Burke Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is a locational surname meaning “from Burgh”. The Old English word burh means fortified manor, fortification, castle, city, or hill, which in term derives from the Old German word burg, meaning fortification. The book A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis states the following regarding this surname: “At the time of the Domesday Survey it formed part of the royal demesnes and was given by the Conqueror to Sero de Burgh, Baron of Tonsburg, in Normandy, who had accompanied that monarch into England, and by whom its stately castle, now a ruin, was originally built, on the rocky heights north of the river Nidd”.
The Irish Burkes traces their ancestry to the Anglo-Norman De Burgh family who settled in Ireland soon after Ireland was taken over by English monarchs. This last name was introduced into Ireland by William Fitz-Aldelm de Burgo, of Burgh in Suffolk, England, who came with Strongbow (the Earl of Pembroke) during the Anglo-Norman Invasion of 1169 AD. However, the name Aldric de Burc, appears in the Domesday Book of Suffolk (a survey or England and Wales ordered by William the Conqueror), which appears to be of Saxon origin. Another source states the first bearer was Burhred, King of West Merica, England, who reigned from 852 to 874 AD.
The name was held by the Earls of Ulster and Clanricarde. In some instances, it is an Americanized version of the last name Børke, which was a habitational name denoting a person from one of eight farms in southeastern Norway, deriving their name from the Old Norse word birki, meaning birch wood.
In his book A Genealogical History of Irish Families, John Rooney, states the following in regard to this family: “In the reign of King John the Burkes obtained large possessions in Connaught through the rivalry and quarrels of the O'Connors. Becoming powerful, they subsequently renounced their allegiance to the kings of England, and adopted the Irish language, dress, and customs, and compelled all the other families of Norman origin in Connaught to do likewise. Two of them proclaimed themselves Irish chiefs—Mac William Ejglitter, or the Lower, whose territory comprised the six baronies of Loughreagh, Dunkellin, Killartan, Clare, Athenry, and Leitrim and MacWilliam Oughter, or the Upper, which embraced the greater portion of the present County of Mayo. Other branches of the family settled in the Counties of Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary”.
Some spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include De Burgh, Burk, Burc, Burgh, Bourke, Bourke, Gillick, and Borrowes.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Burke ranks 229th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following five states: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey.
The surname Burke frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (250th), Scotland (423rd), Wales (256th), Ireland (16th) and Northern Ireland (268th). In England, it ranks highest in Lancashire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Bute. In Wales, it ranks highest in Denbighshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Galway. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in counties Londonderry and Armagh.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (246th), New Zealand (330th), Australia (198th), and South Africa (1,481st).
Early Bearers of the Surname
Geoffrey de Burk and Walter de Burk were documented in Hereford in the Testa de Neville, sive Liber Feodorum in the fourteenth century. The Hundred Rolls of 1273 AD, a census of Wales and England, known in Latin as Rotuli Hundredorum lists two bearers of this surname: Hubert de Burk and John de Burk, both in Somerset. Early marriages involving this surname include James Burke to Susannah Readding at St. George’s Hanover Square, London in 1792 and John Burke to Elizabeth Wise in 1803.
Burke Family Tree & Burke Genealogy
Burke of Ballydugan
