Pinkey Porter – Virginia

Pinkey Porter 1920 copyright Becky Leach
Pinkey Porter holding baby William Turner.  1920 (copyright Becky Leach)

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  They are not my ancestors.

One day last month I saw this photo on my friends facebook page. All she knew about it was that the baby held by the servant was her husband’s father. And what was written on the back – Pinkey’s name and the date. I decided to see what I could find. I started by looking for the 1920 census on  I found her employed and living in a multigenerational white household  in Petersburg, Virginia. The members of the household were:

Julitte Robinson Head 69
William O Robinson Son 31
James M Turner Son-in-law 49
Sue R Turner Daughter 27
William Turner Grandson 4 mths
Pinkey Porter Servant 25
Maud Macklin Servant 20

Pinkie was born in 1895 in Virginia. Both of her parents were also born in Virginia. She was working as a cook and lived in the family’s home. She was literate.

Next I did what I do and began to search for Pinkie Porter in other records. I found three in the Petersburg City Directories. One for 1907, one for 1909 and one for 1920.  The entry for 1920 gave her name, occupation as cook and the address was the same as where she worked in the 1920 census. In 1907 and 1909 directories, the Pinkie Porter born in 1885, would have been too young to to be listed.

I looked in the marriage records to see if Pinkie had married and changed her name.  I found two Pinkie Porters who married in Petersburg. The first was born in 1885 and married Robert Mcdougold in 1909. I think this was the one who appeared in the 1907 and 1909 city directories.  Pinkie and Robert moved back to his family farm in North Carolina where I found them in the 1910 census. Unfortunately, Robert Mcdougold died of TB in 1914.

The other marriage record was for Pinkie Porter born in 1893 and Alex Martin. They were married in 1918.  Alex appears in the 1922 directory working as a laborer. This could be the Pinkie in the photograph because ages often vary by a year or two (or more) in different records. But if this was Pinkie from the photograph, she would have had to leave her husband, go back to her maiden name and go to work as a cook to appear in the 1920 census.  Which could have happened.

I found only one Pinkie Porter in any of the censuses living in Virginia.  She was born in Surry County, Virginia in 1868. She married William Henry Lestage in 1888 in  Surry County. Pinkie Porter Lestage died in 1900 after giving birth to her fourth daughter.  The baby’s name was Pinkie.

I want to thank Becky Leach for sharing her photograph and allowing me to use it in this post.

17 thoughts on “Pinkey Porter – Virginia

  1. Love learning how you’ve gone about the research process. And the reminders about how hard life was (for everyone) then.

  2. It sometimes seems get out of control, that capacity for research and I have to pull myself away and join the outside world.

  3. It never fails — you think you have a unique name that will be easy to trace, but NO. Suddenly every Tom, Dick, and Harry is named Pinkie Porter.

    1. I know! And I didn’t even look at the out of state Pinkie Porters. There was at least one in Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee.

    1. I think it would be good for a character in a children’s book. We could follow Pinkey though a summer day or something.

  4. What a great idea for challenge posts! I used to be into genealogy back in the 90s. I had to stop cold turkey – wasn’t getting anything else done. But I sure did enjoy it.

  5. I have been really enjoying reading your research and seeing the lovely photos. Who was the baby William Turner? Does that help in placing Pinkey at all?


    1. I should have put all the members of the household. I have added it above. He was the grandson of the head of the house. His parents lived there too. They were the ancestors my friends husband.

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