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The Espiard family tree, or the tribulations of Pierre Palliot, a 17th C genealogist in Burgundy

Saturday 16 February 2008, by Margaret, 876 visites.

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

The Espiards were a family from minor Burgundian nobility and asked the genealogist, Pierre Palliot, to draw up their family tree.
Pierre Palliot handed his work over in 1687.
When they read it the Espiard family refused to pay, no doubt disappointed at finding no proof of a lineage old enough to allow a sound quarter of nobility.
They asked M. Boisot, a mutual friend from Besançon, to write to Pierre Palliot to explain why they were refusing to pay.
What M. Boisot wrote is exemplary on many counts !

"I trust, Sir, that you will not mind my taking the liberty of asking whether you wrote this genealogy to please or to insult them….

When you want to please people, you must do it differently to the way you have, and at the very least, before decorating their family arms and finalising your work for public consumption, you should let them see it, find out what they think about it, whether it is good enough, and ensure there is nothing they want added or removed …

If, on the other hand, you do the work to insult them, pointing to their base lineage, reminding them that there is nothing newer than their origins, that they come from shopkeepers and artisans and people who live in small towns or villages, that the only marriages they have made are with the same kind of families, then you have done a very good job!

In any case, it would seem they are right to question whether it is worth paying for … I cannot see how you can expect them to pay for something that does them so little credit.

How can you calmly tell people what is usually only said in anger? Mortal enmity has been started between families for insults like these.

When a woman quarrels with her neighbour, the first thing she shouts in her face is that she comes from some small town or village and that she should go back to her grandfather’s shop.

A marchioness would rather have the same name as a disreputable whore….

There are certain marchionesses and their confidants who would rather have the same name as a disreputable whore than be called middle class."

Despite arguing about the document for ten years, Pierre Palliot was never paid. It isn’t known if the Espiard family and M. Boisot stayed on friendly terms.

Have things changed much since then?

In any case, made to order genealogies (Beauchet-Fileau and numerous others) should be viewed very cautiously and not accepted until carefully checked against other evidence.

Source : Bernard CHEVIGNARD - Les tribulations d’un généalogiste bourguignon au Grand Siècle. Pierre Palliot et la famille Espiard - Mémoires de la Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Beaune - Tome LXI - année 1980

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