Black sheep label and Lizzie Borden

+9 votes

In regards to Lizzie Andrew Borden [Borden-196] being labeled a "Black Sheep", I believe that public opinion can be flawed due to public perception and erroneous beliefs. The fact is, that Lizzie was in fact tried in a court of law and was acquitted by a jury of her peers at that time in history. To interject her biography with the old "40 whacks" nursery rhyme is not "sound genealogical sourcing or fact",  it is only tabloid-style sourcing. We do not perpetuate fictional accounts based on perception no matter how great that perception or "gut feeling" may be, we work with evidence.

WikiTree profile: Lizzie Borden
in The Tree House by Mark Hough G2G6 Mach 2 (21.2k points)

2 Answers

+4 votes

I think she is there because she was treated as an outcast, as per the quote on her profile 

“Lizzie Borden is a black sheep because they were outcast, outlawed, or outlandish.”

by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
Actually, it's not the point I was trying to make. She will always be known for being a "black sheep" due to the fact that her reputation is put ahead of established fact which is not entertaining to read. I didn't say she was "NOT GUILTY", the jury did. That's the law. The constitution states that you cannot be tried twice for the same crime. I guess in death, you can.
Mark, at first I was set to agree with you. However, during her lifetime and post acquittal, she was treated by her society and even by her sister as an outcast. That would, I believe, qualify her for the label.

It is also a fact that a nursery rhyme was created about her, even if it is factually inaccurate which the profile does indicate.
What does any of this have to do with genealogy, though?  This family line ended with Lizzie and her sisters so at most she’s a twig on someone’s branch.  The story of her parents’ murder has nothing to do with anyone’s ancestry or descent.
I'm iffy about the projects overall scope but I would agree that she appears to have been an outcast after her trial.

 As she was found not guilty, the categories Woman Murderer, Infamous Criminals of the 19th C and American Outlaws seem to inappropriate categories.
Kathie, for many of us, genealogy is not just about lines of descent, but also about family history. Borden's life story included the trial, and her post-acquittal infamous reputation (and the legend / nursery rhyme).

Helen, I concur; that part is very inaccurate; those categories should be removed.
Kathie we're committed to a profile for everyone who ever lived regardless of whether they have descendants alive today.
I get that, but what is the need for the lengthy recapitulation of her history?  Where are the genealogical facts?  Lizzie’s profile has only two primary sources: one census and  Find-A-Grave.  There are plenty of sites, books, movies, court records, etc. if anyone wants to know all the details of her story.  Her profile, and many (most?) of the profiles for famous -  and infamous - people are just copies of Wikipedia, other web sites, popular accounts, or old books, not anyone’s original research.  

Why can she not have a profile that says who her parents were, who her siblings were, that neither she nor her sisters had descendants, state that she was accused and acquitted of her parents’ murder, and then reference documented sources for more information about the murder and trial?  

If Lizzie was someone’s actual ancestor then a descendant might choose to write in a bio how events affected her and later generations, but as it is it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Good points, Kathie.
My thought is simply this. That first, I would never advocate a "recapitulation" of her story. I think that a lot of hard work went into this profile, and many other biographies. It's sort of what sets Wikitree apart for me. We are asked to build biographies based on sourced information. If you were to ask the majority of people about Lizzy Borden, the only thing that may come to mind is an ax and a rhyme. The same may go for King Henry the eighth, but in spite of the beheadings did not wind up as a "black sheep" by any means and this was due to his title. I prefer to treat the grave with respect, and the person (though dead many years) with fairness. Even Wikipedia has sources, but I doubt many people look at them to verify accuracy. As far as the web goes, there may be just as much bad information out there as good, possibly more. I won't make assumptions.
+3 votes
The Black Sheep Project is going to be making some major changes in the near future that will address this issue. Stay tuned for more information!
by Traci Thiessen G2G6 Pilot (259k points)

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