this East Coast Bridgens girl

Every now and then, I’ll go somewhere and someone will see my last name and ask, “Are you related to [insert name here]?”  (The most recent one was Nancy Bridgens, a psychiatrist in the area.)  When I shrug and say I don’t know, they answer, “It’s your last name—Bridgens is so distinct.  I bet you are.”  In truth, I probably am distantly related to a good deal of people here.  We know we’re linked to John Paul Getty, but it’s so far removed that it’s insignificant—our family doesn’t come down through the wealthy Getty branch, but through the Getty and Lytle branch out of Salem, NY.  There were three branches in the Getty tree, from what I remember of the book, and ours was probably the least significant of the three.  J. Paul Getty went onto great wealth.  If I remember correctly, James Getty founded Gettysburg.  Samuel (or was it William?) Getty disappeared from history, but those of us who came from that lesser line have quietly lived and thrived through the Great Depression and wars and economic disasters.  We’ve seen all the same things without achieving fame or fortune for ourselves.

There is a book that documents this quieter branch of the family.  It’s titled the Genealogical Notes of the Getty and Lytle Families of Salem, N. Y. and was written by Horace T. Currier.   50 copies of it were printed in 1902.  I’ve read it a couple of times, and it is dear to my heart.  I’d like to see it again simply because it is the only link I have to my past.  It is the only thing that makes me feel part of something now that my grandparents have died.  (Maybe I should make a trip up to Salem and see if their historical society has a copy of it…Google searches have been fruitless.  If any copies still exist, they are held in private collections.  The Library of Congress does not have it.  In fact, I found the title of Currier’s book in an index of genealogies not held in the LOC collection.  Maybe the Mormons have a copy in their collection.)

My cousin David and I are the only ones who left (some might say, “fled”) the Midwest, but when he transplanted himself to the Southwest, he went with his wife’s family and therefore moved from one community to another.  When I moved East, I was in a loveless, hopeless marriage, and I’ve been looking for my place ever since.

I have watched my family find their places after the shattering, after the deaths of our beloved grandparents William and Dorothy.  My sister Jody gradually became absorbed in her husband Vince’s family, and I’ve never begrudged her this.  We grew up in a strange, dysfunctional childhood—it was ever our goal to find happiness to replace what we never had.  My cousins Lisa, Erin, and Amy who remain in Kansas have become three very close friends after fighting their way through difficult trials; it is an amazing bond to have watched develop.  My father Cris has found happiness, I think, with his girlfriend Susannah.  Rumor has it that my aunt Terrie and uncle Gregg have grown stronger in their religious beliefs.

But I have watched from the outside, almost like a historian who is not involved but only records and notes events long after they have happened.  I am not included in any of them.  It seems clear that I am not needed or wanted in the process.  I don’t know that I should be.  I don’t know, exactly, where I fit in their world, if at all.  Part of me thinks that if I could only read the book again, I might find some assurance that I still belong to some community greater than myself.  I won’t know unless I actually do.  All I know is that it is a link to my past and my roots, and the few times I have perused it, it gave me a little thrill.  I’m probably in a very small minority who ever thought those genealogies in the Bible were cool.  It had nothing to do with the impossible ages of the people recorded, but that they were recorded at all.  Someone cared to make note of these peoples’ little lives.  They are not forgotten because they have a record, a place, a remembrance.


~ by logosamorbos on August 14, 2011.

8 Responses to “this East Coast Bridgens girl”

  1. According to WorldCat, Cornell has a copy, as does the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. (There are other libraries with copies, but those are the closest to you.)

    • Are you serious?! Thank you!
      Also, WorldCat needs to find out why they don’t come up in Google searches for book titles. This is a travesty.

      • Yeah, my guess is that it has something to do with session-based library catalog results. (Although open WorldCat isn’t session-based so . . . I don’t know what the issue is, there. Maybe Google just doesn’t love them?)

  2. I knew your father when we were both at KU. He gave me a simple silver cross on a chain with his name engraved on the back. I still have it. It survived 8 1/2 feet of water in my house in Diamondhead, MS during Hurricane Katrina. I don’t live there anymore – I’m in NE Tennessee now. I don’t know how I stumbled upon your writings, but I saw the name Bridgens and took a look. I was surprised to see the name Cris. I cared for him deeply for a few years. I ended up marrying my high school sweetheart in 1971. Then his alcoholism and inattention led to divorce in 1995. I remarried in 2000 to an Air Force Weather Officer. I am fighting major health issues now and so am thinking about my life in general. Your father influenced me a lot during my college years. We talked religion, politics, and the major issues of the late 1960’s. I remember him as handsome, intelligent, fun but sometimes too serious. I think if we had more similar beliefs that we might have married, but we differed too much on some major issues. It wasn’t meant to be. I am happy to hear that he has found some happiness. In life that is really all that matters in the end. I have been fortunate to have found the love of my life though it came after age 45. It is a wondrous thing – life – a treat to be savored. My wish for you is that you find happiness in whatever comes your way.

    • I am sitting here, stunned. My grandmother kept letters he wrote to them, and your name appears several times. I have always wondered who you were and what he was like back then–the letters are so short and say very little about himself. He has always been serious, and it has only deepened (and darkened) with age.

      • I wish I still had his letters/notes to me so I could share them with you. Hurricane Katrina washed them away along with photos I had of him. I will look through my Mother’s photos to see if there are any of your father. If I can find anything, I’ll let you know.

      • Hurricane Katrina wiped away so much. Natural disasters are no joke, and of all of them, floods are the most frightening to me. (You would think tornadoes would worry me, after living in the Midwest for so many years, but no, it’s floods.) I’m sorry you had to live through that. If you do have anything, my sister and I would be very grateful. Please feel free to email me at jennbridgens at gmail dot com. It’s good hear stories from the past. Now that my grandparents have passed away, I find I treasure family history all the more.

        By the way, this WordPress blog was an experiment, so I don’t maintain it much anymore. I bought my own domain and maintain a website over at I write a blog there, too. 🙂

      • My e-mail is corgicat34 at yahoo dot com or you can find me on Facebook Cheryl McElhose Jones Smith

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