Archives of St. Joseph County · South Bend Area Genealogical Society · St. Joseph County Public Library

A Tribute to Irv Morse


Our South Bend Area Genealogical Society per protocol does not generally publish members obituaries but we make this exception to honor the life of one of our most respected and valued members, Irvin L (Irv) Morse, who died June 15, 2018, in Mishawaka. Irv’s over 36 years of volunteer work with our Society, both local library local history departments, the St. Joseph County Archives, the St. Joseph County Health Department, and other local record offices are the most extensive and longest service of anyone toward the preservation and public use of area vital records. He dedicated hours per week, week after week, year after year of his time toward preserving vital record data and insuring that it is saved for public use now and for future researchers.

Irv was born August 4, 1922, in South Bend, a sixth generation Morse of early settlers to this Indiana area. His ancestor John Mors settled in Dearborn, Indiana, before statehood. He is descended from Morse immigrant families of England and has traced his lineage back to 1638 in Massachusetts. F. B .Morse, inventor of the telegraph is of their line and Irv has been a lifelong member of that Society to foster and coordinate Morse research  He has other St. Joseph County ancestry dating to the early 1830s. He attended public schools and South Bend College of Commerce here which prepared him for a career path as co-owner of a local lumber company for many years. Following closure of their company, Irv worked for Big-C Lumber Company in their accounting department until his final retirement. Irv married his wife Mary shortly after W.W.II and they raised five children, three daughters and two sons.  Mary preceded him in death September 19, 2007.

His contributions to our Society date from 1982 when he joined SBAGS, holding President’s office in 1988 and 1989, a member of the Newsletter staff 1992 through1994, Co-Presidency in 1994, and Treasurer’s office from 2008 until his death. He has been our Senior Research Volunteer for the Society, answering queries from throughout the United States and world-wide.

In 1998 and 1999, a statewide project of microfilming local vital records was started, and run jointly by state record agencies and the Genealogy Society of Utah. Irv was one of the lead organizers and a co-leader in the filming of local records. It was a massive project and resulted in some 500 rolls of microfilms. These are available in our local libraries as well as the LDS Family History Library system..

He has been a volunteer at the St. Joseph County Archives for approximately 25 years. His assistance started with the saving of dusty old boxes of civil court files, re-housing those to archival folders, on to modern volunteer work of indexing records for the computer systems of the Archives today. His work and that of fellow volunteers resulted in computerized indexes from 1832 of St. Joseph County marriages, divorces, estate files and civil court files. More recent indexes completed include City Court, Delinquent Tax Lists, and other miscellaneous records. Irv also volunteered to index county death records at the St. Joseph County Health Department in 2013-2015 which were entered in the Department’s computer system and are used daily by the Department to fulfill public record requests.

Irv has volunteered at the Local and Family History Department in the St. Joseph County Public Library since 1998 answering genealogical queries from out of town patrons. To date he has volunteered almost 6,000 hours of his time to that task. A minimum of three mornings a week would find him there. He is personally responsible for many of the indexing resources on the shelves of the department even some now available on

Some 26 databases of local city or county vital records either indexed, compiled, or saved from loss by Irv have been maintained by him on his home computer.   This has allowed him to answer or research inquiries from his home. Many are now available to the public from our SBAGS website. In recognition of his dedication, Irv received three prestigious genealogical awards, the Volunteer of Year award from FGS in 2007, The Distinguished County Genealogical Service Award from IGS in 2017, and our SBAGS Oak Tree Award, the highest order of service award of our Society in 1991. All very well deserved.

We offer this tribute to a friend, and to a most valued member of our Society, who has made a great impact on our community and genealogical research.

Tribute prepared by Bill Minish, President Emeritus and Toni Cook, SBAGS Newsletter


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