Monday, February 15, 2010

Mark’s Great Grandfather and Lizzie Borden (or Why I Love Family Research)

I have been around genealogy my whole life. I was raised the daughter of a family researcher and, despite what my 10 year old self thought, I have become one myself. Therefore I have no excuse for ignoring one of genealogy’s cardinal rules: Always research the time and place of the city your ancestors lived in.

I suppose I’m always too eager to find the next ancestor or they next piece of information to take the time to bother learning more about the areas where they lived. But last night I was reminded of why this is an important part of our research.

I was reading the book assignment for my March book club: Devil in The White City. It’s a book about, of all things, a serial murderer at the time of the World’s Fair in Chicago. However, the real interest for me is all the history it is giving of how the World’s Fair came to be in Chicago and the tremendous undertaking it was to make it all happen. Mixed in with the story is a history of what was happening in this county in 1891-1893 and how it affected the Fair.

On page 153 it stated that in 1891 there was an increase in murders in the country including a Mr. and Mrs. Borden (Lizzie Borden’s parents) in Fall River, Massachusetts. That one line, that one solitary line made me sit straight up in bed and gasp. I knew of another person in Fall River, MA is 1891…..Mark’s great-grandfather, Frank Boulanger. Certainly, the Borden murders would have been a huge story in Fall River as it was in the rest of the country. The question was….did Frank know the Borden family?

I first did a google search to determine the population of Fall River in 1891. The number I found was approximately 1400 people. Not too large. Next I went looking for the 1891 Fall River City Directory online at Ancestry. There I found the Borden family living at 92 2nd Street. The Boulanger’s resided at 73 Norfolk St.
I pulled up Google Maps and put in the two addresses and found they were just 2 miles apart.

In 1891, Frank was 14 years old. So the question remains….did Frank know the Borden family? It’s entirely possible.


  1. Ooohhh...very interesting! It is possible they knew each other given the distance between houses. Maybe they went to the same church. I hope you investigate further, because I'm curios if there is a connection.

  2. Great story! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Amazing! History is so much more fun that the present!:-)

    Let's be glad your Grandfather didn't know Little Lizzie too well ~ you may not have made it to us!:-)



    The population of Fall River in 1890 was 74,398. The murders occurred in 1892.

    I am not sure where you got the 1400 number you posted about.