Mr Jeremiah Burke was born in Ballynoe1, Rathcooney, Glanmire, Co Cork, Ireland on 15 April 1893.
Coming from a Roman Catholic family, he was the son of William Burke (b. circa 1856), a farmer, and Catherine Hegarty (b. circa 1852 ) who were married around 1882.
One of seven surviving children from a total of nine, his extant siblings were: Mary (b. 2 January 1883, later Mrs Michael Burns), Hanora (b. 4 April 1885, later Mrs John Casey), Catherine "Kitty" (b. 2 January 1887), Ellen "Nellie" (b. 26 December 1888, later Mrs James Hamilton), William (b. 2 January 1891) and Laurence (b. 2 May 1895).
Jeremiah appears on both the 1901 and 1911 census living with his family in Ballynoe and being described as a farmer's son on the latter record. Two of his elder sisters had earlier emigrated and settled in the USA. His oldest sibling Mary had emigrated to Charlestown, Boston around 1905 and had been married in the summer of 1911 to Michael Burns and was pregnant with her first child. Jeremiah decided to join them there and Mary sent the funds for him to travel.
Burke boarded the Titanic at Queenstown as a third class passenger (ticket number 365222 which cost £6, 15s). Travelling with him was his cousin Hanora Hegarty (his mother was the sister of her father Laurence Hegarty) and whilst aboard they reportedly were acquainted with Eugene Daly and likely others from Cork.
Jeremiah died in the sinking, as did his cousin Hanora. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified. His estate, worth a paltry £5, was administered to his father William on 11 December 1912.
His sister Mary gave birth to a daughter, Catherine Ignatius, on 21 June 1912. She went on to have a further two daughters, Mary (b. 1915) and Helen Frances (b. 1917) and remained living in Boston with her family and is believed to have died in the late 1960s. His sister Nellie (later Mrs James Hamilton also lived in Boston for the rest of her life) and had a son named James in 1920. She died on 30 March 1982.
Thirteen months later in the early summer of 1913, a postman (coachman?) walking his dog, found a small bottle on a shingle beach near Cork Harbour. Inside was a pencilled message:
Burke of Glanmire,
The bottle was brought to the local police station and later passed on to the Burke family. According to Brid O'Flynn, Jeremiah's grand-niece, his mother had filled a little bottle with holy water and given him for good luck as he left the family house to be driven to Cobh in a pony trap by his father and uncle. Ms O'Flynn said, "This is unmistakably the bottle that had left thirteen months previously and unmistakably her son's handwriting." Could he have thrown it overboard as the Titanic sailed? Brid O'Flynn said, "A bottle of holy water in those days that your mother gave you was a reverent thing. It wasn't something you threw out the side as you left Ireland. To me it senses of panic." A message from a Titanic victim making its way back to the parish of his birth? That framed icon of their family tragedy is preserved today on the wall of John Burke's house in White's Cross, Cork. It was featured on Irish television in February 1998.
His family in Ireland remained in Ballynoe; his mother outlived him by just shy of two years and died from cancer on 30 December 1913. His father rallied for close to a further two decades and died on 1 May 1931 from pneumonia.