McKay Family History

All about Charles Lawrence McKay ("Lauren", "Lorn" or "Mac"). Who was an accomplished fiddle player, studied music at Pasadena Nazarene college with his brother Fred, served in WWI, and helped run the family farm (in North Dakota) after his father's death in 1915 or 1916. He was born in 29 Jan 1894, married Blanche Renfro 21 Oct 1921, had two daughters and six grandchildren (all born Pasadena CA). He died 13 Jun 1949, from a heart attack. I have a bit of info about his parents and siblings. He is said to have been the youngest of nine children of Neil and Flora McKay. PHOTO thanks to a distant cousin: Flora McKay in about 1880.

Scottish origins

Mac's parents were both born in Nova Scotia, probably Cape Breton (said their marriage certificate). Mac's grandparents had the surnames McKay (twice), McLean and McKinnon, and were all born in Scotland. In spite of whatever modern convention about Mc vs. Mac, all of them were Scottish and used both the Mc and Mac spellings.

Early 19th century Scottish settlement on Cape Breton Island was overwhelmingly from the western isles and very north of Scotland. Likely origin places for Mac's grandparents are Sutherlandshire, as well as any of the Hebridean Isles. (Muck, Rum, North Uist, etc.) Most of this emigration was on the back of collapse of the Scottish kelp farming industry in about 1820, as well as the ongoing Highland clearances (when Scottish landlords mass evicted farming tenants). The attraction in Cape Breton was ample and cheap land for farming as well as coal mining jobs. Thanks to research by Alan Falconer, we know that tombstones state origins for Flora McKay's dad in Invernesshire; the bad news is that Invernessshire in 1800 was an enormous county, stretching from Inverness town itself almost on the East coast of Scotland all the way out to the outer Hebrides in the far west. So doesn't tell us as much as I'd like.

Most of the Scottish immigrants were Roman Catholic -- that our McKays were Presbyterian may be helpful for tracing them. Nearly all of the immigrants were Gaelic speaking, and even now Cape Breton is considered a world centre for traditional Scottish dancing, language and culture (it is not difficult to find older people there who still speak Gaelic). The common forenames amongst our known family members, along with their religion, suggest that they were part of the large extended McKay clan who settled around Lake Ainslie in Cape Breton, Inverness County. We may link up to other documented MacLean and MacKinnon families in the Lake Ainslie area and in Invernessshire. Unfortunately, consistent records for Lake Ainslie and other Cape Breton communities before 1864 are very hard to find, which makes it hard to prove any links. Although I have the names of Mac's grandparents (see below), I may never find out more about where they came from in Scotland.


This looks to be our Flora, parents have the right forenames, brother named Charles & sis called Catherine fits:
1871 Canada Census, 01, Culross c, South Bruce 27, Ontario
Flora McKay 16 b. 1855 in N.S., religion = Presbyterian living in household of:
John McKay M 67 born Scotland, Sarah McKay F 60 born Scotland
all b. Nova Scotia: Kathrine 22, Hector McKay 21, Charles 19, Flora McKay 16
that could be same Katherine living with them in ND, I cannot find this family in 1861 or 1851 Census

?1871 Census Ontario Several Labourers living on their own named Neil McKay

1871: 02, Lingan Mines h, Cape Breton 205, Nova Scotia
completely different Flora? Living in this household, but same age & religion (could it be same Flora?)
Charles Mckay M 29y born N.S. Mary Thompson F 25y born England & a Methodist   Flora Mckay F 16y b. N.S.

1871: 03, Mabou g, Inverness 203, Nova Scotia, all Presbyterians
Flora McKay 50 b. Scotland, Neil McKay 30 b. N.S., Christy Ann 3 b. N.S., Duncan McKinnon 19 b. N.S.

Info from Maureen's 1943 history: In about 1870 Neil marries his first wife, Mary McLean. They have a child, Hector K. Mary died when Hector was about one year old. Hector is sent to live with his mother's parents, Neil becomes friendly with another McKay family who include a young Flora McKay, some years his junior. They wed in 1873.

1873 Nov 18 Ontario Bruce Canada Presbyterian Marr of
Neil McKay 32, Farmer b. Cape Breton, father = Hector (reads like "Horton") McKay, mother = Catherine Mclean
to Flora McKay 19, b. Cape Breton, father = John McKay, mother = Sarah McKinnon or McKinnion
Both residents of Culross, Ont?
Witnesses = Charles McKay of Culross
I cannot find confident records of Hector and Catherine's births or deaths, although Alan Falconer has kindly shared some info which may be about the right people. In early Canada I can find plenty of Hector McKays but none with right names wife & children. The early Censuses in Nova Scotia were very incomplete, may never find reasonable records.

