers recorded that Barney O’Rourke was the son of Bernard O’Rourke and Margaret Hunt.

No further information is known of Bernard O’Rourke and Margaret Hunt. Although we do know that Bernard was from Killasnet, Co. Leitrim, and probably the townland of Lantaggart, civil parish of Killasnet, Co. Leitrim.

Killasnet Catholic Parish Registers record Baptisms and Marriages from 1852 and the Baptisms of James, Dominick and Bernard O’Rourke predate the surviving Registers.

When Griffiths Valuation (a property valuation carried out in Ireland between 1847-1864) was recorded in 1854, Sibby Roarke was recorded in Launtaggart sharing a 60 Acre plot with Thomas and Bryan Hart along with a share of Mountainous land with all others of the townland. The relationship of Sibby Roarke to the O’Rourke brothers, if any, is unknown, but it does confirm the presence of the surname in the townland.

The Tithe Applotment Books were assembled between 1823 and 1837. Their purpose was to determine the amount which occupiers of agricultural holdings over one acre should pay in tithes to the Church of Ireland (the main Protestant church and the Church established by the State until its dis-establishment in 1871). They record landholders of over one acre along with the extent of their holding and the amount of tithes due, based on the productivity of the land. The Parish of Killasnet, which included the townland of Launtaggart records John and Bryan (Bernard) Rorke on c.6 Acres of land. The relationship between John and Bryan is not indicated; they could be siblings or father and son.

It is of interest to note that a family of O’Rourkes was recorded in the Irish Census returns of 1901 and 1911 residing in Launtaggart.

The Ancestry of Margaret Hunt is unknown. It may be relevant that Owen, Patrick and Bartley Hunt are recorded in Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 in the townland of Glasdrumman, a close neighbour to Launtaggart. Glasdrumman may be the townland of origin of Margaret Hunt.

On her marriage to Barney O’Rouke, Mary Anne McDermott’s parents were recorded as Hugh McDermott and Mary Cramer, both born in Ireland.

Eugenium (Hugh) McDermotroe (sic.) and Mary Creamer married in the parish of Ardcarne / Cootehall, Co. Roscommon on 21 October 1844 with James McDermotroe and Brigid Shanly as witnesses.

It is assumed that they migrated shortly after their marriage and when identified in the US census of 1850, they had a six-year-old son, Thomas, who was born in Canada. Their daughter, Mary Anne was two years old and born in Ohio.

beto 121 October 1844, Marriage of Eugenium (Hugh) McDermotroe and Marium (Mary) Creamer (11)

McDermott (Mac Diarmada in the Irish language) means son of Diarmada or Dermott. It is a very important sept / family in the west of Ireland. They are divided into three septs / families, one of which is headed by McDermott roe (rua, red). It is not a common surname and is located in Roscommon and Sligo12. It is therefore likely that Hugh McDermotroe was related to this sept.

The Maternal Irish Ancestry of Beto O’Rourke

Melissa Martha Williams is the mother of Beto O’Rourke. Her Irish links are through her maternal Grandmother, Marguerite Peil, Marguerite’s mother, Elizabeth Fyans, was the daughter of Irish-born parents (Beto’s Gx3 Grandparents).

Melissa was born in El Paso, Texas on 24 July 1948, the daughter of Robert Lee Williams and Charlotte Marguerite Brooks.

Her mother, Charlotte Marguerite Brooks (1920-2003) was the daughter of Lewis Centennial Brooks and Marguerite Peil who married on 20 June 1911 in Racine Wisconsin.

Beto’s Great Great Grandparents, Leo Peil and Lizzie (Elizabeth Catherine) Fyans were the parents of Marguerite Peil. They married in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 8 June 1887.

The Census returns of 1900 and 1910 record the Peil family in Racine with three children, two daughters, Leona, and Marguerite and a son, Edward.

Leo Peil is a Manufacturer of School Furniture.

Leo Albert Peil died, aged 78, on 30 May 1934 and Elizabeth Peil (nee Fyans) died on 28 March 1940 both are buried in Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Racine, Wisconsin.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Fyans was born to Edward Fyans and Mary Ann McGrath Fyans on 2 Oct 1863. The US Census of 1870 records Edward and Mary Ann Fyans in Milwaukee with four daughters, Mary, Lizzie, Nellie and Josephine. Edward Fyans was employed a Clerk in a Store.

Edward Fyans and Mary Ann McGrath married in the late 1850s (no marriage was found) and in the Census of 1860 Edward Fyans recorded that he was born in Co. Meath, Ireland, while hHis wife, Mary Ann recorded that she was born in Co. Carlow.

The US Federal Census of 1900 recorded the Fyans family on Fourth Street, Milwaukee where Edward Fyans was a Travelling Grocer. Both Edward Fyans (b. July 1833) and his wife, Mary Ann (b. September 1939) recorded that they migrated to the United States in 1849. The couple had nine children, of whom seven survived. Mary Anne Fyans (nee McGrath) had given birth to nine children of whom seven have survived.

Edward Fyans died on 28 November 1902 and his widow Mary Anne died on 11 July 1919. Both are buried in Calvary Cemetery, Milwaukee.

