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 5 May 2016.

T251, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “Dissection & Analysis of Research Problems”

Reviewed by Sara Scribner, CG

Elizabeth Shown Mills began her lecture referring to the title of Thomas MacEntee’s blog Genealogy Do-Over. Re-doing work when we are stymied requires changing our thinking and seeing information in a new light. With her low-key, humorous delivery, clear analysis, elegant slides, and helpful forms, Mills laid out a ten-step process to solve a problem by re-thinking it.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

Each step requires an activity, and Mills provided eight worksheets to help carry out that activity. Step 1 suggests we fully understand every aspect of our ancestor’s lives leaving nothing out. “Context is Key.”[1]

Most steps involve reformatting our thinking or beginning a new practice. Step 2, “Review the Known Facts,” requires finding a way to interrupt what Mills called our “auto-pilot.”[2] Interrupting automatic thinking displays our research in a new way and leads to new insights. Other steps mandate analyzing prior conclusions and arguing with ourselves to be sure we haven’t missed something.

After working nine of the ten steps, researchers should have in hand a series of targeted worksheets full of new insights, research areas, and premises to investigate. Step Ten suggests preparing a Master Plan to conduct that research.

Mills closed with a call to action: “Seek out new ground no one else has plowed. Are you a researcher or a recycler?”[3] The ten steps and eight worksheets provide the format, skills and guidance for anyone who is serious about being a serious researcher.

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Dissection and Analysis of Research Problems: (Ten Steps to a Solution)©,” National Genealogical Society Conference, 2016, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.


A recording of this lecture may be previewed and 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.