Navigating Genealogies

Or “Stop naming your kids after your parents!”

So, I finally got a copy of my all-important research book (the one I was complaining of in the last post). I got it in about 2 weeks from the library’s Inter-Library-Loan program. Something I would have taken advantage of months ago if I’d known I wouldn’t be able to secure my own copy. It’s not a permanent solution, but at least I now have the book for a couple months, which is better than nothing. The book itself is a close examination of the genealogies of the workmen of Deir el-Medina for the 400 years the village was occupied, or at least as much of those genealogies as can be reconstructed. Needless to say, even with the organization and extensive indices in the book, they’re pretty confusing.

A major difficulty is the all-too-common practice of naming children after one or another grand-parent. After a couple generations this can get confusing. So, Neferhotep son of Khaemnun is the son of Neferhotep whose father was named, you guessed it, Khaemnun. Or at least, we think. There was no such thing as a birth/death register, so the reconstructions are constrained by whatever information can be gleaned by tomb and stella inscriptions, legal records, pay lists, and personal correspondence. Obviously, this leads to some difficulty with the less-well-known (i.e. less-wealthy) workmen and their families. The book uses lower-case roman numerals to differentiate between individuals (or possible individuals), but the numbering is based on which individual was encountered first, not which is the eldest. So Khaemnun (ii) is the grandfather of Khaemnun (i) and (iii) and (iv) are contemporary grandsons of (i).

And then there’s the issue of contemporary but unrelated people of the same name. Or similar names. For instance, there are at least two Amennakhte’s from two different families working during the time-period my novel is set. Unfortunately, both are important to the plot as well!

Confused yet?

Yea, me too.

Anyway, when I first began researching this book several drafts and more years than I care to think about, I figured out names and families of the primary characters. Now I’m working through the secondary characters, some of whom I didn’t even realize I’d need until I was halfway through this draft. It’s a slow process though, mainly because I may be willing to fudge facts in the interest of story, but I’m not willing to do so unless I know the facts first.

With that said, I’ve got to get back to it. The sooner I finish this, the sooner I can get back to wrangling with my draft.


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