Collision of History With Genealogical Records: Lizzie Borden

It’s interesting how genealogical records can provide a glimpse of our own personal history, but can also offer a peek at something of historical curiosity. How about a dose of haunted history?  On August 4th, 1892 at the address of 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts there was a double murder committed that would continue to be talked about more than 100 years later. The house is revered as one of the many haunted places of Southeastern Massachusetts. Lizzie Borden who was 32 at the time shared the home with her father Andrew and step-mother Abby, sister Emma and the household maid, Bridget Sullivan at the time of the incident.

This 1880 census shows the entry for the long-time next door neighbor Adelaide (Buffington) Churchill who was cited to have been the first person to see and speak with Lizzie Borden almost immediately following the double murder of Lizzie’s father and step-mother. Adelaide and Sullivan in the following minutes began to search the house for Mrs. Borden, thus discovering her next to the bed in the upstairs guest bedroom. Also in this census image at 96 Second Street is the entry for Alice Russell, who appeared at the trial in testimony that Lizzie had spoken to her the evening before on her suspicion that someone had been trying to poison her family.

The following census image is from, displaying the 1880 Fall River Massachusetts return for 92 Second Street. Note that Sullivan was not employed by the Bordens in 1880 and doesn’t appear in the census. Could the long unknown killer or a witness to the double murder have been a neighbor appearing in the 1880 census?