52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 8: Thankful Stebbins

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Thankful Stebbins was born September 5, 1691 at Deerfield, a village in the English colony in modern Massachusetts, USA. Her parents were John Stebbins and Dorothy Alexander. Her great grandfather Rowland Stebbins had been born in Stebbing, Essex, England (likely where his surname originated) and sailed to New England aboard the ship Francis in 1634 with his wife and children – a bold action, considering the puritan colonists in New England faced constant danger of Native American raids and hostility, not to mention the harsh weather and wild landscape. Deerfield was a small village on the frontier, right on the edge of English settlement.

In March of 1704 there was a particularily notable attack on Deerfield, known as the Deerfield Massacre and it was associated with Queen Anne’s War. A force of some 200 French soldiers and about 150 Native warriors under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel, Sieur de Rouville from the New France colony attacked the village, razing the buildings to the ground, killing dozens and taking dozens more as captives. 13-year-old Thankful and her family were among those taken captive. The French brought these captives back north to Canada – walking on foot in March, mind you – and along the journey many more died. They were handed over to the French authorities in Canada at Chambly.

Thankful was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith on April 23, 1707 and re-named “Therese Louise Stebenne”. Four years later, on February 4, 1711 in Ste-Famille-de-Boucherville church, she married Adrien Charles LeGrain dit Lavallee, Captain of the militia  at Fort Chambly. The couple had 11 children in total, the last was born in 1729. Thankful passed away one week after the birth of her last child, aged 38 years – likely due to a complicated birth – and was buried at Fort Chambly, rather than in the church graveyard.

Thankful is my 9x great grandmother through her son Charles Legrain dit Lavallee. The surname had transformed into just the dit name of Lavallee by the time it was given to my 4x great grandmother Ozilda Lavallee (who married Joseph Bessette). The line goes Thankful – Charles – Jean Marie – Jean Baptiste – Pierre – Ozilda -Louis Bessette – Corinne, my great, great grandmother.

2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 8: Thankful Stebbins”

  1. I am not to my knowledge descended from any of the Stebbins cousins who eventually were living in Canada as captives and adoptees of both French and Native American captors. My ancestor is Benoni Stebbins, killed in the raid, whose son Jonathan must have been living elsewhere by the time it happened, for he is my ancestor. If captured, he was released and went on to live in Connecticut.

    But the early history of Benoni, his father, shows that he was living at Deerfield (Pocumtuck) since at least his childhood, and he had many associations with French Canadian trappers, one of whom married his sister. The possibility that he or someone in his family has Native American ancestry because of this long association with beaver trapping is interesting to me.

    I found out through 23andme that I am part Native American. Every other bit of my ancestry seems to have come from Northern Europe or the British Isles, with no Hispanic admixture, and such little Eastern European that the East Asian is likely Native American from about 6 or 7 generations back. This would put the ancestor of pure Native American stock at about 1700 or thereabouts.

    I think I have narrowed down the ancestry to New England, which is my father’s heritage. My mother’s family have come out all Irish, from pioneers in Wisconsin, and also antebellum New Orleans. Basically, they lived along the Mississippi, at two ends. She has one great-great grandmother I have not found, but her m-DNA is European. It is conceivable she was from Wisconsin Native American stock, but not as likely since the family arrived in the area in the mid-19th century, and the admixture would probably be greater if one of them was Native American.

    My father’s family has many possible entry points for Native Americans, including a whaling port on Long Island (in which Native Americans and English people worked together in the early 1600’s onward) and many locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. But I think “frontier” contacts explain things best – that if you are on the frontier and your survival depends on someone, you will take up with that person and have your children with them. We can see in history that both Sacajawea and Pochahontas married white men, and were most useful to them – the “dowry” was the knowledge of the terrain and ability through language to create alliances. I think these two famous women stand for many less famous ones in lots of founding families’ trees as well. Mine included.

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