William McKinlay was born in Ballarat, Victoria, in 1874, the second child of Alexander Chalmers McKinlay, a storekeeper from Glasgow, Scotland, and Christina Heatley who were married in Victoria in 1872. He had one older sister Alice and five younger brothers. William had business experience in Bendigo, Ballarat and Melbourne before joining the firm of McKay, Sampson & McKinlay in Launceston as a commercial traveller. He held this position until 1916 when he established his own drapery business in Emmett Street, Smithton. He retired from business about five years before his death in 1957.
William married Mary Rebekah Judge in Victoria in 1901. Their three children were born in Launceston. Mavis Judge was born on 28 Feb 1902 and died young. William Alexander Best was born on 11 Mar 1904, became a journalist at Stanley and died in 1958. Jean Brownell was born on 25 Sep 1905 and married HB Fenton.
An avid reader, William enjoyed sharing his knowledge with others in good conversations. He was a foundation member of the Smithton Club and Smithton Golf Club and was interested in sport and community activities. He died in his 83rd year on 12 Apr 1957. His wife Mary, who was a librarian at Smithton, died aged 84 at 'Rocklyn', Smithton, on 15 Feb 1960. William's uncle Gilbert McKinlay and family are also in the Family Album.