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James was probably the boy of that name who was apprenticed to the watchmaker James Geddes of Edinburgh on 11 May 1750.1 He was the right age and in the right place. He is also the only watchmaking James Stoddart found of his generation. The apprenticeship records say his father was also named James. His children's names might be a clue to the name of his mother. Naming the earliest-born children after their grandparents was a very common practice in the far north of Scotland, but not unknown elsewhere. The names of their first daughter and second son were Janet and Robert, the names of Marion's parents. Janet died and the next daughter was named for her. The third daughter was Margaret and the first son was James, suggesting Margaret was named for her paternal grandmother. If so, no couple with those names appear in Scottish parish records. James undoubtedly had a brother John, who married on the same day and in the same church as James. Adam, son of James Stoddart, is in the apprenticeship records of Edinburgh and was the same generation as James. Their baptisms are also absent from parish records. James' master, James Geddes, died in 1755, and his widow transferred James to Robert Clidsdale.2 They were both high-profile shops in Edinburgh and photos of Clidsdale's work show a high level of craftsmanship. Jane (Bradford) Gooch says James was in Sheines, near Portsmouth, Lanarkshire, before moving to London, but there is no such place. This may have been an area named Sheines in the Newington and/or Marchmont neighborhoods of Edinburgh, in the borough of Midlothian. The border with Lanarkshire is not far away. The present Sciennes Road is related to it. It may also be that he lived there before his apprenticeship. He was more likely working in a shop in Edinburgh after his apprenticeship ended, which would also explain his baptizing his earlier children at Edinburgh's St. Cuthbert's Church.
     James, Marion and their older children moved from Edinburgh to London between 1764 and 1770, when baptism records place them respectively in those cities. Two daughters, born about 1766 and 1768, were likely baptized somewhere in London given the likelihood that if they had been in Edinburgh they would have appeared in the records of St. Cuthbert's, as their older siblings do. Until more evidence is found, it's likely that the family moved to London about 1765 or 1766. The Stoddarts lived on Caroline Court in London's Holborn neighborhood by 1770 and were still there in 1772, also based on baptism records. The last of the children was baptized in 1774 in the Clerkenwell neighborhood not far from Caroline Court. The family moved to Berkley Street, Clerkenwell, by 1780, where he was taxed into the 19th century. James is listed in 1785 and 1790 directories as a watch and clock maker on Berkley and Red Lion (now Britton) Streets. This likely refers to his residence and his shop, and they were close to each other. Clerkenwell was the center of that trade in London. His wife (called "Mary Ann") and daughter Ann were likely the ones buried in 1805 and 1811 at St. James church, both residents of Berkley Street. This brings us back to his probable brother John, made even more probable by the appearance a man with that name, of that street, buried at St. James in 1799.
     No probate record has been found for James, suggesting he either closed his business entirely or it had been taken over completely by his sons Robert and James. The latter is more likely.

children of James Stoddart and Marion Smith:

i. Janet bap. 21 October 1760, St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, probably died young
ii. Jean (Janet?) bap. 23 July 1764, St. Cuthbert's, m. John Melvill, 27 July 1783, St. Leonard's Shoreditch, London
iii. Margaret, baptism not yet found, m. John Watkins, 19 January 1787, St. Sepulchre, London
iv. Mary, same, m. Thomas Higginson, 4 June 1805, St. Luke's Old Street, London
v. James bap. 26 Aug 1770, St. Andrew's Holborn, London, no further record found
vi. Robert b. 2 February 1772
vii. Anna bap. 13 November 1774, St. John the Baptist, Clerkenwell, London

vital records sources:

1. Donald Whyte, Clockmakers & watchmakers of Scotland, 1453-1900 (Mayfield; Ashbourne, England:2005), 283.
2. Old Scottish Clockmakers from 1453 to 1850, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh:1921), 374.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted