Note: In this post I link to an Ancestry.com database. If you want to visit these links, you must be an Ancestry subscriber and logged into the website.
Ancestry.com is an amazing source of information. Countless thousands of imaged and transcribed records are there for the browsing. However, for some of the transcriptions, Ancestry inexplicably stopped short of making them useful. For me, the prime offender is the Lehigh County, Pennsylvania: Hilffrich Pastoral Records.
Let's use an example to see what the problem is. Gideon Moyer was my 2nd great grand uncle, and I want to locate his baptism record. When I search for his name in the Hilffrich records, I get one result that looks promising: Gideon Meier, Baptized, 24 Oct 1824. That's him! Most Moyers in this area were once Meyer or Meier.
When I click "View Record", I get a page that displays this information again, but does not include information about his parents or sponsors. You might think that Ancestry has me covered, because there is a link next to "Other Names Associated with this Event." But when I click that link, what I get is a hodgepodge of other records with the same surname. In fact, this new record-set contains every single record in the Lehigh Hilffrich database, in no particular order. Obviously this is useless.
But there is hope. It turns out that Ancestry did indeed index these records in order. They just didn't provide an interface to easily browse them this way. But it is possible, and the secret lies in the URL of the record. The URL is just the web address of a page. It usually starts with "http" and lives somewhere near the top of your browser.
Here is the full URL of that original record we found on Gideon Moyer:
It's long and confusing, but I highlighted the relevant piece. That "h" is a parameter that lists the actual numeric index of the record you are looking at. Changing the number will let you browse to any record in order. Let's look at the records immediately before and after this one.
&h=5879 - Peter Meier, Father, Baptism
&h=5880 - Catharina Meier, Mother, Baptism
&h=5882 - Peter Meier, Sponsor, Baptism
&h=5883 - Maria Meier, Sponsor, Baptism
Peter and Catharina are Gideon's parents, and the sponsors, Peter and Maria, are his grandparents. I never would have been able to glean all this from Ancestry's interface alone.
Hopefully this will help some folks who are struggling with this database the way I was!