Father’s Day & Father of the Year

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog article, Gena writes about the origins of Father’s Day as a national holiday, and the special honor “Father of the Year.”

What are your plans this Sunday for Father’s Day? You might be surprised to learn that Father’s Day is actually a fairly recent holiday. Although a celebration of fathers was held on 19 June 1910 in Spokane, Washington, it wasn’t until President Richard Nixon signed a proclamation in 1972 that the third Sunday of June was permanently set aside as Father’s Day, a national holiday.

Sonora Smart Dodd Starts Movement to Honor Fathers

The idea for Father’s Day is credited to Sonora Smart Dodd who, after listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church, believed that her father William Jackson Smart – a Civil War veteran and young widower who raised 6 children – should also be honored.

article about Sonora Smart Dodd promoting "Father's Day," Cincinnati Post newspaper article 25 May 1911

Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, Ohio), 25 May 1911, page 5

She encouraged Spokane churches to set aside a Sunday sermon in honor of Father’s Day. They did that in June 1910 and preached about the importance of fathers. The movement grew from there and was discussed in newspapers across the country.

Movement Spreads for "Father's Day," Tucson Daily Citizen newspaper article 14 June 1910

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona), 14 June 1910, page 1

As the idea for Father’s Day took off, others joined the effort to make a permanent national holiday honoring dads. The Father’s Day Council was established in 1931 by concerned citizens and leaders who wanted to help achieve the “universal observance” of a Father’s Day holiday. Later it was renamed the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council.

Father of the Year

In 1942 the Father’s Day Committee was established, whose “sole purpose was to confer Father of the Year honors on leaders of society.”

The Father’s Day Committee set about choosing “lifestyle leaders” each year for their honorees. Starting in 1942 a select few dads were honored with the title Father of the Year. So who are some of the winners of this honor?

Probably not surprisingly considering that World War II was happening, the first honoree was General Douglas MacArthur. One of the fathers awarded the next year, 1943, was another general: Dwight D. Eisenhower.

General Eisenhower Wins Designation as No. 1 Father, Sacramento Bee newspaper article 16 June 1943

Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, California), 16 June 1943, page 22

Eisenhower was bestowed the honor of number one father “because of the brilliant victory of the United Nations forces, because of their stirring example in fortitude, because of their value to the cause for which we are fighting – the protection of our homes and our liberty – and because of your sterling qualities of leadership and inspiration to the youth of today and all future generals.” At the time of this award Eisenhower and his wife Mamie had a son, John D. Eisenhower, who was a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy.

Through the years, all kinds of celebrities and famous men were given the honor of the nation’s #1 father. Presidents, movie stars, soldiers, ministers, athletes, musicians, and lawyers were honored. The title of Father of the Year was given to several men each year, all representing different walks of life. In 1960 Pat Boone was named Television Father of the Year, with additional awards going to Robert F. Kennedy, Charlton Heston, John Unitas (quarterback for the NFL’s Baltimore Colts) and Art Linkletter.

Pat Boone, 'TV's Father of the Year,' Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper article 11 June 1960

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 11 June 1960, page 31

Every year the Father of the Year charity luncheon is held in the nominees’ honor. This year’s honorees include President George W. Bush, Morris Goldfarb and Ashok Sani. You can read more about this year’s ceremony and The Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council on their website.

Step Away from That Tie!

While your dad may never be officially named Father of the Year, he’s probably number one in your life. Father’s Day is a great way to show him how much you care, but let’s face it – dads probably get the short end of the stick when it comes to gifts. Even before there was an official holiday, retailers were coming up with ideas about what to get dad for his special day. In this 1919 advertisement for the John Bressmer Company, gift-giving suggestions include a humidor and an Edison phonograph – but it wasn’t too long before ties were the suggested gift.

Sunday, June 1 Is Father's Day, Daily Illinois State Journal newspaper advertisement 29 May 1919

Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), 29 May 1919, page 3

Probably the real problem with finding a special gift for dad is that moms are just easier to shop for. After all, moms are more associated with sentimental gifts. As this 1930 Mississippi newspaper article points out:

article about gifts for Father's Day, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1930

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1930, page 5

It would seem that gifting a tie has a long tradition.

That same newspaper article provided two poems for Father’s Day:

poem for Father's Day, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1930

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1930, page 5

poem for Father's Day, Daily Herald newspaper article 11 June 1930

Daily Herald (Biloxi, Mississippi), 11 June 1930, page 5

Spend some time making family memories with your dad. Honor those dads who have passed by writing and sharing their stories. Happy Father’s Day!

Related Article:

SSDI Quiz: Understanding the U.S. Social Security Death Index

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary provides a fun quiz to see how well you know the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA)—and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) it maintains, an important resource for genealogists. Mary uses old newspaper articles to learn more about the SSA and SSDI.

