The Bridger Family Association was organized in May 2006. The organizational meeting was held at the Historic St. Luke’s Church in Isle of Wight County, Virginia.
The Association was organized by descendants of Joseph Bridger (1631/32-1686) and his wife Hester Pitt of Isle of Wight County, Virginia. The Association members have met annually every year since 2006 (except for the last two years, due to COVID-19).
We currently have 74 Associate Members and 64 Voting Members.
If you would like additional information about the association or would like to join, please contact President Jean Tomes at 919-752-6484 or email BridgerFamilyAssn@gmail.com.
Facts regarding General Joseph Bridger:
- Born at Woodmancote Manor, Dursley, Gloucester, England, and baptized on 28 February 1631/32.
- Son of Samuel and Mary (Purchase) Bridger, born in Slimbridge, Gloucester, England and grandson of Lawrence Bridger, born Godalming, Surry, England.
- Member of the Cavalier Army in the British Civil Wars.
- Immigrated to Virginia circa 1654.
- Married circa 1654 to Hester Pitt, daughter of Colonel Robert Pitt of Isle of Wight Co., Virginia and had seven children:
- Captain Joseph II (circa 1654-by 1713/14, married Elizabeth Norsworthy.
- Martha (circa 1658-after 1714), married Thomas Godwin.
- Colonel Samuel (circa 1663-by 1714), married Elizabeth Godwin.
- Elizabeth (circa 1665-1717), married Thomas Lear.
- Mary (circa 1667-before 1683), married Captain Richard Tibboth.
- Colonel William (circa 1669-1730), married Elizabeth Allen.
- Hester (circa 1671), married George Williamson.
- Member of the Virginia House of Burgesses for most, if not all, of the years 1657/58-1673.
- On the Committee to adjust the Virginia/Maryland boundary on the Eastern Shore.
- Member of the Virginia Council of State, 1673-1686.
- Co-Acting Governor of Virginia, 1684 and 1685.
- Colonel of Isle of Wight County’s militia by 1673-1686.
- Adjutant General of Virginia, 1666.
- Commander of Nine Virginia Counties for Defense against Indians, 1680.
- Commander of Four Virginia Counties for Defense against Indians, 1683.
- Deputy Vice Admiral of Virginia, 1683.
- Owner of over 16,400 acres in Isle of Wight, Surry, Nansemond, and James City Counties in Virginia and in Somerset County, Maryland, making him the largest landowner of his day living south of the James River in Virginia and one of the ten largest landowners in Virginia.
- Builder of Whitemarsh Plantation’s 21-room, 18,000 sq. ft. brick mansion — likely one of the two largest homes ever built in 17th century Virginia.
- Buried in the chancel of St. Luke’s Church, Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Local tradition considers Joseph Bridger the benefactor of the church’s construction, which was completed circa 1682. This Gothic brick structure is the oldest intact non-Roman Catholic church building in the Western Hemisphere.
Joseph Bridger’s ledger stone in the floor of St. Luke’s Church, Smithfield, Va.
The Landed and Personal Estate of Gen. Joseph Bridger by William Carrell II is an excellent and detailed book about Joseph Bridger and his holdings. It is a large file (23,204 KB) and can be seen at The Landed and Personal Estate of General Joseph Bridger
Association Board of Directors
- Jean B. Tomes, Founder, Raleigh, N.C., Co-Founder
- William P. Carrell II, Founder and Genealogist, Louisville, Ky., Co-Founder
- William Hodsden, Suffolk, Va., Vice President of Corporate Affairs
- Bridger Eglin, Baton Rouge, La.
Director of Communications:
- Janet Ross, Springfield, Va.
DNA Database Manager:
- Elaine Powell, Orlando, Fl.
- Caryn Ann Cady Johnson, Virginia Beach, Va.
- William P. Carrell II, Louisville, Ky.
- Merry Outlaw, Williamsburg, Va.
- Elaine Powell, Orlando, Fl.
- William Hodsden, Suffolk, Va.
- Elaine Powell, Orlando, Fl.
Board Members At Large:
- R. Cameron Bridger, Raleigh, N.C.
