In 1800, Cincinnati was just another landing on a bend in the Ohio River. Forty years later, it was the largest inland city in the United States. This rapid growth was due mostly to the river, which flows from Pittsburgh to the Mississippi with plenty of bends but little interruption.
Tracing early Cincinnatians can be tricky. The city lost some of its 19th-century records in fires, floods and a riot. Fortunately, locals re-created many records, documented vital events in multiple places, and put many sources online. If finding your Cincinnati ancestors seems at times a winding way, imagine yourself as one of those early Ohio River travelers: Relax and enjoy the slow, circuitous route—our guide will steer you toward family discoveries.