The Morse Society was established in 1892 at the height of this wave of genealogical interest. Membership in the original Morse Society was limited to individuals “of good character” who were descendants of the five New England progenitors identified by Rev. Abner Morse in Memorial of the Morses (1850), the first published Morse genealogy.
At first the society was merely a social organization for arranging family reunions. But by 1895 it had taken on the task of updating Rev. Morse’s Memorial of the Morses. This venerable work was definitely in need of a face-lift to convert its archaic presentation to the familiar register format, and to add the generations born after 1849.
The project was financed by subscriptions offered at two levels. The basic subscription was for four paper-bound journals, each to be delivered upon completion. The five planned volumes were:
- The first four generations of the five New England Morse progenitors.
- Continuation through the fifth and sixth generations.
- The seventh and eighth generations.
- The ninth generation.
- A special de luxe subscription was offered that included the journals cited above, plus a fine leather-bound, personalized book of the complete work at the conclusion of the project.
Sections I and II were completed in a timely manner and published in 1903 and 1905, respectively, under the title Morse Genealogy. Financial support for the project fell off over the years, and by 1906 The Morse Society was out of money, so it declared bankruptcy and was dissolved. Consequently, Sections III - V were never produced. The research papers remained in the hands of the book’s compiler, J. Howard Morse.
1973 : The Morse Society, Reorganized
Sixty-seven years after its dissolution, the Morse Society was reorganized in 1973 to pick up where the original society left off. The driving force behind the reorganization was Rev. William F. Morse of Cloverdale, Oregon. Rev. Morse advertised in genealogy publications: Is there still a Morse Society? Who has the notes of J. Howard Morse?. From this advertising, he learned that Dean S. Skelley of Houston, Texas, and others were interested in reviving the Morse Society. Dean served as the society's Executive Director for several years.
The Morse Papers (as they came to be called) were discovered in storage at the New England Historic Genealogical Society library (Boston) in several large cartons, having been deposited there by J. Howard Morse in the 1930s. The reorganized Morse Society dedicated a significant amount of research time in its early years to sorting through these cartons of notes and family group sheets that had come down to us, emblematic of our historic connection to the original society.
Under Rev. Morse’s leadership, The Morse Genealogy of 1903/05 was reprinted. In addition, the founders envisioned the printing of Section III (7th and 8th generations), Section IV (9th and 10th generations), Section V (11th and 12th generations), and Section VI (13th and 14th generations).
1973-1995 : Keeping the Faith
Through the 1970s and 80s, The Morse Society dedicated itself to preparing the Morse Papers for publication and collecting additional data to flesh out, as much as possible, the later generations. However, due to a number of factors, our ambitious publication goals never came to fruition. The society had set for itself a truly monumental task. With each successive generation the number of individuals increases greatly, and there reaches a point where a comprehensive accounting of each generation is nigh impossible. New information and corrections continually appear, making any new publication obsolete before the ink is dry. The high costs of print publishing also made (and continue to make) this approach impractical for the society.
The impetus given to the reorganized Morse Society by Rev. Morse gradually slowed until, in the early 1990s, the society nearly disappeared for a second time. It was held together largely through the efforts of then President Lola L. Morse and Secretary Colleen Morse Elliott, who maintained the Morse Society archives and continued publishing a newsletter.
It is no coincidence that the revitalization of the The Morse Society paralleled the rise of personal computers and the Internet. Indeed it almost seems as if these new technologies were invented just for genealogy. Computer databases greatly ease the task of data collection and management at far less financial cost. And the ease of communication via the internet has shortened research response times from weeks to hours.
During the late 1990s, all of the Morse Society’s genealogy data was entered into computer databases, one file for each of our identified Morse progenitors. To maintain and update the database files, a Research Team was established consisting of “line Shepherds” — one for each line — who are responsible for updating, verifying, and preserving the data.
Morse Society membership swelled during the late 1990s, especially after the appearance of the website in 1999. As of the year 2000, membership reached an all time high.
2001 - Present: The Research Continues
As more major genealogical information becomes available online, in genealogy library holdings, and through DNA testing
, The Morse Society has continued to amass family history. While its databases have grown to include over 300,000 descendants of 150 Original Settlers, the Society continues to track countless fragments of disconnected data, in hopes of one day finding missing threads of evidence.
The Society continues to embrace technology, launching a new website and expanding its online presence to include a Facebook group. Our website now hosts a library of articles on Morse ancestors and related genealogy topics, with every important newsletter article published since 1972 posted in the library. The library replaces the newsletter, which was eliminated several years ago. Our Facebook group serves as a point of contact for Morse descendants to find each other and compare research notes and has become a primary port for attracting new members. In the last several years, 90% of new members have indicated that they first interacted with us on Facebook.
Members can now join, renew and make donations online.
Morse Society Presidents
|1892 - 1895
||Jerome Edward Morse
|1896 - 1906
||Waldo Grant Morse
|1973 - 1988
||Rev. William Francis Morse
|1988 - 1995
||Lola L. Morse
|1995 - 1999
||Arnold A. Morse, Sr.
|1999 - 2002
||John Robertson Morse
|2002 - 2006
|2007 - 2008
||Lisa A. Murdough
||Willis J. Morse
|2009 - Present
||Marcia Morse Mullins, MNM