Saturday, November 29, 2014



I have been mulling over Denis O’Rourke for a long time.   My grandmother was the youngest and talked about her brother whom, she said, drowned in the river.

I found no record of him for the longest time and I found a Baptism Record in the Archives of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, St. Thomas RC Church Baptism book and I picture of him courtesy of my cousin Joanne Dougherty.


Denis O'Rourke picture


The interesting thing I found in the Baptism record was that his Baptism was records with date of birth 28 October 1875 and the names of his parents were my great grandparents Patrick O’Rourke and Ellen Mortel and sponsors were John O’Rourke and Marie ????

Denis O'Rourke Baptism

Now the mystery here is the following Baptism of Joanne O’Rourke, parents Patrick and Ellen O’Rourke with the sponsors Martin and Winifred Otter, and the date was on the same page as Denis and recorded birth as 8 November 1875.  

I did not find Denis living with Patrick and Ellen in the 1880 census.  My theory at this time is that Denis was the son of his brother John and perhaps John and the mother of Denis were not married at the time and Patrick and Ellen claimed him as their own in order to have the child Baptized. 

My only other clue to the drowning incident is the fact that in August 1892 Patrick purchased a cemetery lot in Braddock Catholic Cemetery.   Denis would have been about the age where he would be swimming in the river and it would have been summer at the time.    I do not think that Patrick, being poor, would not buy a cemetery plot if it was not needed.   

I checked with the cemetery and they are missing records for a ten year period occurring at the same time.   He is also not recorded in the Allegheny Death records for that period of time.

I never found a marriage for John O’Rourke and any woman but I did find his death certificate and he was listed as single.

John O'Rourke DC 25 May 1908

Another mystery I have found was a Baptism of Joseph Clarence O’Rourke in St. Colman RC Church, in Turtle Creek PA, which is the community next to East Pittsburgh, PA.   Patrick and Ellen (now in their late 50’s) were listed as parents to Joseph Clarence.

With the release of the Pennsylvania Death Certificates I found a Death Certificate for baby Joseph Clarence

Joseph Clarance O'Rourke DOD 14 Feb. 1908

Listed as his father was JR O’Rourke and Margaret Duffy of East Pittsburgh.  Is JR O’Rourke the same as John O'Rourke and the father of both Denis and Joseph?  I may never know the answer.

1 comment:

  1. Little Dennis looks like a serious boy, even know that photos taken at that time required no smile to be able to hold the pose. I find it sad to think of children drowning in rivers. For a while I wondered if one of my grandfather's siblings drowned because I couldn't find any trace of the child. It's still possible but I'm still searching. I hope you figure out your mystery.