This is a branch of the ancient and far flung family of Burke, of which the noble house of Clanricardie was chief. Michael Burke, Esquire of Ballintober, county Roscommon, Ireland, purchased Ballydugan in 1726. He was the son of William of the Klorogue branch of this family. He married Mary, a daughter of Burke of Meelick, and had issue with her including William, Honora (married Andrew Blake of Furbough), Marcella (married Malacy Daly of Benmore), and William. His son William was his heir. This William was an Esquire of Ballintober, county Roscommon and Ballydugan, county Galway and he married Mabel, daughter of Malacy Doneland of Ballydonelan. His son was named Michael Burke. Michael was an Esquire of Ballyduggan, a Director of Inland Navigation, a Surveyor-General for Ireland, High Sheriff, and a Member of Parliament for Athenry. He married Sarah, daughter of John Morgan of Monksfield, and had children with her as follows: William Malachy (Barrister-at-Law), Reverend John (Vicar of Kilcogan, married Mary Anne, sister of Arthur Guinness, had issue Michael John, Arthur, and others) Michael (Collector of Excise, Magistrate for county Galway), Thomas (of Belveder Place, married Louisa), Reverend Henry (married Francis Julie Blake, had issue including Michael George), Denis (of Fortlands, married Maria Graham), Sara, and Mabel (married Revered James Temple Mansel and had issue with him). He died in 1838 and was succeeded by his eldest son William. This William Malachy Burke was an Esquire of Ballyduggan who was born in 1784 and served as High Sheriff of Galway, Ireland in 1822. He married Anna Maria, daughter of John Blake of Winfield, and fathered the following children with her: Michael, Reverend John William (Chaplain to the Earl of Tankerville), William Malacy (M.D. of St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, married Harriett Isabella Hamilton, had sons named William Henry Marsh, John Albert, and Edmund and a daughter named Grace Elizabeth Anna Maria), Reverend Thomas James (Rector of Cucklington-cum-Stoke, Somerset, married Miss Fraser, had issue named William Henry, Mabel Mary, Henrietta Louisa, and Emily Florence), Edmund (Barrister-at-Law, Professor of History at Elphinstone College, Bombay), Mary, Sarah, and Caroline Frances. His son, The Reverend Michael A.M. Burke of Ballydugan, county Galway, Ireland, was formerly Incumbent of Castle Archdall, county Fermanagh, who in 1848, married Isabella, daughter of James Clark, and had seven issue with her as follows: William Malachy James (1851), Michael Henry (1853), John Hawley (Lieutenant of the 53 regiment), Thomas Edmund, George Selwyn, Eliza Martha, and Isabella Mary. The Burke Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Burke Family Crest) by some is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Or, a cross gules, in the dexter canton a lion rampant sable. Crest: A cat-a-mountain sejant guardant proper collared and chained or. Motto: Un roy, une foy, une loy. This family was seated at Ballydugan, near Loughrea, Ireland.
Burke of Auberies
This family is said to have descended from a branch of the family tree known as Burke of Meelick, county Galway, Ireland, a very important branch of the ancient house of De Burgh. Dominick Burke was an Esquire of Clondagoff Castle. He held lands, got married, and had a son named Peter. This son Peter was an Esquire who married Elizabeth, daughter of Harry Comerford of Faddenbegg, with whom he had issue: Dominick (of Riverstown, married Catherine Langton and was the ancestor of the Burkes of Rockville and Clongowna) and John. His second son, John Burke, Esq. was an officer in the Spanish army, who served under his uncle, Brigadier-General John Comerford. He first married Eleanor, daughter of John Keating of Shanballyduff, with whom he had a daughter named Elizabeth. He later married Lucnda, daughter of Oliver Plunkett of Bettyfield, with whom he had two sons and two daughters with her. His eldest son was Joseph Burke, an Esquire of London who was born in 1749. This Joseph was a Captain in the Royal Irish Brigade. In 1774, he married Jane, daughter of Simon Arthur Hyacinth French of Frenchbrook, having an only child with her. This child was John French Burke, author of several works, who was born in 1775. John married Katherine Thorne and had three sons with her: John French, Edmund Plunkett (of Inner Temple), and James St. George (Auberies). His son James St. George Burke was an Esquire of the Auberies, Essex, who was a Justice of the Peace and in 1835 married Anne Eliza, daughter of John Grubbe of Horsendon House, having thirteen children with her as follows: Edmund St. George, Hubert Plunkett (Brevet Major 8th Hussars), Walter St. George (married Mary Anne Amy Macrae Cockburn, had daughter named Norah Rachel), Ulick John (married Edith Charlotte Barnardiston, had four children named Ulick Roland, Violet, Kathleen, Laura, and Dorothy), Rowland Henry, Francis Eustance, Harold Arthur, Charles Carrington, Anna Rosa, Frances Constance, Rachel Edith, Mary Alice, and Anne Eliza. The Burke Coat of Arms (mistakenly called the Burke Family Crest) by some, is blazoned as follows: Or, a cross gules, in the 1st and 4th quarters a lion rampant sable. Crest: A cat-a-mountain sejant-guardant proper collared and chained or, on the breast a cross gold.
