The legend (and family) of Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden, one of America's most legendary murderers.

Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” The gruesome lyrics of a children’s song about one of the most infamous murders which took place in 19th-century America have perpetuated in time the story of Lizzie Borden, a well-to-do middle-class spinster from Fall River, Massachusetts, who allegedly killed her father and stepmother in August 1892.  To this day, no one knows for sure what happened on that hot summer morning, when the dead bodies of Andrew J. Borden and his second wife, Abby, were found hacked to death with an axe or hatchet, in their large house in an otherwise peaceful neighbourhood of New England.

Lizzie Borden was the only real suspect ever to come forward, as there were very few other people who could have materially been responsible for the two deaths. She was put on trial for the double murder, but was found not guilty, despite the many contradictions of her testimony and the many gaps in her movements on the fateful day. Lizzie had a love-hate relationship with her father, whom she truly adored for many good and unsurprising reasons, but also grew to despise him for being a known skinflint and, more importantly, for taking as a new wife the unattractive, unappealing and unpleasant Abbey Durfee Gray. Lizzie and her only surviving sister, Emma, both loathed their stepmother, and the nature of the coldness between them was well-known to everyone who was acquainted with them.

Winston Churchill, Lizzie's distant cousin.

But like many people involved in the investigation, the Bordens had relatives populating almost every street in Fall River, Massachusetts. Perhaps today there are more people connected to the would-be murderess than we think. It is no wonder that this is so, for the Borden family are an old family originally from the English county of Kent who settled in New England in the 1600’s.

The large family stemmed into many branches, some of which still live in the area today. Many became important and famous personalities in their lifetime in their own right, and it is possible that in some cases they were unaware of their link with the family embroiled in the 1892 murder.

Marilyn Monroe also claims a distant kinship with the Borden family.

Among the illustrious cousins of Lizzie Borden, one can encounter inventors, entertainers and politicians alike. Gail Borden, who invented condensed milk in the 1850’s and founded the Borden Milk Company, was Lizzie’s distant cousin; the town of Gail (in Borden County, Texas) is named after him. Another famous cousin was Simeon Borden, was also an inventor and pioneering engineer in Fall River, where he died in 1856. His brother, Nathaniel Briggs Borden, turned to politics and became the US representative for Massachusetts; he was also mayor of Fall River on two occasions.

But Lizzie’s cousins didn’t only live in Massachusetts. Odd as it may sound (but then again, genealogy always hides dark secrets and reveals interesting links), British PM Winston Churchill was also related to Lizzie through his American-born mother, Jenny Jerome, whose maternal family came from New England. Even the legendary Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jean Baker) can claim some sort of distant kinship to the infamous murderess, for she is a direct descendant of Richard Borden (d.1671), who happens to be Lizzie’s ancestor as well. Sir Robert Laird Borden, Canada’s 8th Prime Minister, also figures in the Borden family tree, as do actress Olive Borden and Canadian minister Frederick Borden, whose son Harold died in the Second Boer War. But perhaps the biggest irony in the Borden family tree is that the late Elizabeth Montgomery, the actress who played the role of Lizzie Borden in a TV biopic, was actually Lizzie’s sixth cousin once removed.

Elizabeth Montgomery, in her role as Lizzie Borden, who was actually her sixth cousin.

In all, one can probably count hundreds if not thousands of both famous and anonymous individuals who are somehow related to Lizzie Borden and her family. Though no descendants of her immediate family survive (neither Lizzie nor her sister Emma had any children of their own), their story and their blood are unknowingly perpetuated in the world of today through their numerous distant cousins.

Watch the biopic about the Borden murders on the following link (part 1):

About Dawsr

Citizen of the world, but born a century too late.
This entry was posted in Death, England, Famous Genealogy, Genealogy, Murder, United States. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The legend (and family) of Lizzie Borden

  1. Hello, this is very interesting. In my family we are all history geeks. We met a man named Simon Borden, one of Lizzie’s distant cousins on a boat trip on a fjord in Norway. Great post.

