What Hamp?

When I was small, “What hamp?” was my phrase when I wanted to know what was going on.

As a genealogist, I’m still asking it.

Documents and records are usually created in response to some event. For vital records, the event taking place should be obvious. Probate records are also the result of an obvious event. But the precipitating event behind other documents may not be quite so obvious. An quit claim deed listing all the heirs may have resulted from the death of a surviving parent or the youngest heir coming of age and finally being able to legally execute a document. A partition of an estate may have resulted from one heir needing money from the estate or a group of the heirs having disagreement about the property. Or the attorney may said that “now would be a good time to do this before there is trouble.”

Even a family photograph may have been the result of a graduation, visit of family from a distance, etc.

Once in a while things happen for no reason, but it is still a good problem-solving technique to ask yourself, “what might have been going on to cause this document to be executed and recorded when it was?”

And the documents don’t always tell us what “hamp.” Sometimes we have to do a little snooping–and there’s still no guarantee we find the reason.