Dick Van Dyke Can Trace His Family Back To This Historic Voyage

Dick Van Dyke, 96, is a beloved comedic actor known for "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and movies like "Mary Poppins." Though he was born and raised in the U.S., Van Dyke also self-identifies as Dutch, and his surname is Dutch for a person who lives near a dyke or levee (via NPR and Behind the Name). Dykes are common in the Netherlands and prevent flooding in low-lying areas, according to Behind the Name. However, Van Dyke has English ancestry as well, and one of his English forebears came to America on a pretty famous ship.

John Alden was one of the passengers on the Mayflower, which landed at what's now Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. Van Dyke is Alden's 9th great-grandson. The relationship is through Van Dyke's mother, Hazel McCord, and Alden's daughter Sarah (via Famous Kin). Alden's wife, Priscilla Mullins, is famous for being the object of Miles Standish's affections in the poem "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Mullins and Alden's other famous descendants include Longfellow himself, President John Adams, Marilyn Monroe, Orson Welles, and Vice President Dan Quayle (via Familypedia).

How many Mayflower descendants are there?

The Mayflower left England in September 1620 carrying settlers, the Pilgrims, who wanted to form their own church, separate from the Church of England. According to the Plimoth Patuxet Museum, two ships originally left together. The other was called the Speedwell, but the group had to turn back twice because the Speedwell was leaking. Eventually, the Mayflower left it behind and sailed to America with 102 passengers, only part of the original group of settlers. They were at sea for 66 days before landing at Cape Cod. They decided to make their colony there instead of going south to the mouth of the Hudson River (near modern-day New York City) as they had planned.

As Mayflower descendants, Van Dyke and his relatives are part of a much larger group. Though nearly half the settlers died during their first winter in America, those who survived have more than 10 million descendants (via Plimoth Patuxet Museum and The Post and Courier). If someone can prove they're related to a Mayflower passenger, they can join what began as The General Society of Mayflower Descendants (now The Mayflower Society), which about 84,000 people have done.

Dick Van Dyke's family

Van Dyke has added to the number of Mayflower descendants himself: He has four children and several grandchildren. His children are Barry, Stacy, Christian, and Carrie Van Dyke. Barry has worked as an actor, starring alongside his father in "Diagnosis: Murder" and other projects. Barry's son Shane also appeared on the show (via Smooth Radio).

Dick Van Dyke was born in 1925 in Missouri to Hazel and Loren Van Dyke, and he grew up in Danville, Ill. His younger brother Jerry Van Dyke became an actor, too. Dick Van Dyke has been married twice; he married his first wife, Margerie, as part of a radio game show called "Bride and Groom" in 1948. They divorced in 1984 after being separated for many years. He lived with partner Michelle Triola until her death in 2009. In 2012, he married makeup artist Arlene Silver (above), who is 46 years his junior. They met at the 2006 SAG Awards (via Smooth Radio).

Secrets in the family tree?

Van Dyke may have connections to other early American adventurers. He says that looking at a family tree once, he saw that his mother's family, the McCords, were also related to Captain John Smith (above) of the Jamestown, Virginia, colony, but he hasn't confirmed this himself. The same family tree said his great-great-grandfather had gone west to find gold but was unsuccessful and moved back east (via "The Today Show").

When Van Dyke was 18, he found out something much more scandalous. During a conversation with his mother about enlisting during World War II, she told him that he had already turned 18, even though he thought his birthday was still a month away. She said he had been born prematurely, and there were complications with his birth, so they changed his birthday to suggest he had been full term. When he asked his grandmother about it, she revealed the actual truth: He was conceived out of wedlock, a scandalous circumstance at the time. His parents left their hometown and moved to Missouri briefly to hide the secret. They came back married with a baby whose birth date they fudged a little. Van Dyke says that even by 1943, this was a bit shocking (via "The Today Show").