The Word for the Day- MULL

Fall Leaf

Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Fall Seminar with J. Mark Lowe as the presenter.  I had been to one of his sessions at the OGS conference back in 2011 and knew that this was a day I did not want to miss.  He’s an excellent researcher as well as an entertaining presenter.  His use of humor and personal stories and the occasional song makes his presentations “Don’t miss”.   I was not disappointed.

Mark’s presentations included “My Ancestor, the Farmer”, “Finding Black Roots in a White World”, “Out on a Limb… Trapped by Bad Research”, and “Learn to Keep Your Mouth Shut”.  This opened my eyes to the value of taking the time to MULL.  Not familiar with the term? Mull means “to study or ruminate; ponder.” (1) For each record found take the time to really absorb the information within.  Like many people this is something that I do not do nearly enough.  Mark made it quite clear that this is an important component of being a good researcher.  By giving time for the content to stew in your brain you can fully extract the meaning.

What am I talking about?  Well, consider a Certificate of Death.  Who was the informant?  If it was the person’s oldest child or a sibling they probably were pretty well-informed about the information provided for the form.  However, they were probably grieving and may have forgotten previously known details or mixed something up.  Another point that Mark brought up was making sure that you understand all the terminology used in the document.  I will have to take all of his wonderful advice and stew on it.  Perhaps I have overlooked a wonderful hint on my research path that I did not notice before!


(1.), “Define Mull.” Accessed October 8, 2012.

3 thoughts on “The Word for the Day- MULL

  1. What a great point, and one I need to remember more often as well. Mark Lowe is one of my favorite presenters and I was very sorry not to be there for the OGS seminar. Thanks for sharing some of his insights!


  2. Yes. I read somewhere that famous mathematicians (like Poincare) make great discoveries through “just mulling.” Or even putting it aside, “sleeping on it,” after looking at it carefully for a while. Some people talk about “pre-conscious selection” …. our brains are fickle instruments!


    1. Thanks Mariann, I’ve often experienced the value of “sleeping on it” in my engineering work and it didn’t occur to me that this was similar. Sometimes I have even woken in the middle of the night with the solution to a nagging problem! Now I just need to practice the same with genealogy.


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