Passenger 'finding roots'

Iain and Heidi McKay look for branches of their family tree with their grandchildren Abby (left) and Brooklyn (right) at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Iain and Heidi McKay look for branches of their family tree with their grandchildren Abby (left) and Brooklyn (right) at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Each time Iain McKay visits Dunedin, he manages to pack a suitcase full of Crunchie bars and a treasure trove of family history before he returns to the United States.

The New Zealand honorary consul to Salt Lake City, Utah, and former Kiwi, was back in Dunedin yesterday with his wife Heidi, on their third visit to research more of his family history - and stock up on chocolate items for ''Kiwi friends and family back home''.

The 74-year-old arrived on the cruise ship Oosterdam and during his 10 hour stopover in Dunedin was taken by minibus to several locations important to the family's history, including the grave of his great-grandfather, Angus McKay, at the Andersons Bay Cemetery.

Angus McKay was born in Islay, Scotland, in 1832 and died in Dunedin in 1910, and visiting his grave was a very special moment, Iain McKay said.

''These trips get very emotional. I've shed a lot of tears in this part of the world.

''It's digging back into my past, it's finding my roots, finding my heritage.

''We get the same thrill each time we find some new information. They are like gems.''

On their last visit to Dunedin in 2012, Mr McKay discovered the grave of his grandmother, Hessie McKay (nee Steele), at the Green Island Cemetery, and found a photograph of great-grandmother Emily Cameron at the Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

Mr McKay said he had managed to trace his family tree back to the 1700s, but had always regretted not asking his grandparents more about family history before they died.

''I'm just sorry that I never asked more questions about the Duffs, the Camerons and the McKays.

''Now, I'm making up for that by digging into my family history when I come back.''

Mr McKay said he was keen to pass on what knowledge he had been able to glean from his trips, and had written a 500 page book which he has given to friends and family, particularly his children and grandchildren.

''Being able to share this material with my family is a very profound experience.''

Mr McKay was born and raised in Wellington and in 1976 moved to Salt Lake City, where he worked for a major television and radio broadcasting corporation for more than 30 years before retiring.

Mr McKay said the visit to Dunedin was not entirely focused on his family history.

The couple enjoyed sharing the delights of eating a parcel of fish and chips and an ice cream with their two grandchildren, Brooklyn (8) and Abby (6) McKay, who are accompanying them, before their ship departed about 6pm yesterday.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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