Alan Falconer has a likely tombstone image for Catherine (McLean) McKay in CULROSS-TEESWATER CEMETERY, BRUCE, Ontario; it suggests birth in 1790, died 11 Aug 1859. That would mean she was at least 49yo when she gave birth to our Neil McKay. AF has other info to suggest Hector McKay was born in 1796; no other info on Hector, especially where born in Scotland.

27 Oct 1874 John McKay, proposed father to Flora, said to have died in Teeswater, Ontario (picture of his likely gravestone is on Alan Falconer's website, stating he was 80 yrs old). Also said to have been born 24 Feb 1806 Invernessshire ( tree info, unsourced). Alan Falconer has been informed that John McKay's parents were George MacKay and Isabella Gordon (the names don't fit very well, though, John didn't give those names to any of his own kids, and Isabella is not a Scottish name; should be Isobel at very least).

1878: Our Neil Mckay & family immigrated to ND in 1878 he said in one Census, see here:

1880 Census
  Neil H. Mc Kay, M, 39
Spouse = Flora Mc Kay, F, 26
Hector K. Mc Kay,M, 9, born Canada
Flora Mc Kay,F, 5
Sarah A. Mc Kay, F, 3, born Canada
John D. Mc Kay, M, 11M, born Dakota territories
Catherine Mc Kay, F, 35
Catherine is down as sis? to HoH, could she be SIL?, their parents born in Scotland.  Flora's parents born in Scotland. Neil is a farmer.

Is this Catherine's grave?: 18 Nov 1851 – 21 Nov 1884, burial Wheatland Cem. Cass Co. ND

1885 ND Census, Cass County
Neil H. McKay 45 b. Canada Farmer
Flora 31 b. Canada
Hector 14 b. Canada
Flora 10 b. Canada
Sarah A. 8 b. Canada
Mary B. 3 b. Dakota
Hector McKay 36 working as a servant, b. Canada, relation or not??

Here is a tombstone for a Hector A? McKay Hector McKay, Aug 8 1871-Nov 24 1923. Is this our Hector or is he the one that lived to have family below? Maureen's family lore says that our Hector died young like most his siblings. Somewhere I have a note about a tombstone for him with death date = 24 Nov 1885 (but can't find the evidence for that now, boohoo).

The different Neil McKays of Cass County, North Dakota

So far, I have traced at least three, possibly four, all living in the same North Dakota County, all born about the same time, either in Cape Breton Canada or in Scotland (UK).

I don't believe in coincidences like that!

  • My Neil married Flora McKay, as described above.
  • Meanwhile, Neil Grant McKay, age 31, (later resident of Howes Township, Cass Co., ND) was born (perhaps) June 1844 in Cape Breton (said in his marr. certif), (parents both born in Scotland, and he immigrated in 1883, 1900 Census) b. Canada, and married Eliza Hutchison (age 23) in Woodstock Ontario, 1876 (record on His parents = John + Sarah Mckay, Eliza's parents = Archibald + Eliza Hutchison. One of the witnesses to their marr. = Neil McKinnon. I have now confirmed that this is Flora's brother.
  • A further Neil McKay (age 39) is to be found as a lodger with two other McKay surname men (Charlie 29, Langlin 38), all farmers, all born in Cape Breton, all living in Fargo Twnp, Cass Co. in the 1885 ND state Census.
  • All the townships where my Neil+Flora were located, where the lodger Mckays were located and Howes Tship where Neil G. + Eliza lived) are close together (in a county that measures over 400x400 miles, in an otherwise big state, see map, but this could just be down to those being the only few settlements in the county at the time).
  • Neil and Eliza are very interesting. In 1902 their daughter Jessie Ann married James Stockford, freshly divorced from Sarah A. McKay (daughter of my Neil+Flora). James Stockford left first wife Sarah to go off with her cousin Jessie and have a large number of children together. As for the 3 McKay lodgers, I don't know what to think.
  • There is a small set of McKay families living in the adjacent Barnes county ND in the 1885 Census, with names like John, Hector, and Minnie (although not Neil) making an appearance.
  • There is another Nova Scotia-born and Cass Co. ND resident around the same time, Neil (D.?) MacKay b. ~1848 Cape Breton (his marr. license) who mar. Margaret MacPhee/MacFee on 12 May 1876 in Huron, Canada (he was also a resident of Culross). His marr. certif. gives his parents as Donald and Katherine; witnesses to his wedding are Charles & Donald McKay of Culross (brothers?). Neil D. lives 2 doors away from a Donald & Katherine McKay and family in 1880 in District 60, Cass Co., and otherwise (it's alleged) lived with his family in ND, until about 1900. If this is them, that means they also liked many of the same names as my Neil and Neil Grant Mckay, including: Eliza, Kate, Flora....
  • I'm guessing that Neil D., Neil G., Flora and Neil H. are all first or second cousins; the name Neil could come from a Neil McKinnon who sired some of their mothers.