Edward Fyans was born to Edward Fyans and Bridget Saurin. (Maternal Great x4 Grandparents of Beto O’Rouke). He was baptised 11 July 1832 at the Roman Catholic Parish of Trim, Co. Meath.

His parents were married in Dunsany, Co. Meath on 10 November 1822. In March 1849, Bridget Fyans, with children, Edward, Bridget, Jane, Catherine and Christopher (known as Charles) migrated to the United States aboard the S.S. Hottinguer. It is assumed that Bridget was widowed at this time. This cannot be confirmed as civil registration only began in Ireland in 1864. Edward, her oldest son, recorded on the manifest that he was a Publican by trade. The Slater’s Commercial Directory of 1846 for Ireland records an Edward Fyans as a Publican and a Flour and Meal Dealer in Wellington Street, Trim. This likely refers to Edward Fyans Sr.

beto o rourke11 July 1832, Baptism of Edward Fyans (13)

beto3March 1849, Manifest of S.S. Hottinguer; Bridget Fyans with children, Edward, Bridget, Jane, Catherine and Christopher (14)

In the absence of census records for the nineteenth century in Ireland we rely on land records to locate families. One of these is the Griffith’s Primary Valuation was a property valuation compiled for the purposes of local taxation between 1848-1864. It captures about 70% of the heads of households in rural areas. In the absence of census records for the nineteenth century such land records are a vital substitute in placing a family in a location at a given time. A number of publications – House and Field Books – were published earlier which fed into the study.

The field books from Griffith’s Valuation in 1837/1838 recorded an Edward Fyans in Green Street, Townparks, Trim, Co. Meath with House, Offices (outhouses) and Yard. However, no Fyans were recorded in Griffith’s Valuation of 1854 which suggests that the family may have died out or emigrated. This concurs with Bridget Fyans (née Suarin) emigrating with only her children to the US.

Bridget Saurin is possibly the daughter of James Sorahan [sic] and Catherine Fullam (maternal Great x5 Grandparents of Beto O’Rourke). Their marriage in the early 1790s has not been identified and probably predates surviving Parish Registers. Bridget Sorahan was baptised in Dunsany, Co. Meath on 9 February 1799 with John Sorahan and Bridget Plunkett as Sponsors.

Edward Fyan’s wife, Mary Ann McGrath, was the daughter of Michael McGrath and Margaret Doyle from Garryhunden in Co. Carlow and was baptised in Tinryland on 10 September 1837 with William Gorman and Anne Doyle as Sponsors. Michael McGrath and Margaret Doyle are the Great x3 Grandparents of Beto O’Rourke.

Michael McGrath and Margaret Doyle married in Tinryland on 28 February 1835 and lived in the townland of Garryhunden (16).

The McGrath family left Ireland shortly after their son, Michael was born in April 1850 and in the US Census of 1850, the McGrath Family, with their four-month-old infant son, Michael and four older children, were living in Guilderland, Albany, New York where Michael McGrath Sr. was a Labourer.

Michael McGrath died on 15 January 1866 and is buried in Calvary Cemetery, Milwaukee. The death of Margaret McGrath (nee Doyle) has not been positively identified.

28 February 1835, Marriage of Michael McGrath and Margaret Doyle, Tinryland, Co. Carlow (17)

10 September 1837, Baptism of Mary Anne McGrath, Tinryland, Co. Carlow (18)

Garryhundon townland is situated in the Electoral Division of Nurney and the Civil Parish of Clonmelsh in Co. Carlow and lies between Carlow Town to the North and Muine Beag (Bagnelstown) to the South.

In 1852, when Griffith’s Valuation was published, there were several McGraths in the townland of Garryhundon. Mary McGrath was likely widowed and held plots (5 and 6) of almost 65 Acres, of which, over 3 Acres was sublet to Judith McGrath. Daniel McGrath held c.95 Acres on an adjoining plot (Plot 7). James McGrath (Plot 11, over 34 Acres) and Edward McGrath (Plot 12, over 14 Acres) also had substantial holdings. The relationships, if any, are unknown.

The Notebooks from a preliminary survey in 1840 record Michael and Daniel McGrath with houses on a shared plot. This is possibly Michael McGrath who migrated to the United States in 1850.

The relationship to Daniel McGrath, if any, is unknown. They could be brothers, or, father and son.

1 Beto is a common nickname in Mexico and Spanish speaking states for people named Robert or Roberto
2 Pat O’Rourke’s first wife was Gail Jane McNutt, who he married on 4 September 1964
4 A Liveryman cared for horses
6 Registers of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. St. Joseph, Missouri

9 Manorhamilton Marriage Banns;
10 Killasnet Parish Registers

11 Ardcarne / Cootehall Parish Registers
12 MacLysaght, Edward, The Surnames of Ireland, Irish Academic Press, 6th edition, 199913 Trim, Co. Meath Parish Registers

15 Edward MacLysaght, The Surnames of Ireland’ Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1991
16 Townland – is a distinctively Irish feature and is the basic unit of rural addresses in the country. They can vary in size from a few acres to a few thousand. It is estimated that there are over 60,000 townlands in Ireland. 17 Tinryland Parish Registers
18 Tinryland Parish Registers

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