- by Alice
Borden took an ax
And gave her mother 40 whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father 41."
Remember singing that rhyme on the school
playground, jumping rope and seeing if you could get to
41 whacks? Research on Lizze's genealogy found an
interesting twist: While Lizzie was found not guilty of
patricide despite strong evidence, she had a five-greats
grandfather who was found guilty of matricide on no more
than the testimony of what a man had dreamed. Lizzie
descended from Thomas CORNELL, born 1627 in England and
executed 1673 in Portsmouth, RI. Cornell was convicted of
matricide on the testimony of a man who said that the
late Mrs. Cornell had come to him in a dream and accused
her son of having killed her. Thomas Cornell almost
certainly was not guilty. Thomas had another descendant
(a 4th great-grandson) named Ezra Cornell; Ezra Cornell
donated the original endowment for Cornell University.
Lizzie descended from Thomas Cornell's daughter Innocent
Cornell, who was born posthumously. Whether the widow
Cornell [Sarah Earle] named her baby "Innocent"
as a way of saying, "No matter what the sins of her
father, this baby is innocent," or whether she named
the baby "Innocent" as a way of stating her own
judgment on her late husband is unknown.
Regarding the strange case of Thomas Cornell's conviction
for matricide, The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode
Island has the following, which is from The Friends'
records of 8-Feb-1673:
"Rebecca Cornell, widow, was killed strangely, at
Portsmouth, in her own dwelling house, was twice viewed
by the Coroner's Inquest, digged up and buried again by
her husband's grave in their own land.' Her son Thomas
was charged with her murder, but although the jury's
verdict in regard to this affair was, that 'he did murder
his mother Rebecca, or was aiding or abetting thereto;'
yet the evidence in the case would seem to have been in
no way conclusive. There was much evidence taken. The son
said in his own defence that having discoursed with his
mother about an hour and a half he went into the next
room and staid three-quarters of an hour. His wife then
sent his son Edward to his grandmother to know whether
she would have some milk boiled for her supper. The child
saw some fire on the floor and came back and fetched the
candle. Then Henry Straight, myself and the rest followed
in a huddle. Henry Straight saw what he supposed was an
Indian, drunk and burnt on the floor, but when Thomas
Cornell perceived by the light of the candle who it was,
he cried, 'Oh Lord it is my mother.' Her clothes and body
were much burned, and the jury found a wound on uppermost
part of stomach.
"John Briggs [Rebecca's brother] testified as to an
apparation of a woman that appeared at his bedside in a
dream, and he cried out 'in the name of God what art
thou,' and the apparition answered, 'I am your sister
Cornell' and thrice said 'see how I was burnt with fire.'
"John Russell, of Dartmouth, testified that George
Soule told him (since the decease of Rebecca Cornell),
that once coming to the house of Rebecca, in Portsmouth,
she told him that the spring she intended to go and dwell
with her son Samuel, but she feared she would be made
away with before that. Thomas, Stephen, Edward and John
Cornell (sons of Thomas), gave testimony as to their
grandmother's death, saying their father was last with
"Mary Cornell, wife to John, aged twenty-eight
years, testified that three or four years past being at
her mother-in-law, Rebecca Cornell's, and meeting her on
returning from the orchard to the house, she said to
deponent that she had been running after pigs and being
weak and no help and she being disregarded, she thought
to have stabbed a penknife into her heart, that she had
in her hand, and then she should be rid of her trouble,
but it came to her mind 'resist the Devil and he will
flee from you' and then she said she was well
Records of the General Court of Trials are at this site:
Back to Lizzie Borden of the 40 whacks: The genealogy
game of "Lizzie Borden" is a little different
from the rope-jumping game. The object of the genealogy
game is to see if you can claim Lizzie as a distant
cousin. You know, so when you're having a bad day, you
can say, "Leave me alone. I've got PMS, and I'm a
cousin of Lizzie Borden." You get to claim Lizzie as
a cousin if you find you have any of the same ancestors
she had. Lizzie's ancestors are offered here; you'll have
to find your own ancestors to see if you have a match. My
"Lizzie match" is in red, numbers 262 and 263
on Lizzie's ancestor chart. The couple are also 516 and
517 on Lizzie's chart because, well, Lizzie was a little
inbred. (By the way, it was Lizzie's step-mother who was
killed by person or persons unknown. Lizzie's mother had
died when Lizzie was two years old.)