PHOTO thanks to Rachael Humphrey: Bertie, Lauren (lower left) and Fred in about 1906-07.

Back to the Timeline

29 Jan 1894 Charles Lawrence McKay born

1900 Census 8-9 June 1900.  Amenia, Arthur, Dows, Empire & Erie Townships, Cass, North Dakota
Neil McKay b. Sep 1840 ("Niel H. McKay"), parents b. Scotland, immigrated to USA 1878, Farmer
Flora born May 1854 Nova Scotia, parents born in Scotland
Alberta b. Nov 1888 ND, at school
Willfred C. (Fred!), b. Jul 1891 in ND, at school
Charles L b. Jan 1894 ND, at school
Gone: Flora b. 1875 , Sarah b. 1877, Mary b. 1882, Hector K. may be below
I have now information to confirm that most of the McKay children died by age 15. Only four of the ten McKay children made it to adulthood: Sarah, Bertie, Fred, Charles and maybe Hector

Death records, Cass Co.
20 Sep 1903 or Oct 1903: Sarah McKay, 93 yo lady. How does she fit in? Seems like she must be Flora's mother, her dad having died in Canada. I got hold of the October death certificate, but it said almost nothing (not where Sarah was born, her age, or even who the informant was about her death). I suspect her father was Neil McKinnon. Other people on have the same Sarah dying in Teeswater Ontario in 1906, I can't get in touch with them to know the evidence.

1900 Census North Dakota Cass, Ayr, Cornell, Lake, Page, Rich & Rochester Townships
In a 3 person household headed by the Mitchells"
Mary McKay 56, b. Aug. 1844 Scotland, works as a domestic, lives with daughter
Doliner? Dolinzer? b. Dec 1889 in Dakota, mother born Scotland, father born Cape Breton!

1900 Census, as last
Hector K. McKay b. Nov 1870 in Canada, parents born in Scotland (but otherwise could be our Hector K., though some sources reckon ours died young)
Mary (wife) b. Oct 1875 in Minnes.
Florence Jan 1896 born ND
Mary April 1899 born ND

Supposed to be 9 children of Neil H. + Flora, in addition to Hector from Neil's first marriage. In order they are roughly:
Hector K. 1871-1885??, Flora McLean 1875-1890?, Sarah A ,1877-1940, John D. 1879-1882/1885?, Mary?Mabel 1882-1890?, John 1885?-1888/1891, Alberta Nov 1888-1911, Wilfred Jul 1891-1989, CL Jan 1894-1949. In addition, a child named Catherine (Cassie) who died at one year old, no records of her birthdate.

Sarah A. married James Amos Stockford on 14 Oct 1896. They are recorded as "Stockforce" in the 1900 Census when it's noted that Sarah has 2 children but their names are not stated. Family lore says that Sarah and her children were in a terrible carriage accident of which only Amos survived, leaving Sarah with a limp and facial disfigurement. Their son Amos lived 12 Jul 1901-Sep 1974, died in Altadena CA,with a son recorded as Mayo Stockford, he disappears from the Census after 1910. "Emos" is living with Sarah and Neil/Flora in 1910 Census. I can't find the evidence, but off hand I thought that I had worked out that James & second wife had moved to somewhere like Idaho where they had many more children and grew into old age together.

1902 Dec 31 marriage of Alberta B. McKay to Thorwald K. Nelson

There is a Thorwald Nelson with wife “Bertha” in Minneapolis Ward 6, Hennepin, Minnesota in 1910, could this be why Laura Renfrow died there??

1910 Census Empire Cass ND
Neil McKay 70, born "Ireland", parents born "Ireland" (this continues down, Ireland all the way down)
Flora 55, born "Ireland", parents born "Ireland"
Saraha 33, born Canada, down as a daughter, parents born "Ireland"
Wilford, 18
Charles L 16
Emos Stockford (grandson) 8yo, parents born Canada
Norah Stievers b. ~1899 in ND, parents born in Canada, (unknown rel. to household) 21

1910 Census Empire Cass ND
Thorwald Nelson 33, born Norway, immigrated 1886
Alberta B. Nelson 31
Carl Schafer 46, born in Germany & both parents born in Germany
I lose them after 1910
Cass Co. is right on the eastern border of ND, surrounded by ND counties: Traill, Steele, Griggs, Barnes, Ransom, Richland. Counties McLean and Mountrail are on rivers in the central west of ND.