- George R. Bridger, Wilmington, N.C.
- Joseph L. Bridger, Raleigh. N.C.
- Justin Bridger, Fuquay-Varina, N.C.
- Betty Bridgers Cullen, Fairfax, Va.
- Margaret B. Gunn, Williamsburg, Va.
- Bonnie Bridger Mittelmaier, Williamsburg, Va.
- Ginger Vereen Peters , Raleigh, N. C.
Lifetime Board of Directors Emeritus
- John Flowers, Hendersonville, N.C.
Board Members Emeritus:
- James A. Bridger Jr., Founder, Raleigh, N.C. (deceased)
- Dr. Thomas Wirt Sale (deceased)
Interior of St. Luke’s Church, Smithfield, Va.
Membership is by invitation only. Prospective members must be proposed by an existing Voting Member and be of good moral character. For information about membership, contact BFA President Jean Tomes.
There are three categories of Membership:
Hereditary (Voting) Members
Those individuals who can document their direct blood descent from Gen. Joseph Bridger and his wife Hester Pitt to the satisfaction of the Association. The Association may give reciprocity to the approval of an individual’s Bridger descent from other lineage societies. There is a $275 lifetime membership fee.
Those individuals who are interested in the Association’s mission. There is a $125 lifetime membership fee. The $125 can be applied toward a Hereditary (Voting) Membership.
Those individuals, under the age of 21, whose parent(s) or grandparent(s) are either a Hereditary (Voting) Member or an Associate Member. There is a $50 membership fee. That $50 can later be applied toward either an Associate Membership or toward a Hereditary Membership, when the Junior Member reaches the age of 21.
We currently have over 250 families who receive the BFA newsletter and claim to be descendants but have not yet submitted their Membership applications. And a number of cousins are working on their lineage papers.
The Joseph Bridger window inside St. Luke’s Church
Bridger Genealogy Book
After ten years of research, compiling and editing, we are pleased to share Bridger Family Chronicles, From the Old World to the New with our cousins, educators, and other researchers. Both books have now been revised in a second edition.
Volume I is a genealogical book beginning with Henry Brygger (1480) Godalming, Surrey County, England which includes twenty generations down to the present. Family surnames are Brygger, Brydgere, Bridger,… More > Bridgers and Bridges. The book contains 800 pages of maps, a timeline, a gazetteer, wills, deeds, census records, tax lists, birth certificates, marriage records, death certificates and a 654 page genealogical report on 6,500 individuals.
Volume II (796 pages) connects 27 additional families to Volume I. These families are direct descendants of Henry Brygger (1480) and connect to families already in Volume I. Along with the 455… More > pages of new genealogical reports, the book contains sections that include information on descendants from Volume I and II. The following sections are included: Additions to Volume I, a Family Picture Gallery and a Family Architectural Gallery, Deeds, Wills, Family Bibles, Remembering the Military of American Wars, Memorial Tributes, and Gleanings. The two volumes contain information on 9,404 individuals with 6,350 direct descendants of Henry Brygger.
Photos of Bridger Events
Photos from Bridger past events can be seen on Flicker at https://www.flickr.com/groups/2090030@N20/poolYou need to sign up for a free account to see the photos. You can view many of the photos from our England Bridger Gathering from the You Tube pages below. Part 1: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BwUGL5pbM0E&feature=em-upload_owner Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiQYTHE07UY Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6iwcXYsEPI
May 2006 – Virginia
An organizational meeting was held at Historic St. Luke’s Church, Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Dr. Douglas Owsley, Curator and Division Head of Biological Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, made a presentation on the proposal to temporarily exhume the remains of Gen. Joseph Bridger relevant to a forthcoming exhibit at the Museum titled Written in Bone: Life and Death in the Seventeenth Century Chesapeake. To watch the video of the exhumation click here.
This meeting was preceded by the 49th Annual Pilgrimage that was dedicated to the Bridger Family, with a capacity crowd. Descendant, William P. Carrell II, delivered the homily.
