Family history uncovered: Edward MacKay, 1840-1884

1883 map of New York City south of 93rd StreetMy father has made a remarkable discovery about our MacKay family in the 19th century. He has uncovered a previously unknown uncle, Edward MacKay, who was a brother of my great-great grandfather, James Harold MacKay.

Edward MacKay was born in Canada – likely in Prince Edward Island, but his death certificate says New Brunswick. He was a son of William MacKay and Mary Ann Warren. He was born in 1840, moved to the United States in 1870 at the age of thirty, and died in New York in 1884 when he was only 44 years of age. He died of “acute phthisis” — tuberculosis. He was a carpenter like his father and his brothers (who were also shipwrights). We speculate that the family of William MacKay and his five sons were very hard hit by the Long Depression, which began in 1873, and by the collapse of the wooden shipbuilding industry in the Maritime provinces of Canada. All of the sons except my great-great grandfather left to find work in the United States.

The map of Manhattan is from 1883, the year before Edward MacKay died, and I’ve indicated where he lived on 3rd Avenue.

Work and play

New York City at nightThese two pictures contrast my world of work and world of play. Last week I was working in the New York City area, and was treated to this view of iconic Manhattan and Brooklyn beyond, as I flew homeward from Newark airport. Towards the right in Lower Manhattan you can make out 1 World Trade, and towards the left, at Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building.

Skiing at Mer Bleu, OttawaThen, on the weekend, it was this: skiing at Mer Bleu in Ottawa. This is a wooded ridge that runs through a bog in the Greenbelt, and in wintertime the trails are very popular for cross-country skiing. I’m wearing my Winterlude toque. The winter festival in Ottawa has ended, but the snow and cold persist. Ottawans have to either enjoy winter, flee to the sunny south, or go crazy.

Just a little sandwich

Corned Beef from Harold's NY DeliWorking in New Jersey this week, I decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant. Harold’s New York Deli Restaurant is on the wrong side of a junction of highways, almost in the middle of nowhere, but it is nominally in Edison, south-west of Staten Island and New York City.

This is the corned beef sandwich I ordered. The picture says it all, but you’re really looking at only one half of the sandwich. The phrase “world’s biggest” is a boast that is worn with pride but with dubious veracity everywhere I go in the United States. When I look at this sandwich I was served at Harold’s, all I can say is “God Bless America!” Es gezunterheyt!

Manhattan from the air

Manhattan from the airI took this photograph of New York from an aircraft window, as I was making my way home from California on the weekend. Prominent in the centre is the lower part of the island of Manhattan, with the Hudson River and New Jersey below it in the frame, and the East River, Brooklyn, and the Atlantic Ocean above it in the frame. Coincidentally, I am working in New York this week.

When I see features known to me from maps leap out in real life like this, I think about the land and its history. This island of Manhattan was where tribes of the Algonquian nation lived for hundreds of years. This is where Peter Stuyvesant governed the colonists of New Amsterdam. This is where my ancestors, the United Empire Loyalists, embarked in Admiral Digby’s fleet in 1783 to voyage to Nova Scotia, expelled from their homes as refugees for being on the losing side in the first American civil war. Some events may have transpired here since then, but you’ll have to see if you can find such a thing as an opinionated New Yorker to find out more.

1 World Trade in New York City

1 World TradeThis is the state of construction of 1 World Trade in New York City on 22 March 2012. I took this photo after work, as the site is near to my company’s facilities on Broad Street in the financial district. 1 World Trade will be a symbolic 1,776 feet in height (541 metres) and contain 108 storeys, and is at the northwest corner of the 16 acre (6.5 hectare) site.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in New York today, and one can already see how the isosceles triangles of the tower, clad in mirrored glass, will reflect the sun, the clouds, and the cityscape around.