In Fall River, Massachusetts, 115 years ago today, Andrew J. Borden and his second wife, Abby, were found murdered in their own home in broad daylight. Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, discovered the bodies. Lizzie, of course, would eventually be tried and acquitted for the murders, though she was alone in the house for much of the two hours during which her stepmother’s dead body lay in the upstairs guest room.
Like most children, I felt I had known the “Lizzie Borden took an axe” rhyme forever, but I was further fascinated by a disturbing movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie Borden that played on TV in 1984. I think it was the idea of nice Samantha from Bewitched traipsing around murdering people while undressed that terrified me the most. In later years, Mom and I began reading books about the Lizzie Borden case, and even stayed all night at 92 Second Street in Fall River–now a bed and breakfast–which turned out to be much creepier than I expected, though Mom thought the decor was too pretty to be frightening!
I’m not sure, now, when I first discovered the genealogical connection between my Wilson/Davis ancestors and the Borden family. Thankfully, enough time had passed since first seeing that creepy TV movie that I was more fascinated than frightened at learning I was actually a (distant) cousin of Lizzie’s. It certainly provides an added element of intrigue when reading books about the case. To be precise, Lizzie and I are sixth cousins five times removed. Our shared ancestor was William Gifford, my tenth-great-grandfather, and Lizzie’s fifth-great-grandfather. Let us hope that those common ancestors are all that Lizzie and I share!