On January 27, 2007 Dr. Doug Owsley and his forensic team went to St. Luke’s Church to search for the remains of Joseph Bridger with twenty of his descendants looking on. The video of the exhumation can be seen at http://www.history.com/videos/written-in-bone-the-search-for-joseph-bridger#written-in-bone-the-search-for-joseph-bridger
Reburial of the bones of Joseph Bridger
Yesterday, Tuesday, February 18, 2014 was another profound day in the Bridger family.
The remains of our Grandfather Joseph, were returned from the Smithsonian by Alain Outlaw and reburied in St. Luke’s Church under the ledger stone where he had lain from 1894 until 2007 when he was moved to Washington, DC.
A very nice, reverent service was led by Rev. Randy Green, Smithfield, VA, minister of the church attended by Rachel Buchanan, the new Executive Director of St. Luke’s Church. We are very appreciative that Rev. Green was able to be with us.
Rev. Green read several passages of scripture and even gave some highlights into the life of our Great Grandfather. Prayers were said which gave the reburial service finality.
A beautiful spray of spring flowers was placed at the head of his ledger stone. We had even asked that a few sprigs of Rosemary be placed within the flowers as we are certain Rosemary was used at his funeral in 1686.
We were very appreciative of the heartfelt assistance given by Ms. Buchanan in the short time we had in planning the service. We look forward, with enthusiasm, to working with Rachael in the future. What a welcomed addition she is to the church. In talking with her, a Rosemary bush will be secured and planted near the church in Memory of Gen. Joseph Bridger by the Bridger Family Association.
All the Bridger family extends their many thanks to Alain Outlaw. He has been such a super, wonderful person to our family for so many years and we are so fortunate to have him as a part of our family.
In my heart, I know Grandfather is happy to be back in the church he cared for and loved so much.
Rest in Peace.
April 2007 – St. Luke’s Church, Smithfield, Virginia
Liturgy of the Dead, according to use of the Anglican Church’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer, in celebration of the life of Gen. Joseph Bridger at Historic St. Luke’s Church, Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Descendants were involved in all aspects of this service including the delivery of a eulogy by William P. Carrell II and the singing of the metrical version of The Lord’s Prayer, from the 17th-century Hodsden Bible, by Abbey Outlaw.
This service was originally planned to mark the re-interment of Gen. Bridger’s remains to his vault in the Church, following their exhumation the previous January. That did not take place as it was learned that only about 20% of his remains were moved to the Church in 1894, and efforts were under way to locate the missing remains
Following the service, which was attended by over 200, the Second Annual Meeting of the Association was held in the Church. Dr. Douglas Owsley gave a presentation of the exhumation of Gen. Joseph Bridger’s remains.
May 2008 – Virginia
The reunion took place in Williamsburg, Virginia. There were 77 in attendance aboard the Miss Hampton II for our dinner cruise. We requested that the Captain take us up the James River as that would have been the route our Grandfather Joseph would have taken when he arrived in the 1650s.
Dr. Doug Owsley and his wife, Susie, were with us. Doug shared information he learned about Grandfather Bridger, namely that lead tests have proven that Grandfather had a very large amount of lead in his bones. This was from eating off metal (pewter, white metal, etc.) plates and using metal eating utensils for so many years. Dr. Owsley said Grandfather also had Gout. With that and the lead poisoning, Grandfather was probably not a very happy person in his later years.
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.
