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Relatively Speaking: Honorable Name

Relatively Speaking is a throwback to another time in the world of genealogy. These are anecdotal stories to inspire those who search for their ancestors. Although, many of these stories are from before the world of computers and certainly the age of the internet, I believe that all of us have benefited from serendipity in our research.

Honorable Name

My young cousin, Judy Bridger Hardwick, works for A. B. Dick Co. They handle office machines, computers, etc. They have offices all across the country, and send a list of employees to each office.

Judy noticed, on a list from San Francisco, the name of John Bridger. In a recent telephone conversation with that office she asked to speak to John Bridger.

When he answered she explained who she was and said she wondered what part of the country he came from. He said, ?›ƒ?ª?Ma?›ƒ?ªƒ?›am I hope it won?›ƒ?ªƒ?›t surprise you too much, but I am a Negro.?›ƒ?ª?

Although she was shocked for a moment, Judy said No, that she was sure there were people with the same names all over the United States.
He explained as follows: “Ma?›ƒ?ªƒ?›am, my great-grandfather was a slave to a Mr. Bridger in Mississippi. His name was ‘Big Black John’. After the Civil War he still worked for Mr. Bridger. When it came time for the United States Census Mr. Bridger asked him if he had ever had another name besides ‘Big Black John’. He said he didn’t know or remember any ?›ƒ?ªƒ?? so Mr. Bridger said, ?›ƒ?ª?you will have to have a surname, or last name now, so since you have served me well I am going to give you my name. You will be John Bridger, provided you keep the name honest and honorable.”

“My great-grandfather did; my grandfather did; my father did, and I have. I served in World War II, and have lived many places and I have never met another Negro by the name of Bridger. I guess this is the end of the line, as I am 55 years old and have no children.”

This Mr. Bridger from whom John Bridger received his surname, was my great-grandfather, James B. Bridger and Judy?›ƒ?ªƒ?›s 3rd great uncle, three generations removed.

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