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Defamation, genealogy and files before the Paris Court of Appeal

Guillaume de Morant, a freelance journalist (well known to readers of La Revue française de Genealogy), appeared before the Paris Court of Appeal on 15 last September, after being released in the first instance of the defamation charges against him by Marc Cheynet de Beaupré, he himself accused by his family of having falsified his ardèche genealogy to obtain the addition of a particle to his name and take advantage of a noble ancestry.

Guillaume de Morant reported on this case, which has already been the subject of several trials, in an article published in the weekly Marianne in December 2018. In the first instance, in June 2020, the XVII Chamber of the Court of Paris, specialized in matters press, acknowledged the good faith and seriousness of the reporter’s investigation.

Before the appeal court, Marc Cheynet de Beaupré’s lawyer argued on the contrary that the article, in double page, depended entirely on his client while the latter was acquitted of the charges of destruction of civil status documents for which he was Tried in 2015 by the Criminal Court of Privas, in Ardèche.

For M ° Renaud Le Gunehec, Marc Cheynet de Beaupré has been the victim for years of harassment from his uncle Pierre Cheynet and his cousins, who would have formed networks even in the press to denigrate him when he is not a public figure. “I was tied to a kind of target on my back,” said the plaintiff himself at the appeal trial.

The case, in fact, has its origin in the 1980s, when the person concerned, then a young man with a passion for history and genealogy, carried out an investigation at the Rochemaure Town Hall and at the Ardèche Departmental Archive. Assuring that he had found a lost particle in the middle of the 19th century, he encouraged his father to present a request for the correction of his name, which was finally granted to him by the Privas prosecutor in 1985, after two successive refusals. by his counterpart at the court of Lyon, based on copies of 19th century deeds “certified” by the city council but which have now been established as false.

This decision of the prosecutor, of which there is no file, modifies no less than sixty certificates of civil status of living or deceased people, and throughout several generations: an exceptional case that claims today, as well as at the same time Marc Cheynet de Beaupré he also happily discovers a forgotten particle in his maternal branch.

His two uncles Cheynet reject the particle, content to bear the name they have always known in their family. The case, which is already giving rise to a conflict, still remains in the private sphere, although the opposing party begins to collect denials that prove a forgery: no, the grandfather and great-grandfather Constantin Félicien Cheynet (1845-1941), who became Cheynet de Beaupré more than 60 years after his death, he did not study at the prestigious Eton College in England, nor was he made Earl of the Church by a 1904 papal writing! On the other hand, his file as holder of the Legion of Honor, now online in the Léonore database of the National Archives, names him well Cheynet and only Cheynet …

The Association d’Entraide de la Noblesse Française (ANF), a noble group that had admitted the Cheynet de Beaupré to its bosom, urges the family to leave after having re-examined their file: an investigation commissioned by a professional genealogist shows that the family is “absolutely more commoner” and that their admission was made on the basis of falsehood.

The case left the private sphere at the beginning of the 2010s, with the campaign to digitize the civil status of the Ardèche Departmental Archive with a view to putting it online. The files held by the ADs are the duplicate of the civil status records, the one of the registry; its dissemination on the Internet would expose the falsifications of acts in the Rochemaure town hall (for more information, read our file on this subject in “An extraordinary genealogical matter (still) before the courts”).

At the end of this digitization operation, for which Marc Cheynet de Beaupré volunteered in the summer of 2011 as a volunteer for the Society of Genealogy Fans of the Ardèche (Saga), AD staff noted destruction. And not just a little: in total, no less than 187 pages torn from the registry records, these destructions each time referring to events of the Cheynet family.

“I fell from the clouds, it was incredible, we never imagined that this was possible”, says Patrice Guérin, current president of the Saga, who remembers well having recruited this “very nice, courteous volunteer who perfectly masters Excel tables” for digitization work in a dedicated room a bit away from the reading room. “He had promised me the Rochemaure indexing tables by the end of the year, saying that he would be back for Christmas, and proposed to do other cities afterwards, Meysse and Saint-Pierre-La-Roche. The Departmental Archives saw and filed a complaint, which cut all communication between us “.

This “breach of trust”, as Patrice Guérin describes it, fortunately did not question the long-standing collaboration between the Ardèche genealogical association and the Departmental Archive, which has since spread to other projects.

The complaint filed by the General Council of Ardèche, the control authority of the Departmental Archive, led to a trial that was held at the end of December 2015 in the Criminal Court of Privas. Warned of the charge of destruction of the registry, record or original act of public power, Marc Cheynet de Beaupré was released on the grounds that there was “at least one doubt about the date of commission of the facts and therefore about the question of the prescription”. of public action “.

In fact, the Departmental Archives could not prove that the destruction had been committed in the summer of 2011 when the defendant had been a registered reader since 1980, and there was also some confusion surrounding a damaged microfilm. In his favor, Marc Cheynet de Beaupré claiming that he himself had reported the damage to the chair in the room and that, therefore, he was not the author.

The General Council, which had left the then director of the Departmental Archive to defend her case alone (and badly) in this case, did not consider it appropriate to appeal, so the release pronounced is final, a weighty argument that Citan does not stop. today the lawyers of Marc Cheynet de Beaupré.

The verdict of the appeal trial will be known on October 20.

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