Dancing with ghosts

Recently my Danish ancestors have risen and, much like the ghost of Hamlet’s father, are dancing around the edges of my life. Modern social media moves to an entirely different plane when you are contacted by the descendant of a business associate of your great-great-grandfather. 

It started with an e-mail from a woman whose ancestors were also involved in the Arizona silver boom in the late 1800’s (think Tombstone in the bad old days).  She is doing research for an article on the early history of Arizona territory as part of the centennial celebration and had tracked my family down as a possible resource.

Consequently, I dusted off my previous genealogical research and via the Internet discovered a whole lot more than I knew before about the Hollenstain line.  I now know exactly where they came from in Denmark, when, and by what ships.  I recently found my great-great-grandfather’s naturalization records and am waiting on a copy of a will that was filed in Tombstone prior to his return to the Salinas Valley circa 1902.

Right now, I am trying to push the Hollenstain (aka Hollensteiner) line back another generation from Denmark to Schleswig-Holstein or Prussia.  This is proving to be a challenging task.  Just when I think I’ve picked up their trail, my ghostly ancestors slide quietly away. 

As an unexpected side benefit of this genealogical activity, I find that I am growing more tolerant of others knowing that I have had a Revolutionary War general, a little person (dwarf), two accused witches (one executed), a brewery owner, a master mariner/explorer,  and several Native Americans hiding among the leaves on my family tree.  Once in a while, I could swear that one of them is reaching out from amid the leaves when I find a photograph of an ancestor born nearly 150 years ago smiling at me from the internet.

As an accountant, my role frequently involves a lot of “detective” work.  I weave my way through a customer’s business records, the history by transaction of a company, unraveling knots as I go.  Along the way, I start to get a sense and understanding of the people who are the life blood of the company just as I seek to develop knowledge of my ancestors.

Comments (1)

One Response to “Dancing with ghosts”

  1. Kerry says:

    Fascinating. I couldn’t agree more with you on the tolerance that comes from learning about your own ancestors. I’ve learned so much more about the different lives people have, on their place in history, and how hard it is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. That’s one of the many things I love about genealogy.


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