Casefile Clues

27 May 2014

Thoughts on the Problem-Solving Process

I've written about the genealogy problem-solving process before. Essentially the four steps are:


  • Understand the problem
  • Devise a plan
  • Execute the plan
  • Evaluate
The first step here is the most important and it's one that I need to remind myself of from time to time. Understanding the problem to me includes:
  • Knowing about the history of the location
  • Being aware of contemporary economic, social, and other factors that could have impacted the people under study
  • Knowing about local records
  • Knowing about applicable laws
  • Listing all assumptions about the people and time period involved
  • Stating a specific problem about one person and event in their life
That's a tall order and one that researchers need to revisit from time to time. One can very easily fall into old habits and research "out of habit" instead of thinking about what the records actually say and what the actual problem at hand is.

Devising a plan and executing it are relatively simple. It is advised however to over the long haul to search as many records as possible and not only concentrate on those records with which we are familiar or which are the easiest ones to access.

The majority of the time, the "problem" is not solved and the evaluation stage takes us right back to a "re-understanding" of the problem.

Or it leads us to a new set of ancestors and a whole additional set of problems.