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Overheard on the Message Boards: Seeking Dysert Family in Illinois
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

February 13, 2003
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I am looking for the Dysert family who lived in Vermillion County, Illinois, around Fathian. George Dysert was born in 1907. His father is John Dysert, b. 1876. Any help appreciated. -- Joyce

A: Illinois is one of the better states when it comes to records. They have marriage records dating back to the creation of each of the counties, though they usually get better after 1877 when all vital records were required in the counties. State registration of vital records began in the early 1900s.

It sounds like the information you have so far was found in the 1910 census when the family was living in Vermilion County, Illinois. Actually it appears they were there for some time, as the research below reveals. This makes things a little easier for you as you can begin this research by concentrating in just one county.

It's good to look at what records a county has available.

Preliminary Research

In seeing your question, I was curious what I could find on the family through the online sources and was pleased when I discovered quite a bit of information, beginning with the census that is now available online. While I have discussed additional record alternatives later on, a lot can be learned through the census and other online databases about this family.

My first stop was to locate the family of John Dysert in the 1910 census. I discovered that in the 1910 census John was listed in the index as John E. Dyser. Notice the spelling variation. When I checked the actual census page, the name was Dysert, so this spelling variation was the result of the person or group who was indexing the census. You will find, though, that this and other spelling variations exist and you will want to keep a look out for them as your research progresses. I have seen often where a person has been unable to go further with a family because they have adhered to a single spelling. While your family may have always spelled the surname a particular way, this does not always mean that the clerks who came in contact with your ancestor were as conscientious with the spelling.

As I suspected, the 1910 census did show John E. Dysert, age 34, born in Illinois. Also in the house was his wife Bertha, age 31, born in Illinois; and three sons, Harold, age 9, an unreadable named son age 7, and finally George M., age 3. All three sons were born in Illinois. Given the information you had shared, I came to the conclusion that this was indeed the family you were talking about.

Because the 1910 census showed that John and Bertha had been married for ten years, I decided to see if perhaps they would show up as a couple in the 1900 census. I ran a search of the 1900 index here on and found a John Dysert living in Vermilion County, Illinois. Upon viewing this census I found that indeed John and Bertha had been married by the time the census was taken and that they had been married less than a year. Armed with this information I went looking at the 1900 census to see if John and Bertha were married yet. The census further showed that John E. Dysert was born April 1876 in Illinois and his wife Bertha M. was born February 1879, also in Illinois.

Where to Turn Next

Based on the preliminary census research of 1910 and 1900, it appeared that the Dysert surname was not particularly common. In many ways that is an advantage, especially when you are doing a wide net search as I was about to do. Basically the wide net research approach is to look for someone in as many databases or record types as you can find. To begin this research I was going to start with additional census records and compiled family history databases available online. I often use these to see what prior research may already exist. Also, I always exhaust all possible census record indexes online, though I may find myself later returning to other published census indexes or going line-by-line through a county or township if I am unable to locate a family that should be there in the census index online.

The first stop was the 1880 census. While I could have used the Soundex, available on microfilm, I was working from home on this line and didn't have access to the microfilms. In searching for John, I told the 1880 census database I have on CD-ROM, which is not limited to head of household, that I wanted to search for a John Dysert, born in 1876, with an error of plus or minus two years, and that he was born in Illinois. Not surprising, only one individual showed up based on this search. In viewing the family I discovered that John was listed as a son in the household of Joseph Dysert and Abigail in Oakwood, Vermilion County, Illinois.

Joseph was born ca 1833 in Illinois, according to the 1880 census. His wife, Abigail was born in 1840, also in Illinois. There were a number of children, including a John Dysert, age 4, born in Illinois. Tentatively I felt that I had found the parents of John Dysert. I set about seeing if there was anything that had already been compiled on Joseph Dysert.

I ran blanket searches of many of the major compiled family history databases putting in Joseph Dysert. At first I stuck with his birth year of 1883 as I found in the census records and found that I wasn't getting much. So I began to venture out with my search, asking for a plus or minus of five years. This showed me a Joseph Dysert, born 28 August 1831 in Blount, Vermilion, Illinois, and a wife Abigail Vinson, born ca 1840 in Catlin, Vermilion, Illinois. Unfortunately where I found this there were no children listed, but it did list parents for Joseph, a Joseph Dysert and Sarah Driver. Finally it offered me a death date of about 1925 in Illinois.

Armed with the estimated death date and place for Joseph Dysert, I turned to yet another online database, the Illinois Death Index, 1916-1950 as available online as part of the Illinois State Archives web site, which had one Joseph Dysert listed, and showed that he died in Oakwood, Vermilion, Illinois on 9 May 1926, certificate number 0920275.

