SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 4 May 2016.

W141: J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, “A New Document! Now What?”

Reviewed by Jean Atkinson Andrews, CG

Mark’s legion of fans filled the large lecture room to learn how to deal with new information, slow down, think about what we are trying to find, and in some cases stay out of our own way! Emphasizing the need for a precise statement of the research goal, Mark cautioned us to consider factors including location, time frame, resources, and of course the neighbors in developing our objective.

J. Mark Lowe, CG, CGL, FUGA
Photo courtesy of Scott Stewart Photography

Good, clear, directional questions form the core of Mark’s planning process. Seven possible ways of looking at information help us understand and improve our process. Using these steps provides a roadmap to creating a careful and effective plan. Working from the general to the specific, the initial steps describe the problem and known information. Later steps address research limitations, records, repositories, and findings. The last step develops a plan for continuing the research.

Understanding the appropriate records, terms, and legal requirements is essential to selecting sources likely to answer our questions. This knowledge takes time to develop, catalog, and use effectively. Besides sources, a network of research contacts may include librarians, archivists, and historians. They can be valuable allies and sources for record suggestions. Collaboration with another researcher can point out holes and bring a different viewpoint to the problem. Mark’s examples of poor and better research plans illustrate the pitfalls of not investing adequate time and effort in the process.

Mark cautioned that many research plans fail due to a lack of knowledge about the research subject. He stressed his system of writing about each document and recording the details as he finds them. This allows him to capture his thoughts and use the documents to push him along the way. His advice to ”back up and slow down” will build knowledge and lead to new and better answers.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.