    • Dawsr says:

      How interesting Naomi! I wonder how you felt, and how Simon Borden would have felt too, upon discovering such an interesting blood link!

  2. sarah says:

    Where does Borden and Tripp cross? My grandfather is Warren Tripp who I was told is a cousin of Lizzie.

  3. Cheyenna Choate says:

    Hmmmm….. Interesting… im officially intrigued about the Borden Family Tree….

  4. Laila borden says:

    Wow! What interests me most is that I’m related to Marilyn Monroe, I was born on her birth day and I have recently taken a interest in her!

  5. Iris says:

    I am related to both the Bordens and the Tripps, of New Bedford/Fall River, is there a name I can look in my tree for to help anyone, I do not have the link to Elizabeth Montgomery though

  6. Taylor Conner says:

    Im related to her. Scary thought really. Borden married into Brown, Brown married into Crooker and Crooker married into Baggesen (my mothers maiden name) and in some way shape or form I’m related to Marilyn?! Wow…

  7. Liane says:

    I am related distantly to both Lizzy and Abby. our common ancestor is William Earle, with wife Mary Walker. Daughter Prudence married Ben Durfee, my line, and daughter Mary, married John Borden, Lizzys line. I had the best time researching this. And my greatest help was the LDS Mormon church ! Unlike Ancestry.com, LDS vast library is always free. You can spend days tracing your family tree branches.

    • Iris says:

      Hi Liane, I have many Earle’s and Durfees in my tree, we must be connected somehow :) as well as the Brown’s . Michael, I would love to see your Borden line if you would like to share.

      • Liane says:

        Hi Iris, isn’t this fun ? I love doing this, my Durfee line married into the Cox family ( from Orville’s line ) I have gotten my youngest son interested, he’s 14 and completely hooked, he has delved further into the tree and found Benjamin Franklin ! He has also found a really cool chart to use so you know exactly what your relationship is. And he is the Great Grand Nephew of Benjamin :) He was thrilled, and would like me to share the chart with everyone, so here is the link.
        http://genealogy.about.com/library/nrelationshipchart.htm and yes we are probably related. Somewhere in my shaking of the Cox tree Abby fell out. She came from a direct Cox line ( although I can’t remember where without digging out all my papers ) but I am a closer link with her that with Lizzy. I enjoy this so much, but have so little time to spend anymore. and when I do it’s with my fathers line which dead ends in Massachusetts, from there on it’s off to England where the spelling takes so many changes, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. I have been working on that for 8 years now….whew….. When I’m feeling really in the mood for a challenge I go after my mothers line. She was German born and raised ! You haven’t had fun until you try to use a translator on that ! And no, I haven’t found anything or anyone yet. I will keep hunting. I absolutely love this site, it’s great ! And it’s great to meet and talk with you.

  8. Michael Johnson says:

    My father was Wayne Borden Johnson, of whom took his first wife’s last name. Brother to sister Gail Borden, my Aunt of whom which was named after the great Gail Borden, founding father of the Borden Product line. I do have in my possession the complete Borden genealogical database file and it is packed full of interesting things, somewhere along the lines of 16,000 relatives I think… I haven’t gotten that deep into it yet. As these databases are very hard to navigate. It’s pretty cool to be part of a family filled with such celebrity status.

    • Michael Johnson says:

      Sadly I do not share the Borden name due to some rather scandalous acts on my father’s part, considering I was conceived with another woman out of wedlock and while he was still married to his first wife, and eventually leaving them without word or explanation and support. The Borden family did not approve of this and basically in a sense disowned him for his actions and refused to allow him to pass the name on to me. My Aunt Gail was the only person I can ever remember meeting in the Borden family.

  9. Autumn Schmidtfranz says:

    I am related to Lizzie, thanks to extensive research, I found this and looked in documents of my own, and found Gail Bordens name. This is so cool!(:

  10. Stefanie says:

    Aren’t all Borden’s related somehow??? All of my fathers mothers side are all Borden’s. We live in Massachusetts.
    I am somehow a very distant cousin of Lizzie’s but I know nothing of the Borden family tree.
    Thank you,
    Stefanie

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