Burke of Ower
The Burke genealogy begins with Sir Redmond de Burgh, son of Sir William or Ulick de Burgh, called the Grey, who had a son named John Buy, known as The Yellow. From John of Castle Hacket descended Mydles de Burgh or Burke, who lived in the year 1480 AD at Castle Hacket. Myles had a son named Redmond. Redmond had a son named Ulick. This Ulick Burke had a son named John. John was of Castle Hacket and he married Margaret, daughter of Thady Kelly of Mullaghmore, and had a son with her. This son was named Ulick. This Ulick married Honora BNurke, daughter of the Viscount of Mayo, and had three issue with her: John (his heir), Catherine (married Andrew Browne of Brownestown), and Isabella (married The O’Conor Don). After the massacre of Shurel, in which many Protestants were killed, harboured the Protestant Bishop of Killa. His son and heir was John. John was an Esquire of Castle Hacket, which was forfeited, however, he reained Ower, a part of the ancient property. John married Mary Bermingham, daughter of the 17th Lord Anthenry, and had three issue with her: Ulick, Francis (married Margaret Daly), and Thomas (married Mary Hearne). His successor was Ulick Burke, Esquire of Ower. He married Catherine, daughter of Stephen Lynch of Doughiskea and Ellinor Browne, and had three issue with her: John (Captain in General Dillion’s Regiment in France), Myles, Dominick (married Catherine Blake, had issue named Myles, Stephen, and Catherine). His son Myles Burke was an Esquire of Ower who married Mary, daughter of Stephen Lynch Fitz-Thomas of Tubberoe, and had the following issue with her: John (a Franciscan friar), Stephen (married Marcella Martin, had daughter named Barbara), Dominick, Francis, William, Jane (married Henry Jordan of Rosslevin), and Barbara (married Sir Walter Blake of Menlo Castle). His son William, successor to his brother, married Teresa Kirwan of Hillsbrook, and had the following issue: John (married Maria Martyn, was an officer in the 79th and 38th regiments, had Peninsular medal with three clasps), Joseph, Francis (married Catherine Jennings, had children named William, Ulick, John, Bessy, and Teresa), Stephen, William, Mary (married James Garvey of Tully and later Major Allen, had issue named Mary, Teresa, and Caroline), Julia (married Francis Leigh, had issue), Barbara (married Batholomew St. Leger of Ballyheragh), and Bridget (a Nun). His son Joseph was an Esq. of Ower, county Galway, Ireland was born in 1781. He married Margaret, daughter of Oliver Martyn, and had issue with her as follows: William Joseph (of Ower), Oliver (Barrister-at-Law and author), John (M.D. of Manilla, married Victoria Butler, had issue named Joseph, John, William, and Mary), Richard (M.D. of Manilla), and Elizabeth (married Thomas O’Conor Donelan and had issue with her named Derwent, Joseph, John, Mary, and Thomas), Teresa, and Maria. He died in 1861. He was succeeded by his son Joseph William Burke, an Esquire of Ower, and a Justice of the Peace of Galway, Ireland who was born in 1825. He succeeded his father in 1861. In 1858, he married Barbara Ellen, daughter of Thomas Blake Turner of St. John’s Abbey, and had a daughter with her named Margaret Mary. The Burke arms have the following heraldic blazon: Or, a cross gules in the dexter canton a lion rampant sable. Crest: A chained cat sejant-guardant proper.
Burke of St. Clerans
This is yet another branch of the Burke family tree. John Burke was an Esquire of Isserclean, Galway, who married Jane, daughter of Michael Burke of Cloughanover (a descendant of the Burkes of Castle Hacket), and two issue with her: Ellen (married John Dolphin of Turoe) and James. His son and successor James was an Esq. of St. Clerans and he married Penelope, daughter of Robert Hardiman of Loughrea, and had a son and daughter with her. His son was John Burke, Esquire of St. Clerans, who in 1783, married Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew Armstrong, and had issue with her: James Hardiman, Robert, John, Penelope (married John Kirwan of Castle Hacket), and Elizabeth (married Christopher John Blake of Winfield). John took the additional surname of Hardiman in addition to that of Burke, in accordance with the will of his maternal uncle, Robert Hardison, whose estates he inherited when Robert died in 1800. He died in 1808 and was succeeded by his son, James Hardiman Burke, who was born in 1788. In 1817, James married Anne, daughter of Robert O’Hara of Raheen, and fathered the following issue with her: John, Robert O’Hara (an officer in the Austrian service, later went on Expedition in Australia), James Thomas (an officer in the R.E. who died in battle in Turkey), Fanny Maria (married John Blakeney of Abbert), Elizabeth (married Lieutenant-Colonel W.C. Menzies), Hester Albinia, and Anne Celestine (married Major Horace de Vere). He was a Sheriff and died in 1854. He was succeeded by his son, John Hardiman Burke. John H. was a Lieutenant-Colonel of the 3rd Buffs who served in the Crimean War. He died in 1863 and was succeeded by his sister Hester Albinia. She died in 1866 and was succeeded by her sister, Anne Celestine. This Anne Celestine Burke of St. Clerans, county Galway, Ireland, married Major Horace De Vere, and had three daughters with her: Mary, Eleanor, and Margaret. She later married Reverend Charles Maxwell, former Rector of Leckpatrick. The family coat of arms is blazoned in the European art of heraldry as follows: Or, a cross gules, in the 1st quarter a lion rampant sable. Crest: A cat-a-mountain sejant proper, collared and chained or. They were seated at St. Clerans, formerly called Isserclean, Craughwell, county Galway, Ireland.