The bones of Joseph Bridger at the Smithsonian
The reunion was held in the auditorium in the Museum of Natural History. Over 200 attended. We were invited to tour the exhibit, Written in Bone — Forensic Files of the 17th Century Chesapeake, at the Smithsonian Institute’s Natural History Museum by Dr. Douglas Owsley. We were allowed to enter the museum an hour before it was open to the public. We were all pleased to see our ancestor’s name on a plaque stating “A MAN OF MEANS – AND COLIC Colonel Joseph Bridger was one of the ten wealthiest Virginians of his time. Between 1657 and his death in 1686, he held many prominent public offices and military commissions. He also probably suffered the effects of lead poisoning, especially the “dry gripes” of abdominal pain often mentioned in historic writings. When his remains were tested in 2007, his bone lead levels were 149 ppm—more than seven times the average level today.” Other plaques in the exhibit stated “Lead intake increased with wealth. A very high lead content in 17th-century bone indicates a person of means….Exposure to lead was a fact of life in the 1600s. All but the very poor drank from lead-glazed earthenware, and used objects made of pewter, an alloy of tin and lead.” The Smithsonian website with the information about Joseph Bridger can be seen at http://anthropology.si.edu/writteninbone/pewter.html
May 2010 – Virginia
The gathering was held in Smithfield, Virginia. We took tours of Bacon’s Castle, Smith’s Fort Plantation and Windsor Castle Park. Alain Outlaw gave a presentation near Windsor Castle about archaeology done at that site. At the Saturday evening banquet meeting, we again heard a program by Alain on the Wheatland Foundation Inc. archaeological investigations at Whitemarsh, Home of Col. Joseph Bridger. A most exciting discovery at Whitemarsh was a wine bottle seal, which had the Bridger Coat of Arms molded onto the cap. Also a bottle seal with “HB” on it was also found which indicated that Hester Bridger, wife of Joseph, had her own seal for her wine bottles.
July 2011 – Wyominghttp://www.bobbybridger.com/> entertained the members and “retired his buckskin suit” and donated it to the Museum at Fort Bridger after his performance. There was a full-day trip to the Bridger-Teton National Forest <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridger-Teton_National_Forest> and the Grand Teton National Park.
May 2012 – Virginia
The gathering was held in Suffolk, Virginia. We had cousins join us from all over the USA. Several of us did some research at the new Isle of Wight Courthouse in Smithfield. At our Friday gathering (photo above) we attended a picnic at Squire Hall. Caryn Johnson displayed a large Bridger descendant chart that she created. Our Saturday evening banquet group photo is above.
Alain Outlaw reported at the dinner/meeting that at the dig at Whitemarsh in the spring of 2011 he found two graves containing remains of males buried in the early 1700s. He immediately knew they were males because he found three buttons in each grave at the waist line, which were the trouser buttons. Alain knew that neither grave was Joseph Bridger’s as none of the bones were missing in the two graves. Alain was not able to remove any remains because the bones were “mushy,” as the graves were in a low area of the farm.
May 2013 – Norfolk, Virginia
We held our annual gathering at the Sheraton Waterside in Norfolk on May 9-12. On Friday evening we held our annual banquet/dinner meeting. Merry Outlaw was the speaker and she showed us artifacts found at Whitemarsh Plantation, the home of our ancestor Joseph Bridger. She compared those artifacts to others found at other archaeology sites, and showed either actual items or photos of intact items, so that we could view what actually had been used by Joseph & Hester and their family at Whitemarsh Plantation.
September 2014 – England
This Bridger Family Gathering in England was the trip of a lifetime! There were over 75 Bridger cousins with us when we visited Southern England where we visited historic locations where our Bridger ancestors lived. We stayed at the beautiful Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel, which is is a Victorian mansion in South Gloucestershire built in Tudor style for the 2nd Earl of Ducie between 1848 and 1853. We visited Woodmancote Manor, birthplace of Grandfather Joseph, Slimbridge Church (picture above) where Lawrence Bridger was Rector for 57 years, Berkeley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral where Samuel Bridger is buried, The Cotwalds, Stonehenge, Cheddar, and Chepstow Castle in Wales. More details and photos can be seen by clicking on the 2014 Reunion tab on the top of this page.
May 2015 – Virginia
Our 10th anniversary Gathering took place in Williamsburg, Virginia May 14-17. We took a bus to tour three James River Plantations — Westover, Berkeley, and Shirley. We enjoyed a box lunch while at Berkeley Plantation. On Saturday night we celebrated at a Banquet & Annual Meeting at the Doubletree Hotel in Williamsburg. We had a record attendance of 85, with several cousins joining us for the first time. On Sunday we all met at St. Luke’s Church in Smithfield. David Carrington of Slimbridge Parish in England led the service. Four couples renewed their wedding vows.
