THANKFUL (f): The name is formed from the English adjective and is an example of a “virtue name” favored by the Puritans. This is the term for a group of given names commemorating good qualities that pious parents might wish their children to embody. In this case, the name reminds the child (and, by extension, those around her) to be thankful to God for blessings received.
In my work on matrilineal descendants (and ancestors) of Mayflower passenger Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland — who must have seen the first Thanksgiving — I have found a few dozen Thankfuls in straight female lines. These do not stem from one common ancestor, but appear in closely related families and are sometimes passed down several generations.
The progeny of the Howlands’ eldest daughter Desire (Howland) Gorham (1625–1683) is studded with Thankfuls. Although the Gorhams’ six daughters did not include a Thankful, the righteous moral connotation of the name made it a favored one throughout the population. Desire’s eldest, namesake daughter Desire (Gorham) Hawes (1644–1700) of Barnstable had granddaughters Thankful (Daggett) (Butler) (Daggett) Athearn (Martha’s Vineyard, b. 1696, mother of Thankful (Daggett) Paddock) and Thankful (Sproat) (Bennett) (Samson) Haskell (Middleboro, Mass. 1705–1788, an ancestor of Marie-Chantal Miller, the current Crown Princess of Greece).
A second Gorham daughter, Mercy (Gorham) Denison (1658-1725) of Barnstable, Mass. and Stonington, Conn., passed the name on to her daughter Thankful Denison (1695–after 21 March 1752), wife of Thomas Stanton of Stonington, Connecticut. Her niece, daughter of John and Desire (Denison) Williams, also of Stonington, was:
Thankful Williams (b. Stonington, Conn. 1718–living 1775), wife of Avery Denison of Stonington. Their daughter was:
Thankful Denison (1747–1822), dau. of Avery and Thankful (Denison) Williams, wife of Alexander Stewart of Griswold, Conn. Their daughter Thankful Stewart (b. 1777) married Elihu Denison, OR Stephen Congdon and Lebbeus Ainsworth. A niece of Mrs. Stewart was:
Thankful Miner (1761–1843) of Stonington, Conn., Lyman, N.H., and St. Clair, Michigan, dau. of Thomas and Desire (Denison) Miner and granddau. of Avery and Thankful (Denison) Williams, married Haverhill, N.H. 10 May 1783 Jonathan Barron. A granddaughter was Maria Thankful Carleton (1810–1871), later of Delaware, Ohio, dau. of Edmund and Olive Moore (Barron) Carleton, wife of William Malander Eldridge, and ancestral to Janice Moore Steele of San Jose, who kindly provided me with this line and the Barrons’ marriage date.
Another granddau. of Avery and Thankful (Williams) Denison was: Thankful Noyes (1773–1860), daughter of Joseph and Prudence (Denison) Noyes of Stonington, wife of yet another Thomas Stanton, Jr. While this Stanton couple had no children, Mrs. Stanton had a niece Thankful Burdick (1801-1851) of Chatham and North Stonington, Conn., dau. of Lodowick and Sarah (Noyes) Burdick and wife of Francis Young.
These are only a few of the Thankfuls descended from the Mayflower Howlands. There are similar occurrences of this given name among daughters’-daughters’-daughters of the Howlands’ other daughters — especially among great-granddaughters of the second, Hope (Howland) Chipman (1629–1684), who with Desire is the most prolific of the Howland girls — but that will take yet another day and this is no time to let your Thanksgiving dinner get cold.