One of the exciting features of GenealogyBank is the ability to search the Social Security Death Index (SSDI). This important genealogical database is updated by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA). GenealogyBank’s SSDI search page provides an easy way to access this data.

screenshot of GenealogyBank's search page for the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)

Not all the fields on the search page have to be filled in, and some of GenealogyBank’s SSDI features are the ability to:

  • specify a specific date or a range for a decedent’s birth and death
  • specify by zip code or last known residence, or non-U.S. location

Data from the U.S. SSDI is frequently misinterpreted. If you think you are well versed in the subject, try this handy Social Security Genealogy Quiz and then check your answers below.

Social Security Genealogy Quiz

When did the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) system start?

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on 14 August 1935, but taxes for the system were not collected until January of 1937. For more information about the history of the Social Security system in America, see www.ssa.gov/history/hfaq.html.

Roosevelt Signs Security Act as Cameras Grind, San Diego Union newspaper article 15 August 1935

San Diego Union (San Diego, California), 15 August 1935, page 1

Who is covered by the Social Security program?

Many groups are/were exempt, including railroad workers, and certain employees of state and local governments and schools.

The railroad workers are covered by the Railroad Retirement Program, and contribute a portion of their wages to both systems with a calculation adjustment done at retirement. It’s a bit complicated, so please see U.S. Social Security Administration: An Overview of the Railroad Retirement Program.

Prior to 1983, when Congress changed the law, various municipalities and other groups had opted out of the Social Security system. For example, the Texas counties of Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda opted out of the system prior to 1983, and are covered under an independent system. After 1984, municipalities who had not previously opted out of the system were required to be covered by the SSA, along with civilian federal employees.

Does that include the President, Senators and Congressmen?

Yes. The SSA’s Frequently Asked Questions website states:

“All members of Congress, the President and Vice President, Federal judges, and most political appointees, were covered under the Social Security program starting in January 1984.”

Here we see the SSDI record for President Richard M. Nixon.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI) record for President Richard M. Nixon

Is the SSDI’s birth and death information reliable?

After 1974, proof was required to obtain a Social Security number (SSN). For persons who entered the system prior to that date, one should cross-reference birth dates with other records. Death dates are more reliable, as proof of death (such as a death certificate) has to be submitted in order to claim a death benefit.

Proof Now Required for Social Security, Chicago Metro News newspaper article 6 July 1974

Chicago Metro News (Chicago, Illinois), 6 July 1974, page 3

Does the SSDI report the location where a person passed away?

No. It reports the last known place of residence, or the final address where Social Security benefits were sent.

What are the three parts of a Social Security number (XXX-XX-XXXX)?

The three parts are, in order:

  1. the 3-digit area number (XXX),
  2. the 2-digit group number (XX)
  3. and the 4-digit serial number (XXXX).

The SSA maintains a table explaining the assignment of the numbers. For instance, Alabama was assigned numbers from 416-424, and Louisiana 433-439. However, the location doesn’t necessarily indicate a residence, and could indicate a variety of locations—ranging from where one applied for a card (not necessarily one’s residence) to an office that processed the application.

According to the document Meaning of the Social Security Number (Nov. 1982, Vol. 45, No. 11): Table 1.–Assignment of area numbers by State:

“Until 1972, the area number indicated the location (state, territory, or possession) of the Social Security office that issued the number. When the numbering system was developed, one or more area numbers were allocated to each State based on the anticipated number of issuances in the State. Because an individual could apply for a SSN at any Social Security office, the area code did not necessarily indicate where the person lived or worked. Since 1972…[the] area code now indicates the person’s State of residence as shown on the SSN application.

“The group number has no special geographic or data significance. It is used to break the numbers into blocks of convenient size for SSA’s processing operations and for controlling the assignments to the States.

“The last four digits, the serial number, represent a numerical series from 0001-9999 within each group…”

Will the SSA run out of Social Security numbers (SSNs)?

It is not known how many Social Security numbers have been issued. However, the nine-digit system allows for nearly one billion SSNs, so the current system has not run out of numbers.

Does the SSA reuse numbers?

No, although some people claim they do.

Does GenealogyBank have the ability to make corrections in the SSDI?

No. The Social Security’s Death Master File Data is supplied to publishers of the SSDI, so corrections have to be addressed with the U.S. SSA. GenealogyBank has no method to process updates to this government-supported system.

Does the SSA have a smart phone app?

Yes, although it does not include the Social Security Death Index.

On 6 May 2013 Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced:

“…the agency is offering a new mobile optimized website, specifically aimed at smartphone users across the country. People visiting the agency’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov, via smartphone (Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and Windows devices) will be redirected to the agency’s new mobile-friendly site. Once there, visitors can access a mobile version of Social Security’s Frequently Asked Questions, an interactive Social Security number (SSN) decision tree to help people identify documents needed for a new/replacement SSN card, and mobile publications which they can listen to in both English and Spanish right on their phone.”

For more information, see: http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/pr/ssa-mobile-pr.html.

Note: if you experience issues with the SSA app on your smartphone, you can give Social Security a call (1-800-SSA-1213) to get help troubleshooting the issue.

Additional Social Security Resource for Genealogy

Acquiring Records from Social Security for Genealogical Research