Burke of Marble Hill
Sir Gerald Howe Burke, 7th Baronet, of Marble Hill, county Galway, Ireland, was a Captain of the Irish Guards who served in World War I and was born in 1893. He succeeded his father in 1913. He married Elizabeth Mary, daughter of Patrick Mathews of Mount Hanover, and had a son with her named Thomas Stanley, who was born in 1916 and was educated at Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge. In 1920, Gerald married Merrial, daughter of Edward Christie, and had two daughters with her: Bridget Alison (married Lieutenant-Colonel Eugene Dechelette of France) and Elizabeth Anne (born 1924). The lineage of this branch of the Burke family tree or the Burke genealogy begins with a family long settled in the lands of Creggen, later called Marbe Hill in Galway, Ireland. Thomas Burke McJonack and Richard McEdmund Burke were seized of lands in Creggeenmore in 1617. Thomas M. held lands in Creegeenmore and Gorteenagapoge, and he was killed in rebellion in 1689. He had three sons. His eldest son was Thomas. This Thomas married Julia, daughter of James Tully of Gurnane and had a son with her named John. This John was of Grallough and he was born in 1713. He married Mary, daughter and heir of Michael Carroll of Killoran. He died in 1793 and was succeeded by his only son Thomas. This was Sir Thomas Burke, 1st Baronet, of Marble Hill, a Justice of the Peace who was created a Baronet of Ireland in December of 1797. In 1784, he married Christian, daughter of James Browne of Limerick, and had numerous issue with her, including: John (2nd Baronet), Maria (married Maurice Nugent of Mount Pleasant), Julia (married Malachy Daly of Raford), Elizabeth (married 13th Earl of Clanricarde), Anne (married Sir Henry Tichborne), and Ellen (married Nicholas Browne of Mount Hazel and later married the 6th Viscount Strangford). He died in 1813 and was succeeded by his eldest son John. Sir John Burke was the 2nd Baronet, born in 1782. He was a Colonel of the 98th Foot, a Member of Parliament for Galway, Vice-Lieutenant of Galway, and High Sheriff of Galway. In 1812, he married Elizabeth Mary, daughter of John Calcraft. They had numerous issue together, including: Sir Thomas John (3rd Baronet_, Charles Granby (Master of the Court of Common Please, married Emma Jane Creyke and later Eva Mary Stride Foster), James Henry (Major General of the Bombay Engineers), and Elizabeth Anne (married David O’Conor Henchy of Stonebrook).
The Burke Coat of Arms (erroneously called the Burke Family Crest) has the following heraldic blazon or armorial: Erminois, a cross gules, in the first quarter a lion rampant sable. Crest: A cat-a-mountain sejant guardant proper, collared and chained or. This branch of the family tree resided at Rupert Place, Henley-on-Thames.
Other Burke Pedigree & Family Trees
The earliest known ancestor or progenitor of this family was Herluin de Conteville (1001-1066 AD), who was perhaps the son of Jean de Conteville and Harlette de Meulan. His son was Robert De Burgo Montaigne who was born in 1040 AD, a companion of William the Conqueror during the Battle of Hastings in the Norman Invasion of England. He married a woman named Matilda and had a daughter with her named William De Burgo. William was born around 1060 AD and he married Isabel Fitzrichard and had a son with her named Aldelm De Montaigne. Aldhelm was born in Cornwall, England around 1085 AD. He married a woman named Agnes and had a son with her named William. The following is a pedigree from him:
William Fitzaldelm de Burgh (born in Burgh Next Aylsham, Norfolk, England in 1108 AD)
Walter de Burgh (born in Norfolk in 1133 AD)
William "Seneschal of Munster 1201" de Burgh (born in Ulster, Connaught, Ireland in 1158 AD)
Sir Richard "Lord of Connacht" de Burgh (Galway Castle, Clare, Ireland in 1193 AD)
William Og de Burgh (born in Clanricarde, Galway, around 1230 AD)
William Liath Burke (1265 AD)
Richard Burgh (1290 AD)
Ulick Burgh (1315 AD)
Richard MacWilliam Burgh (1315 AD)
Richard MacWilliam "Lord of Upper Connaught" Burgh (Clanricarde, Galway, 1340)
Ulrick Burgh (1375)
Ulick Burgh (1400)
Richard Burk or Burke was born in Clare, Ireland in 1640. He came to colonial America where he died in Massachusetts in 1694. He had a son named Richard who was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts in 1671. He married Abigail Sawtell and had a son with her named Jonathan. Jonathan Burke was born in Sudbury, MA in 1701. He married Thankful Waite and had four issue with her: Jonathan, Jesse, Soloman, and Anna. His son Jesse was born in Brookfield, MA in 1738. He married Leah Jennings and had two children with her: Jesse and Joseph. His son Joseph was born in 1772 and he married Abigail Petty, with whom he had a son named Amasha. This Amasha Burke was born in Morrisville, Vermont in 1804. He married Ruth Bennett Hubbell and had a daughter with her named Clara Ellen who was born in 1849. She married George Alva Bridge and had a daughter with her named Mabel Ruth Bridge (Gates).
