Genealogy tools, Murder and mayhem

Louisiana marriage records

Mary Minter with her mother in court.

My favorite true crime story involves Mary Miles Minter, a Louisiana-born silent film star whose career was ruined when her nightie was found in the cottage of a much older, murdered director. Rumors soon flew that not-so-innocent Mary’s mother, Charlotte Shelby (real name Lily Pearl Miles), murdered the director because her cash cow daughter was infatuated with him and the romance was too tawdry for early Hollywood. The murder’s never been solved. But, I ask you: Would you go to the trouble of killing a man and then leave your daughter’s nightie behind at the scene?

What does this have to do with genealogy, you ask? Well, I’ve always been fascinated with Mary and her tragic story. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book about her, prompting me to research her family tree. has a collection of Louisiana marriage records. I thought I would find a record for Mary’s parents. No such luck. I looked for her grandparents. No luck. I searched for her cousin. Luck.

This is a nice collection of records because you can search it electronically and – in some cases – see a scanned copy of the register. But I would caution that I believe there are gaps in the records.

This brings me to an important point about online records. Often, they’re indexed by volunteers. If you don’t find your grandparents’ marriage record in there, don’t panic. Your grandparents didn’t necessarily lie and live in sin. The indexer could have horribly mangled the spelling of their names. A collection of records could have been on someone’s desk at the courthouse instead of on the shelf with the rest of the records the day they were scanned. Anything could’ve happened. It’s always best to go to the original source and take a look.

Here’s the handy dandy link:

And here’s the marriage record for Mary’s cousin, Hazel. She got married in 1912, which was the same year Mary made her first film. It was under her married name that Hazel would get into a lengthy court battle with Mary mother’s over the family plantation. But that’s a story for another day.

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