The first member of the Watkins family in Aberdeen was James, who was not born there, but married Jean Stevenson in Old Machar, Aberdeen, on April 21st 1798. The entry in the parish register read:
James Watkins soldier in Windsor Forestor Fencibles and Jean Stevenson in Spittal signified their purpose of marriage, James White soldier being cautioner for both parties whereupon being thrice proclaimed without objection they were married.
Nothing is known of James before he enlisted in the Windsor Forester Fencibles. He first appeared in muster rolls on September 10th 1794, when the regiment was at Newark, Nottinghamshire. His name was in pay lists of the 5th Regiment of Fencible Cavalry from February 25th 1797 until his discharge in November 1799.
(Fencible regiments were formed between 1794 and 1800 to serve within the United Kingdom, and only for the duration of the Napoleonic wars. They were raised because the government feared a French invasion and internal insurrection.)
James and Jean had five children:
The three youngest sons were all baptised in St Pauls Episcopal Chapel, St Nicholas, the records of which gave James' occupation as plasterer and mason. The husband of Jean's sister Barbara, John Davidson, was also a mason, which may explain why James took up this work, although it may already have been his trade before he was a soldier. At that time there was extensive new development in Aberdeen - the building of Union Street and King Street - resulting in ample work for such tradesmen. When Jane married in 1823 James' occupation was again stated as Plasterer.
Jean died in 1831, but nothing further is known of James and his death was not recorded on the family memorial in St Peter's Churchyard, where Jean and other family members are comemmorated. The search for his origins has proved unsuccessful. Several generations later, the family believed that he came from Whitchurch in Herefordshire, but it has not been possible to establish a link there.