Early American and New World Settlers
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions one bearer of this last name:
1) Richard Burke, of Concord, had a grant of land in 1686, at Stow. He married in September 1687 at Northampton to Sarah, daughter of Thomas Woodford, and had three sons with her: John (1689), Richard, and Jonathan.
Other early settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Robert Burke (Maryland 1649), Stephen Burke (Maryland 1649), Jane Burke (Maryland 1666), Katherine Burke (Virginia 1705), Thomas Burke (Virginia 1706), Richard Burke (Virginia 1714), and Levi Burke (Philadelphia 1772).
Jeoffrey Burke came to Antigua aboard the True Friendship to in late December 1679. In Canada, one of the first settlers bearing this last name was Elener Burke who came to Nova Scotia in 1811.
In Australia, one of the first bearers was John Burke, a convict from Middlesex, England who came to Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania) aboard the Arab in 1834. In New Zealand, two of the first settlers with this surname came in the year 1840: James Burke in the city of Wellington and William M. Otway Burke in Nelson.
Early Americans Bearing the Burke Family Crest
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) contains one entry for this name:
1) Robert Burke of Sudbury, Massachusetts, 1640, from Galway, Ireland. Arms: Erminois a cross gules, in the dexter canton a lion rampant sable. Crest: A mountain cat, sejant gules and argent proper collared and chained or. Motto: Ung roy, ung foy, ung loy.
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) and Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) do not contain entries for this last name.
I have identified five Burke family mottoes:
1) Ung roy, ung foy, ung loy (One king, one faith, one law)
2) Altiora petenda (To seek higher things)
3) ln hoc signo vinces (Under this sign you shall conquer)
4) Vinctus sed non victus (Chained but not conquered)
5) The swarthy stranger defying
We have 18 coats of arms for the Burke surname depicted here. These 18 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Burke surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Edmund Burke (1729-1797) who was an Irish statesman and political philosopher from Dublin, Ireland who served in Parliament for the Whig Party and whose ideas were influential to the American Revolution, 2) Frank Welsh Burke (1920-2007) who was an American politician who was the Mayor of Louisville from 1969-2973 and a member of the US House of Representatives from Kentucky from 1959-1963, 3) Anna Elizabeth Burke (1966) who was the 28th Speaker of the House of Representatives in Australia from 2012-2013, 4) James Anthony Burke (1910-1983) who was born in Boston, MA and served as a member of the US House of Representatives for Massachusetts from 1963-1979, 5) Sir John Bernard Burke (1814-1892) who was a British genealogist and Ulster King of Arms born in London, England, best known for helping publish the book Burke’s Peerage, 6) Robert O’Hara Burke (1821-1861) who was an Irish police officer and soldier born in St. Cleren’s, Galway who became a famous Australian explorer, having been part of the first expedition to cross the continent from south to north, 7) Walter Lawrence Burke (1908-1984) who was an American stage, film, and television actor born in Brooklyn, New York who was often cast as an Englishman or Irishman, 8) Sean Burke (1967) who is a retired professional hockey player in the NHL who was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and played goaltender for ten different teams in the league for 20 years between 1987-2007, 9) Lynn Edythe Burke (1943) who was a former American competitive swimmer born in New York City, NY, having competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy, and 10) Arleigh Albert Burke (1901-1996) who was an admiral of the United States Navy, born in Boulder, Colorado, who served in both World War II and the Korean War, and later became Chief of Naval Operations during the Eistenhower and Kennedy presidential administrations.