News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 3, 2013

GENEALOGY: Nothing like viewing the past in an old photo

Tamie Dehler
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — One thing family historians sometimes think and wonder about is: what did the environment of their ancestors look like? Movies have often done an excellent job of creating the look of the past, but there is nothing like viewing the actual past in an old photograph.

Daguerreotypes were created in 1839. They were used primarily for creating personal portraits of people. But in 1848, two photographers named Charles Fontayne and William S. Porter went onto a rooftop in Newport, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, and exposed eight daguerreotype plates; together in sequence creating a panoramic view of Cincinnati — the earliest surviving view of an American city. The panorama shows 120 degrees, or two miles, of the Cincinnati riverfront, including a view of most of the city and the smaller town of Fulton, beneath Mt. Adams.

“Cincinnati was first settled in 1788 and by the middle of the 19th century it was the sixth largest – and fastest growing — city in the US with a population of 115,000 (half of whom were mostly German immigrants). It was also the largest inland port (8000 arrivals a year) and the second largest inland shipyard in America,” states Codex 99, a site devoted to the visual arts which has reviewed the Cincinnati panoramic photograph (

Using a series of grants, the Cincinnati Public Library has applied 21st century technology to these daguerreotypes, creating a final picture full of unprecedented sharpness and detail. You can see people, read signs, and tell what time it was on a clock tower. Take a tour of this amazing photo at the Library’s special Web site at


In March and April, the Carmel Clay Historical Society will sponsor three workshop sessions for the public on historic photographs, family photographs and digital pictures. These sessions are free, but do require registration. The classes will be conducted at the Carmel Clay Public Library, 55 Fourth Ave., SE, Carmel, IN. The workshop dates and times are as follows:

• “Capturing Carmel in Historic Photographs,” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. March 7

• “Care and Identification of Family Photographs,” from 9 a.m. to noon March 23

• “Preserving Digital Photographs,” from 9 a.m. to noon April 13

The Carmel Clay Public Library is just off Main Street in Carmel. Visit for a map and other information about the library.

For more information about these events, visit the Carmel Clay Historical Society site at or register directly at



Seeking information on Ambrose Bruce, who appears on the 1840 census for Edgar County, Ill. Does anyone know this family name and can anyone tell me anything about him? Also seeking information about John Conner and wife Sarah Ann Goodner. John and Sarah were born in the early 1800s and lived in Edgar County, Illinois. Looking for Connor photos and any family information. Thanks. Please contact Sue Chappell at email address