The roots of the Denckla family can be traced to Philadelphia, where the family was based in the early 19th century. Christian Henry Denckla (later known as Augustus) and his wife, Anna Maria Webber, had at least two children: Mary M. Denckla and C. Paul Denckla (b. 1831). After her first husband's death, Anna married Henry Geisse, who would later be involved in a lawsuit against Paul. Paul went on to marry Mary Williamson (b. ca. 1845), and the couple had at least two children: Mary Denckla (b. 1868) and Hermann Denckla (b. 1872), who would later attend the University of Pennsylvania. Paul lived in Philadelphia for most of his life, working as a hardware salesman.
The ancestry of William Paul Denckla (b. 1822) is less clear, but he seems to have been the son of Christian Christopher Denckla and Carolina Frederika Philippa Geisse (Frederika), both of Philadelphia though William was born in Germany. It is possible that Christian and C. Paul Denckla were brothers, and that Mary Williamson Denckla is the "Aunt Mary" William so often corresponds with throughout this collection. William married Julia E. Thompson in Arkansas in 1855, where he was working as a mine engineer. Though the couple often moved, living in Butte County, California, in the early 1860s, and in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1877, they spent much of the mid-19th century in Little Rock, Arkansas. William and Julia Denckla had two sons: Harry and William, Jr. The latter married Mary Lepper and lived in Spring City, Nevada, for much of his adult life.
Augusta Denckla (b. 1817) was the daughter of Christian Christopher and Frederika Denckla. She married Peter Maison, son of a prominent Philadelphia family, and the two had a son, William Norman Maison (1834-1907). Throughout the 1850s, William lived in Como, Whiteside County, Illinois, with his uncle, William Pollock, and aunt, Sarah Maison Pollock. William was himself a local notable, an early settler who established himself in Como in 1841 and who owned a significant amount of land in the region. He served as a surveyor for the town from 1853-1857 and was the drainage commissioner from 1855-1858, during which time he sold a large tract of swamp lands.
The family was involved in much land speculation throughout the 19th century, and much of their surviving correspondence deals with the transfer of land and related fees. Different members of the family were caught up in various legal actions regarding property disputes, including a case between William Pollock and Peter Maison (1866) that was frequently cited in future decisions.