Lizzie Drew BORDEN:
.....b 19 Jul 1860 Fall River, MA,
.....d 1 Jun 1927 Fall River, MA.
2. Andrew Jackson BORDEN:
.....b 13 Sep 1822 Fall River, MA,
.....m 26 Dec 1845,
.....d 4 Aug 1892 Fall River, MA.
3. Sarah J. MORSE:
.....d Mar 1863.
4. Abraham Bowen BORDEN:
.....b 8 Jul 1798.
5. Phoebe DAVENPORT
8. Richard BORDEN:
.....m abt 1796,
.....d after 1816.
9. Martha (Patty) BOWEN
16. Richard BORDEN:
.....m 12 Mar 1747,
.....d 4 Jul 1795.
17. Hope COOK
32. Thomas BORDEN:
.....b 8 Dec 1697,
.....m 14 Aug 1721,
.....d Apr 1740 Tiverton, RI.
33. Mary GIFFORD
64. Richard BORDEN:
.....b 25 Oct 1671 Portsmouth, RI,
.....m abt 1692,
.....d abt 1732 (or June 1734) RI.
65. Innocent CORNELL:
.....d after 15 Nov 1720.
66. Christopher GIFFORD
128. John BORDEN I:
.....b 5 Sep 1640 Portsmouth, RI,
.....m 25 Dec 1670 prob. Portsmouth, RI,
.....d 4 Jun 1716 Portsmouth, RI.
129. Mary EARLE:
.....b abt 1655 Portsmouth, RI,
.....d Jun 1734.
130. Thomas CORNELL:
.....b Oct 1627 Saffron Walden, Essex, England
.....d 23 Mar 1673 Portsmouth, RI.
.....[Convicted and executed for matricide; almost
certainly not guilty.]
131. Sarah EARLE:
.....b abt 1645 Portsmouth, Newport Co., RI,
.....d 1690 Tiverton, RI.
.....[2nd married a son of Alice Lake, who was
executed as a witch.]
256. Richard BORDEN:
.....chr 22 Feb 1595/6 Headcorn, Co. Kent, England,
.....m 28 Sep 1625 Headcorn, England,
.....came to America mid-1630s,
.....d 25 May 1671 Portsmouth, RI.
257. Joane FOWLE:
.....b 15 Feb 1604 Headcorn, Co. Kent, England,
.....d 15 Jul 1688 Portsmouth, RI.
258. William EARLE:
.....chr 11 May 1634 Bishops Stortford,
.....m 1654 Portsmouth, Newport Co., RI,
.....d 15 Jan 1715 Springfield, Union Co., NJ.
259. Mary WALKER
260. Thomas CORNELL:
.....b abt 1595 Essex, England,
.....m abt 1620,
.....d abt 1656 Portsmouth, RI.
261. Rebecca BRIGGS
.....b abt 1600,
.....d 8 Feb 1672/3 Portsmouth, RI.
.....chr 9 Feb 1606 Bishops
Stortford, Hertfordshire, England,
.....m 29 Aug 1631 Bishops
Stortford, Hertfordshire, England,
.....d 1678 Portsmouth, RI.
263. Joan SAVAGE:
.....chr 18 Feb 1609,
.....d aft 15 Sep 1699
.....[to Ralph and Joan's descendant
Hannah Earle, click here]
512. Matthew BORDEN:
.....chr 30 Sep abt 1563 Frittenden, Co. Kent,
.....m abt 1591,
.....bur 4 Oct 1620 Headcorn, Co. Kent, England.
513. Joan GLOVER or REEDER(?):
.....d after 1620.
514. Richard FOWLE:
.....chr 18 Dec 1569 Frittenden, Co. Kent, England,
.....m 3 Sep 1601 St. Margaret's, Canterbury, Co.
.....bur 2 Mar 1631/2 Headcorn, Co. Kent, England.
515. Mary ____ (FILKES):
.....bur 1 Aug 1627 Headcorn, England.
516. Ralph EARLE [same as 262]
517. Joan SAVAGE [same as 263]
518. John WALKER
519. Katharine _____
526. Richard SAVAGE:
.....bur 17 Dec 1637 Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, England.
527. Mary WATERMAN:
.....b abt 1563 Bishops
Stortford, Hertfordshire, England,
.....bur 5 May 1636 Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, England.
.....[Mary was 1st married to Thomas Isacke.]
The riddle remains: Did
she get away with murder, or was she an innocent whose
life was ruined because of false charges?
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