Gathering after our Sunday Service at St. Luke’s Church
Bridger Window at St. Luke’s Church
Gathering at Shirley Plantation
More photos from our trip to Williamsburg can be seen at https://youtu.be/5pxbx8JNqi4
May 2016 – North Carolina
Our 2016 Gathering was held in Nags Head, North Carolina in the Outer Banks.
We visited the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and enjoyed visiting other areas in the Outer Banks. We enjoyed a dinner at The Tale of the Whale Restaurant on Friday night.
On Saturday we visited Fort Raleigh National Historic Site where they preserve the location of Roanoke Colony, the first English settlement in the present-day United States. The site was preserved for its national significance in relation to the founding of the first English settlement in North America in 1587. The colony, which was promoted and backed by entrepreneurs led by Englishman Sir Walter Raleigh (ca. 1554–1618), failed sometime between 1587 and 1590 when supply ships failed to arrive on time. When next visited, the settlement was abandoned with no survivors found. The fate of the “Lost Colony” remains a mystery. Archaeologist Clay Swindell gave us a tour of the area and talked about the findings in the past of the Lost Colony of North Carolina. John Bridger was a member of the Lost Colony. We do not yet know how John Bridger was related to Joseph Bridger; however he might be the John Bridger (b. ca. 1548) who was the son of Richard Brydgere (c.1510-1594) of Godalming, England.
A slideshow of all the photos from North Carolina can be seen on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0SEyWwi470
September, 2016 – Virginia
While not an official Bridger Family Gathering, the weekend of September 9-11 was a very special weekend for the Bridger family. Historic St. Luke’s Church held an event entitled General from Whitemarsh: Celebration of Joseph Bridger. It was a 17th-century living history weekend with special guest presentations on Historic St. Luke’s most revered patron, Joseph Bridger. There were approximately 70 Bridger cousins who attended one or more of the several events that took place. Friday night we attended a wonderful dinner that was held in the hall of the St. John’s Church in Suffolk. We had a delicious dinner and had a wonderful time visiting with our cousins.
On Saturday Chief “RedHawk” Brown of the Cheroenhaka Indian Tribe gave a lecture on the history of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Tribe and its context in the 17th century. Dr. Doug Owsley talked on the enduring legacy of the Written in Bone project that included the exhumation and study of Joseph Bridger. Then Bill Hodsden presented a program on “The Future of Whitemarsh.” In the evening there was a period musical program performed by The Locrian Consort. Some also attended a nighttime cemetery tour.
On Sunday there was a 1680’s style faux, interpretive church service that was conducted by Brett Walker.
It was very special for us to meet our Grandfather Joseph Bridger and his wife Hester Pitt Bridger, who were portrayed by two professionals who portray historical persons.
Photos from the weekend can be seen on: https://youtu.be/3Y5fEGV6yZo
May 2017 – Virginia
We had the most people we’ve ever had at this gathering of Bridger cousins, with 80 signed up for our Saturday night banquet.
On Friday we all got to visit Whitemarsh in Isle of Wight County and see the foundation of what is believed to be Joseph Bridger’s large home. Archaeological research will take place this year and we’re hoping to find graves, and artifacts. Ground penetrating radar will also be performed. On Saturday we were invited to a special reception at St. Luke’s to honor donors and volunteers.
We gathered Sunday at St. Luke’s Historic Church to participate in a Book of Common Prayer service lead by David Carrington, who, along with his wife Tricia, were visiting from England.
May 2018 – Virginia
We were treated to a reception and BBQ by St. Luke’s on Friday evening, May 11
We went to Whitemarsh and saw the progress on the ongoing archaeology work being done by Alain Outlaw and his crew.
July 2019 – Virginia
Williamsburg, Virginia was once again the location for our summer BFA reunion. We welcomed several Bridger cousins who joined us for the first time. There were over 50 of us who visited the excavation site at Joseph Bridger’s Whitemarsh. We also visited the lab where Alain Outlaw and his team are cleaning, researching, and cataloging the artifacts that they have found.
The most exciting find was that of a slim piece of lead that was used to hold windows in place, because that had a DATE of
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Updated 27 April 2020