1910 Census Ayr, Cass, ND
Hactor McKay 39, born Canada, immigrated 1878, parents both born in Canada
Mary E. McKay 34, born MN, parents both born in Sweden
Mamie L. 11 born ND
Hactor S. 7 born ND
2 other people in the household, I suspect that they are farmhands = Louis Taube, Hubert Malchow

1915 Jun 24 Marr. License, Cass County ND:
might not be the daughter of Hector/Hactor
Florence C. McKay to Helmer B. Hanson

1915 or 1916 Neil H. McKay dies (?farming accident) and Flora leases out the farm (so where'd she go live???). My family tradition says 1915, Marueen's story says 1 April 1916. Is this our Neil?

29 Jun 1918-14 Jun 1919: CLM enlisted to fight in WWI.

1918 Sep 25 Marr. License, Cass County ND:
Willfred C. McKay to Naoma Bell Peoples

1919-1920: CLM goes out to Pasadena, supposedly to be with brother Fred (Wilfred?), studying music at Pasadena Nazarene College (now in San Diego); if Fred was in Pasadena, what about his marriage to Naomi?

. Flora mistranscribed as Talora, Chas. L. as Chas S. at one point
1920 Census Mountrail ND
Flora Mckay, 65, renting, HoH, widowed, her & parents all b. Canada
Chas. L. McKay, 25, b. ND, son, single, both parents b. Canada Should be Charles L.

Renting next door
1920 Census Mountrail ND
Sarah Stockford 42, widowed
Amon N. Stockford 18

Probably nearby
1920 Census Mountrail ND
Wilfred C. McKay 28 born ND
Naoni [sic] B. 22 born IN
Elizebeth A. McKay 1m (so born 1920)
Mable L. Hursh 36 (down as aunt to HoH, but actually aunt to Naomi, not a McKay), born SD
William Peterson 15 (no stated rel. to HoH), born ND
There is a Hector D. McKay in Pembina ND, 1910, his other children Douglas 15, Comeron (boy) 12

1920 Census Griggs ND
Helmer B. Hanson 31
Florence Hanson 23, born ND
Mildred 2y5m, born ND
Mirlyn 9m (so born 1919, ND)

1920 Census Griggs ND
Hector K. McKay 49, born Canada
Marrie C. McKay (wife) 44, born MN
Maymie McKay 20 born ND (b. 1899)
Sidne McKay 16 born ND
Kieth McKay 2y10m old (so born 1907/08), born ND (son to HoH)
Florence b. ~1896? & Hector b. ~1903 are absent.

1921: Blanche married Charles Lawrence (“Lauren”) McKay on 8 Oct at Van Hook, Mountrail Co., ND

They honeymoon in Pasadena, thinking to move out there, Lauren's sister (?Sarah) and mother travel out there with them.

1923 Jul 16 Eileen Lorraine McKay born Pasadena

1923 Aug 2 Flora McKay said (I need to verify) to have died in Pasadena.

1925 Jan 1 Merwyn Joyce McKay born in Pasadena.

1930: Lauren & Blanche move to little house (3716?) on ? St. where they lived until after Mac died, she remarried Jess Black who lived across the road in about 1952, he died about 1972.

1930 Census Anos Stockford lives in Altadena CA with wife Emma, daughter Flora 8yo born ND and son Mayo born California 1925.

Lauren worked as an electrician for the Pasadena Dept. of Water and Power (City Engineering Dept.) during the depression, a safe if not best paid job. He earned $5.75/day as an apprentice. Blanche worked parttime as a secretary.

1940 Census Divorced Amos Stockford living with son Mayo in Altadena; no sign of daughter Florence.

1949 Jun 13 CL McKay died Pasadena (sudden heart attack, I think, he was a heavy smoker)
Blanche died 27 Oct 1989 La Verne CA. Sarah A. (McKay) Stockford is said to have died 1 Jan 1950 in Calfornia.


by Tove Lasota Denmark on 24 December 2017
Do enyone know George and Mabel Mackay they have a son named Colin and a dother named Sheena

my email is i would be very happy to hesr if anyone knows about the Family thank you

by Rachael Humphrey on 10 December 2012
Hi all! This is great to find other descendents from the McKay family.

I'm a descendent of Wilfred (Fred) Cecil McKay, Parents are Neil and Flora McKay) Fred is my great grandfather. I'm always happy to learn more and exchange information. :)

by Alan Falconer on 03 March 2012
Password to website is available on request.

My line of descent is through John MacKay and Sarah Mackinnon, parents of Flora Mackay who married Neil H. MacKay. Flora's brother Hector Donald MacKay was my great great grandfather. I live in the immediate area of Ontario where they lived in Bruce County. Always glad to hear from distant cousins and exchange info. AF

by Inga McKay on 05 July 2011
My grandmother, whom died before I was born was named Mabel. She was married to Jack (John McKay) They sired a son named Daniel John Heinz McKay, he is my father.
by Yvonne on 20 October 2011
Inga, my email is attached to this comment. If you are Inga from scarboro. Yvonne
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