John Burke (genealogist)

John Burke (12 November 1786  27 March 1848)[1] was an Irish genealogist, and the original publisher of Burke's Peerage. He was the father of Sir Bernard Burke, a British officer of arms and genealogist.


He was the elder son of Peter Burke of Elm Hall, Tipperary, by his first wife, Anne, daughter and coheiress of Matthew Dowdall, M.D., of Mullingar.[2] In accordance with a family arrangement, his younger brother Joseph succeeded to the estate at the father‘s death on 13 January 1836.[2]


John Burke early engaged in literary work in London, but afterwards devoted himself to genealogical studies, and in 1826 he issued a Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the United Kingdom. For the first time such a work was arranged alphabetically, as opposed to in the Ahnentafel or genealogical-table style, and peers and baronets were treated together. The convenience of its method at once gave it great popularity.[2] The 'Peerage' was republished at irregular intervals until 1847, when it reached its ninth edition. From that date it has been issued annually. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerages of England, Ireland, and Scotland, extinct, dormant, and in abeyance, was first published by Burke in 1831 (3rd edit. 1846); later editions, prepared by Sir J. B. Burke, appealed in 1866 and 1883.[2]

In 1831 Burke also issued what was intended to be the first of a series of annual handbooks, entitled The Official Calendar for 1831, but the series was not continued. Between 1833 and 1838, he published A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, in four volumes; another edition was issued in 1838; and a third edition in two volumes between 1843 and 1849.[2] The title was altered in the later editions to A Dictionary of the Landed Gentry and a supplementary volume appeared in 1844, containing corrigenda and a general index. It is known colloquially as Burke's Landed Gentry.

Burke was also the author of:

Burke was also the editor of a short-lived periodical, entitled ‘The Patrician.'[2]

Marriage & progeny

He married his cousin Mary O'Reilly (died 1846), second daughter of Bernard O'Reilly of Ballymorris, Longford, Ireland. Mary is listed as one of the lost graves on the Burdett Coutts memorial in Old St. Pancras Churchyard. By his wife he had two sons:[2]


Burke died at Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany on 27 March 1845.[2]

List of works

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History of the Commoners

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland Enjoying Territorial Possessions or High Official Rank but Uninvested with Heritable Honours, 4 volumes (1833-1838) (subsequently published as Burke's Landed Gentry):

History of Extinct Baronetcies

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland, by John Burke and John Bernard Burke,



 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney (1886). "Burke, John". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 7. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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