Feb. 25, 2013
Five months after the author’s grandfather was sentenced to only 10 years for the shooting death of his father in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. Was Lizzie inspired by the public sympathy and light sentence meted out to her townsman?
by Thomas D. McDougall
When I retired in March of 2011, I finally had the opportunity to complete several projects that I had put aside for many years. The first and most important to me personally was the completion of a family history that I had started in the 1980’s. The advancement of genealogy information and its availability on the Internet afforded me an opportunity that I had never been able to utilize in my earlier search for information.
My parents had both been born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts, a city rich in history that had been a magnet for immigrants from the British Isles and Europe during the mid and late 1800’s. They flocked to the area in search of employment in one of the city’s many mills and supporting industries. Consequently I was familiar with the city and the story of Lizzie Borden. What I never knew and was probably never known by family members was our own peripheral connection to the Lizzie Borden case.
My mother’s family had emigrated from England in 1910 and there was a wealth of information available from personal recollection and subsequent research t hat filled in the gaps. I began to think that my family history project could be finalized in short order. As I turned to my father’s side of the family I realized just how little I knew and how wrong I was with respect to my projected finish date. The other fact that began to emerge from my research was the wealth of surprises and skeletons that come out in the open during an in-depth genealogy project. In my case, it was the murder of my great–grandfather, James McDougall, by the hand of my grandfather, James McDougall Jr.