Select Watkins Surname Genealogy

Here are some Watkins stories and accounts over the years:

Watkins and "-Kins" Surnames

Various "-kins" surnames became popular in Wales, including Watkins.  The table below shows the main "kins" names and their degree of penetration into Wales (the numbers here are taken from the 1891 census):

Pet form of:
Numbers (000's)
Share in Wales (%)
Found in England
  West Midlands          
Hobb (from Robert)
  West Midlands
  West Midlands

Some Gwatkins

Gwatkyn appeared frequently as a name in the Welsh patronymical style.  Its earliest appearance as an English-style surname – where the name had been passed down from father to child was the baptism of Julian Gwatkyn, daughter of John Gwatkyn, in 1563 in Little Birch, Herefordshire. 

Some well-known Gwatkins were:

  • Robert Lovell Gwatkin, born in 1757, who became famous for his work as a political reformer, as well as for marrying Theophila Palmer, the niece of Sir Joshua Reynolds. 
  • and Lieutenant-General Sir Willoughby Gwatkin, born in 1859, who had the command of the Canadian army during the First World War.

Early Watkins in America

The following is a list of Watkins recorded in America in colonial times who have lines tracing down until the present day:

  • Henry Watkins (1638-1715).  Immigrant from Talgarth in Wales, a Quaker, who settled in Henrico county, Virginia.  His descendants moved to North Carolina.
  • Cadwallader Watkins (1660-1717).  Immigrant from Montgomeryshire in Wales who settled in Pennsylvania.  His descendants moved to Georgia and Tennessee.
  • Lewis Watkins of New Kent county, Virginia (1680’s-1740’s).  His descendants moved to Alabama
  • William Watkins of Virginia (1690-1784).  His descendants moved to Arkansas and Texas
  • John Watkins of Virginia (1694-1763).  His descendants moved to Iowa
  • Evan Watkins of Maryland (1700-1765).  His descendants moved to Kentucky.
  • William Watkins of Virginia and North Carolina (1721-1790).  His descendants moved to Missouri and Iowa
  • James Watkins of Virginia (1744-1799).  His descendants moved to Ohio.
  • and James Watkins of North Carolina and Georgia (1748-1837).  His descendants moved to Texas.

Absalom Watkin of Manchester

Absalom Watkin was a cotton merchant, but an enlightened one of the early 19th century.  He as a Methodist - like other liberal thinkers at that time - held Nonconformist religious views.  He was an early advocate of parliamentary reform.  He did not witness the Peterloo Massacre but played an important role in the campaign to obtain an independent inquiry into Peterloo.  He drew up the famous Declaration and Protest document that was signed by over 5,000 people in Manchester. 

In 1833 Absalom Watkin organized the campaign in Manchester for the Ten Hours Bill.  His other great concern was the price of bread.  He became Vice President of Manchester’s Anti-Corn Law League.  However, by that time, he had become opposed to radical political movements and opposed the Chartist campaign.  In 1842 he helped the police to defend Manchester from rioters demanding universal suffrage. 

He started to keep a diary in 1814 and this has been published as The Diaries of Absalom Watkin, a Manchester Man.  They record conversations with famous contemporaries and relate some fascinating details of daily living at that time.   Although he was successful in business and public affairs he remained dissatisfied with his own life - unhappy in his marriage and his work and longing, most of all, to write, tend his garden and read alone in his library.

The Watkins Family of Aberdeen

James Watkins was a soldier based in Aberdeen who married Jean Simmons, a local girl, at Old Machar in Aberdeen in 1798. 

“James Watkins soldier in Windsor Forester 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.” 

James settled down in Aberdeen as a plasterer and mason.  He and Jean were to have five children.  Both died in Aberdeen, probably in the early 1830’s. 

Their elder son became a linen manufacturer in Aberdeen, and a prosperous one as well.  A younger son James emigrated to Michigan in the US in 1835.  He died there in 1856.  News of his death was evidently sent back to Aberdeen as it appears on the family memorial at St Peter's cemetery.  After Alexander’s death in 1873 his widow, Jessie, and all his surviving children save one emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand.  George Watkins stayed in Aberdeen and became superintendent engineer of the Aberdeen Waterworks at Cutts.

John Lloyd Vaughan Watkins

Colonel Vaughan Watkins came from a long line of Watkins gentry in Breconshire.  His father, the Rev. Thomas Watkins, was the rector at Llandfaelog.  He himself was the local MP for many years and lived at Pennoyre where he had an Italianate-style villa built for him in the late 1840’s. 

However, his latter years were a mystery.  He married twice but had no children by either of his two wives.  After his second wife died, he sold his Pennoyre estate and in 1861 was living upstairs in a pub in Brecon.  He died four years later and left some money to the pub landlady and his remaining estate to two apparent unknowns, Harry and Bessie Bryant. 

He did have at least five illegitimate children, one of whom by Emma Holden was Dr John Watkins Holden, Queen Victoria's magician and a revered member of the Magic Circle.  Dr. Holden married and there is a descendant line from him.

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