Catherine Hayes and the Da Vinci Code

For those of you who love a mystery and solving puzzles, here’s a nice one to be getting on with. Unlike the fictitious Da Vinci Code, this one is for real.The document reproduced below was worth about a million dollars in today’s money to Catherine Hayes. It gave her back control over her assets which had all been transferred to her American husband William Avery Bushnell on their marriage in accordance with English law as it was in 1857.

A lovely and very helpful assistant in the Mairie in Biarritz, spent about an hour of her time getting out the original register of deaths in 1858 and trying to find other information for me from her colleagues.In addition to that, she gave me a free certified copy of the entry. Such a level of service was exceptional in my research although the majority of libraries, archives and others were indeed helpful.

Here is a scanned image of the document which is of course in French which Catherine was fluent in. Your task is to translate and find out what is wrong with it. I’ve given you enough information above to check its validity. One thing which I guess I should tell you because you haven’t got the registers is that entries were signed by the Mayor and only the Mayor for any year I looked at going back to 1790. (I’d already scanned through the registers on microfilm in London before going to France.)

This is the famous document:  (Will be uploaded again soon)


In Pursuit of Bushnell in Biarritz

Most people go to Biarritz to gamble or to enjoy the surfing. You’ll never guess what I was doing there so I’ll tell you.  I was looking for Willy Bushnell’s grave and I spent two weeks  searching every graveyard in Biarritz and Bayonne. I braved mad dogs, the midday sun and wild boar to trace every 19c burial place there is. I suffered cuts and bruises, dehydration and the loss of my precious research papers which were stolen from my car along with my camera and passport.

You may be wondering if I looked in the registers before going on this physically tough tour. I certainly did and they told me that nobody had bought a permanent plot for any Hayes or Bushnell in 1858. Unfortunately, the burial registers run from 1859 only so there was no hope there either.  So I searched and searched to prove or disprove a point.

Biarritz is a pleasant place with many Victorian villas still standing  and they are all strictly preserved now by order of the Mayor. I couldn’t pinpoint the precise location of the one  in which Willy died but I found the census showing it was a small place occupied only by the owner, his wife and a 16 year old maid in a poorer quarter of town.

I tried hard but did I find Bushnell in Biarritz?  Yes and no. All will be revealed in due course.