Problem-Solving–A Tip from the Past

There are several ways one can approach “problem-solving” and it’s been mentioned as a tip of the day before.  One way is not necessarily any more correct than another. The important thing is to think about your research as you do it. I’m a fan of the problem-solving process attributed to George Polya, which I’ve slightly modified.

There are essentially four steps in the problem-solving process:

  • Understand the problem–this involves learning the history of the area, learning the applicable laws of the time, all the records available (and their issues), knowing key terms in any documents already located, assumptions you have made, your ancestor’s background, etc. Understanding takes time.
  • Plan–pick a record to access or an approach to use to answer your question
  • Execute-search the record or apply the approach
  • Evaluate-did you answer your question?

That’s a broad generalization.  We discuss some of these items in slightly more detail in occasional tips and the Rootdig blog mentions them in more detail–sometimes a lot more detail.

My webinar on “Genealogical Problem-Solving” can be purchased for immediate download–handout and media file included.


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