A Genealogist Gets Details and Gruesome Clues in the Lizzie Borden, Bridget Sullivan Case  

Every genealogist is a family detective of sorts. Our RecordClick genealogist Joan Shurtliff knows that the details can solve age-old mysteries. Here, our expert genealogy researcher uncovers new dirt on the case that has never died. She makes the gruesome seem like plain old genealogy work through census records and other documents in the Fall River case of the murders of the Borden parents by perhaps their daughter Lizzie and the maid Bridget Sullivan.

This RecordClick genealogist thinks that it is time for a macabre story with a genealogy twist. Halloween is almost here!

A person needs to have lived on a remote island to have missed the rhyme about Lizzie Borden helping Andrew and Abby Borden, her father and step-mother, meet gruesome untimely deaths with an axe in Fall River, Massachusetts in August 1892.

A genealogist will find numerous books, articles, and videos with this story. The Bordens were well off financially. Andrew Borden made part of his fortune manufacturing furniture and caskets. Although comfortable, he and his second wife, Abby, were not considered among the elite of Fall River society. Andrew’s children, Lizzie and her older sister, Emma, were concerned that Abby was trying to get more than her fair share of Andrew’s fortune.

Local reports noted the demise of the Bordens.

Local reports noted the demise of the Bordens.

The day came when Abby and Andrew, in that order, met their demise in their own home. The only other people on the premises during the entire crime were Lizzie and a servant, Bridget Sullivan.  After the crime occurred, there was an inquest and a trial–great fodder for any genealogist.

Questions this genealogist has:

  • Who was Bridget Sullivan?
  • What part did she play?
  • What became of her?

To glean more of the story, this genealogist visited some websites that included Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts, The Herald News which featured a relevant article, and The Lizzie Borden Society Forum.

Lizzie Borden is said to have killed her parents. Our RecordClick genealogist turns up so interesting info.

Lizzie Borden is said to have killed her parents. Our RecordClick genealogist turns up so interesting info.

The Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts web site includes an image of an application for the marriage of John M. Sullivan, 37, born June 19, 1868, in Ireland, and Bridget Sullivan, 35, born February 3, 1871, in Ireland. Both lived in Anaconda, Deer Lodge County, Montana. The marriage license application is dated 1905. The Herald News article related that Bridget had some relatives in Montana and that family lore states that she went back to Ireland after the murder trial was over and that

“…where Bridget was, what she did, and how she might have afforded to travel back to Ireland are all unknown.”

The Lizzie Borden Society takes the story even further. Bridget had a friend named Minnie Green. The two had come to the U.S. together. Minnie headed for mining camps in Montana because the prospects seemed better while Bridget stayed close to the ocean. After the murders, Bridget informed Minnie that she wanted to go back to Ireland and purchase a small farm. It turned out not to be what she wanted. She came back to the United States and then joined Minnie in Montana. She met and married John Sullivan, had some children and died in Montana.

A check of the 1910 U.S. Census for Anaconda, Deer Lodge County, Montana finds two John and Bridget Sullivans. A genealogist needs to note this and look for information distinguishing the two families. Here, the ancestry researcher will find:

Sullivan, John M.Head     41           M1-5 years                                         Imm. 1889

Bridget                   Wife      40           M1-5 years         No children         Imm. 1890

Sullivan, John      Head     55           M1-26 years                                       Imm. 1873

Bridget                  Wife      58           M1-26 years       3 children            Imm. 1873

The three children are: Mary, 24 (b. 1886); Kate, 23 (b. 1887); and Nora, 20 (b. 1890).

When the genealogist looks closer, this information indicates that the John and Bridget Sullivan without children are probably connected to Lizzie Borden. There is no indication that the Bridget Sullivan working for the Borden’s was married with children. Later censuses show that John M. and Bridget Sullivan did not have any children.

The 1920U.S. Census lists John M., age 52, and Bridget, age 48, Sullivan living at  701 Alder in Anaconda. Minnie Green is living on West Copper Street in Butte, Silver Bow County, Montana. Minnie is 36, single, the ward of four children. The genealogist will see that she came in 1904 from Ireland. Both mining towns, Anaconda and Butte, are about 25 miles apart. Could Bridget have gone to Ireland after Fall River and returned with Minnie?  A true genealogy verification should be made. However, for our genealogist friends reading this, a short news item in the October  19, 1902, edition of the Anaconda (MT) Standard may provide a clue:

                She Gets a Small Fortune

                Miss Bridget Sullivan employed at the home of John H. Curtis, 334 South Washington Street, received word yesterday that she had fallen heir to a small estate at Castletown, Ireland. The estate was left her by her grandfather and is valued at about $1,000.

Bridget Sullivan appears to have put the events in Fall River, Massachusetts, and the Borden family behind her as best she could. It seems that a genealogist is never done researching. There is always a bit more to a story or yet another clue to be found by the industrious family history researcher. And, of course, all information found by the genealogist needs to be sorted and the data needs to be clarified.

When you hire a professional genealogist from RecordClick, you will get experts who specialize in finding and understanding documents. The ancestry researchers at RecordClick will glean data whether is it for dual citizenship or finding lost family members in the United States or Europe.