Turning to Original Documents

Up to this point all of the research I had done had been online and from the comfort of my own home. Some of my links from one generation to the next were purely conjecture — the names the same and so it must be the right family. It was now time to see if the conjectures could be verified with a paper trail. There were records kept that could be used to verify the connection from John E. Dysert to Joseph Dysert (born in 1831 or 1833) to Joseph Dysert who married Sarah Driver.

After finding Joseph Dysert in the Illinois Death Index, I did a search for John and Bertha. I found them both with John Edgar Dyster dying 6 March 1934 in Oakwood, Vermilion, Illinois and Bertha dying 18 November 1948 in Danville, Vermilion, Illinois. John's and Joseph's death records could be found on microfilm at the Family History Library and I looked at both of them. They confirmed the relationships suspected and supplied additional information. John Edgar Dysert was born 20 April 1876 in Oakwood, Vermilion, Illinois. He was a grain farmer. According to his death certificate his father was born in Blount Township, Vermilion, Illinois and his mother in Oakwood. A side note to John's death certificate, while he died in March, 1934, he has been misfiled in the February 1934 deaths for Vermilion County, at least on the microfilms at the FHL. Joseph's death record offered a date of birth of 28 August 1831 and reiterated that he was born in Blount Township. His parents were listed as Josephy Dysert (born, Pennsylvania) and Sarah Driver (born in Montezuma, Parke, Indiana).

A search of the index to the births for Vermilion County up to 1919 did not reveal George, born 1907. It is possible he was missed when the index was being compiled by the clerk's office. You would want to order the actual registers and go through them page by page to see if you can find George's birth. However, there was a birth of an unnamed Dysert, child of Joseph and Abigail Dysert, which can be found as birth record 2600, in register 1, on page 201. These registers are available on microfilm through your local Family History Center.

I did manage to find the marriage of John E. Dysert to Bertha May Hilleary. The marriage confirmed again, that John E. Dysert is the son of Joseph Dysert and Abigail Vinson. It also gave us Bertha's maiden name and listed her parents as Geo. H. Hilleary and Sarah Hilleary. While the register asks for mother's maiden name, I think it was probably unknown by John E. Dysert, who applied for the marriage license. They were married at the bride's parents' residence in Vermilion County, Illinois on 27 December 1899.

A peek back at the 1880 census revealed George Hilleary and his wife Sarah and children in Blount, Vermilion, Illinois on page 205A, microfilm publication T9, roll 254. This listed George's birth as circa 1840 in Illinois, so I couldn't resist a search of the 1850 census to see if I could find George as a child. I suspect I did. There is a 10 year old George Hillary living with a William Hillary born in Virginia circa 1809 and Catherine, born circa 1811 in Ohio on page 293 of the 21st District, Vermilion County, Illinois.

In Conclusion

So, it looks like the following gives you four generations to work with on your Dysert family, specifically the lineage of George Dysert, born circa 1907.

First Generation

1. George Dysert, born ca. 1907, probably Vermilion County, Illinois.

Second Generation

2. John Edgar Dysert, born 20 Apr 1876 in Oakwood, Vermilion County, Illinois. Died 6 Mar 1934 in Oakwood, Vermilion County. Married 27 Dec 1899 in Vermilion County, Illinois to Bertha May Hilleary.

3. Bertha May Hilleary, born Feb 1879 in Illinois. Died 28 Nov 1948 in Danville, Vermilion County, Illinois.

Third Generation

4. Joseph Dysert, born 28 Aug 1831 in Blount, Vermilion County, Illinois. Died 9 May 1926 in Oakwood, Vermilion County, Illinois. Married 7 Jul 1867, probably Vermilion County, Illinois to Abigail Vinson.

5. Abigail Vinson, born ca 1840 in Oakwood, Vermilion County, Illinois. Died 1913, probably Vermilion County, Illinois.

6. George H. Hilleary, born ca 1840 in Illinois, probably Vermilion County. Married to Sarah.

7. Sarah [--?--], born ca 1847 in Illinois.

Fourth Generation

8. Joseph Dysert, born ca 1790 in Pennsylvania. Died after 1850, probably in Vermilion County, Illinois. Married to Sarah Driver.

9. Sarah Driver, born ca 1795 in Montezuma, Parke, Indiana (according to son's death certificate) or in Pennsylvania (according to 1850 census).

12. William Hillary, born ca 1809 in Virginia. Married to Catherine.

13. Catherine [--?--], born ca 1811 in Ohio.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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