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David McKay

Generation 5




1841 Census

1851 Census

1861 Census

1871 Census

1881 Census

1891 Census

1901 Census





1851 - 61









If I thought Robert McKay was giving me problems, that is nothing compared to the run-around his father, David, has and continues to give me. Originally, I knew of David's existence because he is recorded on Robert's marriage certificate. I knew from that certificate that David was married to Eliza McCulloch and some time ago I found a marriage record of a David McKay and Eliza McCulloch, that I am fairly certain is the correct record - mainly because of the location; Trinity College Parish, in Edinburgh. Both Robert McKay and his wife, Ann Begley, lived a lot of their lives there and it seems reasonable to assume that Robert's parents did too. But for ages, that was it ........ no Birth Certificate, no Death Certificate, no sign of him in any Censuses and, although I may have had his wife's record of Death, there was no mention of him on that either ...... and for a long time, that was it!

...... and then whilst undertaking some searches in September 2003 - a breakthrough! First I found David in the 1851 Census and from the age recorded for him in that, I was led to a Birth record that, I believe, is his. In actual fact, there are two contenders for his birth record. Firstly, there was a birth in 1819, in St Cuthbert's Edinburgh to a William McKay and a Margaret Manson. Secondly there was a birth in 1820 to an Alexander McKay and a Barbara McLeod, also in St Cuthbert's Edinburgh. Initially, I lean towards the first of these, as this would have made David 32 at the 1851 Census, the age that was recorded against him at the Census. However, as I thought about it a bit more, I started leaning towards the second, i.e. Alexander and Barbara. The information that pointed to them is all circumstantial, but persuasive:

  • Alexander and Barbara lived in Stevenlaw's Close, Edinburgh. Now, although there are about 40 years between the two examples, the fact is that David's son, Robert, married Ann Begly, whose family had a long history of living in Stevenlaw's Close. It may be that the two families lived side by side for many years;
  • by the time of the 1841 Census, Alexander and Barbara lived in Old Assembly Close, which is located very close to Stevenlaw's Close. Living with them was one of their sons, Alexander, who was described as a 'Type Founder'. This is a job in the printing trade and 10 years later, David's entry in the 1851 Census identifies him as a Printer Compositor. In those days entry into the printing trade was a jealously guarded thing and it's perfectly feasible that it was 'kept in the family';
  • there is also the coincidence of names - David's son, Robert, called his daughter Barbara and my own father is called Alexander.

As I said, all a bit speculative and tenuous, but I believe sufficient to support David as being the son of Alexander McKay and Barbara McLeod.

(All that said, I have created pages for William McKay and Margaret Manson, so anyone interested in examining that possibility can click on there names and go to these pages.)

However, I still can't find him in any other Censuses, nor can I find a record of his Death. So, after 1851 he has disappeared. One additional thing I found from the 1851 Census though, was that he had a daughter called Eliza, born in 1850. I haven't actually found the record of her Birth though, but I'm hopeful that if I do, it may lead me to find out more about David. I do know, though, that his wife is described as a widow in the 1861 Census, so it seems likely he died somewhere between 1851 and 1861.

One potential lead that I found is of a David McKay, of the right age, living in Morpeth, Northumberland, at the time of the 1841 Census. It states that he was NOT born in Northumberland, so he could have been born in Scotland - who knows? However, it also describes him as a Chimney Sweep - from that to a Printer six years later seems unlikely.

I wonder if he joined the armed forces and died in service? Or perhaps he parted from his wife (she may have died in a poorhouse) and moved out of Scotland? Mere surmise - who knows what happened to him - but I'll keep looking.

One point of interest is that, when he married Eliza McCulloch, both were living in Baillie Fyfe's Close, Edinburgh. His son Robert also lived there many years later. Possibly just a coincidence though.


Birth - 1st July 1820

David was born in St Cuthbert's Parish, Edinburgh. His parents were Alexander McKay, a Wright and Barbara McLeod. They lived in Stevenlaw's Close, Edinburgh.

View the record.

7th April 1846

David MacKay married Eliza McCulloch at Trinity College Church, Edinburgh. This church, which is now demolished, was situated at the foot of Chalmer's Close, where his son Robert and his wife, Ann, later lived (at No. 1). Both David and Eliza lived in Baillie Fyfe's Close at the time of their wedding. David was described as a 'Printer' and Eliza's father as James McCulloch, Cabinet Maker.

View the record.


David's daughter, Eliza, must have been born some time in this year, as the 1851 Census recorded her to be aged 5 months at that time.

1851 Census

The Census records that David MacKay, aged 32 and his wife Eliza, also aged 32, lived in Campbell's Close, Canongate, Edinburgh. David was a Printer Compositor - a fairly good occupation, I believe. He was shown as having been born in Edinburgh. His wife, Eliza, was recorded as having been born in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire. Living with them was their 5 month old daughter, Eliza.

View the record.

1851 to 1855

David's son, Robert, was born some time during this period - Robert's age was given as 9 in the 1861 Census, so it is likely he was born in 1851 or 1852. I haven't found Robert's Birth record yet, so have only the ages accorded to him in other records to go by. These are not consistent, but indicate some time in this year range.

Death - 1851 to 1861

Some time during this period it is likely that David died, as his wife, Eliza, is recorded in the 1861 Census as being a widow. However, I have been unable to find a record of his death.

11th November 1873

David's son, Robert, married Ann Bueglay at 3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh. According to the Marriage certificate, David was deceased by this time.

21st October 1875

David's widow, Elizabeth McKay died at 11 a.m. in St Cuthbert's Poorhouse, Edinburgh. She was aged 60 and died from "Disease of Lungs". Her father's name was given as 'McCulloch', but no first name was recorded. Her death was reported by a Poorhouse official called John Clark. Given that he seemed to have limited information about Elizabeth, I'm not unduly concerned that she is called Elizabeth rather than Eliza on this record, as it is perfectly conceivable that she was known as Elizabeth, or possibly the Poorhouse official assumed that Eliza was short for Elizabeth.