A Genealogist and the Present for Dick Van Dyke’s Family Tree

In genealogy, there can always be something new to be found. Our genealogist, Joan Shurtliff, looks into the ancestry of Dick Van Dyke and finds something different.

Sometimes this professional genealogist wonders where time goes. I was a teenager when Dick Van Dyke starred in the movie Mary Poppins. We all loved that he danced in a style all his own.  And I looked forward to watching The Dick Van Dyke Show on television knowing that most weeks he would fall over the ottoman. Now, on December 13, Dick Van Dyke will turn 90 years old. While he is still active, this genealogist thinks he might not be taking as many spills as he used to.

With that in mind, my family tree focus will be on his ancestry this week. Of course, his lineage is well documented with numerous online family trees. Because this genealogist prefers to do a thorough search and really likes discovering something new, when I went back to his records, I happened to find—AHA!—an unknown great-great-grandfather.

This makes Dick Van Dyke a nice example for every genealogist and a good family history lesson.

Born Richard Wayne Van Dyke, he was the son of father Loren Wayne Van Dyke, who was recorded as “Lora” in a couple of censuses. Mr. Loren’s Wayne Van Dyke’s mother was Jennie Ware Van Dyke (Dick’s grandmother) and Jennie Ware’s father is listed as Winfield Scott Ware (Dick’s great-grandfather) in many online family trees. Winfield’s parents are listed as unknown.

While Dick calls Danville, Vermillion County, Illinois home, he has a number of family members from Greenup, Cumberland County, Illinois. Both counties are located in east central Illinois some 60 miles apart.

Jennie was born in Cumberland County in October of 1883. Keep in mind that seemingly simple surnames, such as Ware, may be misspelled as frequently as the surnames which are long or hard to pronounce.  This genealogist has found Jennie the 1900 Census:

State, IL; County, Cumberland; Township, Greenup; ED 51; Sheet 5A; Dwelling, 90; Family, 90:

  • Wear, Scot, head, b. Jul 1857, IL OH OH
  • Alice, wife, b. Feb 1861,      IL   IL   IL
  • Jennie, Dau, b. Oct. 1883,   IL   IL   IL

Jennie is also listed as the only surviving child of Scot and Alice. Scot was born in Illinois, his parents were born in Ohio. Scot is found in the 1880 U.S. Census:

State, IL; County, Cumberland; Township, Greenup; ED 63; P. 30-31; Dwelling, 285; Family, 285; Lines 46-50 and 1-2:

  • Wiers, Solomon, 57, Married, Farmer, OH Blank Blank
  • Eliza, 47, Wife, Married, OH Blank Blank
  • Anna M., 26, Dau., Div., IL   OH   OH
  • Amanda, 23, Dau., S., IL   OH   OH
  • Scott, 22, Son, S., IL   OH   OH
  • Wiers, Laurce, 21, Dau., S., IL OH   OH
  • Soleman, 20, Son, S., IL   OH   OH

To be on the safe side, this genealogist went back one more census to 1870:

State, IL; County, Cumberland; Township, Greenup; P. 11; Dwelling, 68; Family, 68; Lines 3-12:

  • Ware, Solomon, 50, OH
  • Eliza J., 45, OH
  • Charles C., 28, IN
  • Mary E., 23, IN
  • Ann M., 19, IL
  • Manda, 17, IL
  • Scott, 14, IL
  • Laura, 12, IL
  • Solomon, 10, IL
  • Clinton, 6, IL

The family history researcher or anyone creating a family tree should note that not all of the ages match from census to census. It wasn’t until the 1930 Census that the decision was made to enumerate the population every ten years. The date of the enumeration can make a difference in the age listed. The knowledge of the individual providing the information may also affect what is recorded.

But how can the Winfield Scott who is on Dick Van Dyke’s family trees become the Scott that is listed in the census? Sometimes, children are named after an individual admired by the family. When the genealogist looks into the naming of children in a family, one can glean insight into that family’s likes, hopes, and preferences.

Winfield Scott (1786-1866), in his time, was a U.S. Army general for many, many years. He commanded troops in the War of 1812, the Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War and, briefly, in the Civil War. He even ran for president as a Whig. Winfield Scott was admired.

Many of us remember Dick Van Dyke for his dynamic role in Mary Poppins.

A genealogist like many of us remembers Dick Van Dyke for his dynamic role in Mary Poppins.

Once the genealogist has some information, one takes the next step in the research process, which is to get additional material to support the facts. In researching the Van Dyke family, this professional genealogist looked at FindAGrave which has a listing for Greenup Cemetery. There are 2,800-plus burials including 33 Wares and 20 Van Dykes. Amongst the Wares, there is one Scott W. Ware, 1858-1928.

So, the parents of Winfield Scott Ware are Solomon and Eliza J. Ware. Both were born in Ohio and moved soon after their marriage. The first stop they made, sometime around 1840, was to seek their fortune in Indiana. In about 1850, they moved their growing family to Illinois hoping to find land suitable for farming.

There is more to this story as every genealogist finds that there usually is.

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