Discovery Your Family History

Researching Adoption Records

There are many different aspects of family history research; one of the more sensitive of these is the subject of adoption. During your LDS family search you may come across an ancestor that was adopted and need to dig into adoption records. Researching adoptions can be extremely frustrating due in part to the secrecy that surrounds many adoptions. Being successful in your adoption research you will mean familiarising yourself with the relevant state laws of the adoption you are researching and you will also need to trace the relevant adoption agencies that were involved.

It is the secrecy of an adoption that can hinder your research; it wasn’t until the beginning of the twentieth century that adoptions were treated as big secrets. In fact before the start of 1940 the biological parents of children that were offered up for adoption were almost always married. One of the main reasons a child would have been offered up for adoption in this time was a family crisis of some kind. For example the death of one of the parents could create a situation which involved one or in some circumstances more than one of the children being placed up for adoption. Unlike today there was often contact between the biological parents and the adoptive parents, new certificates of birth would be created for the adopted children with the names of the birth parents being replaced with those of the new adoptive parents and all court files would be left open. Shortly after the end of the Second World War states began closing the courts adoption files, although there were a number of states that began to seal adoption files before the 1940’s.

After performing your LDS family search and finding the name of the child that was adopted your next step will be to determine which adoption records have been left open. In order to do this you will need to thoroughly investigate the laws of the particular state of which you are interested. You can find information on a state’s adoption law’s by looking at that particular states government website. Alternatively you could use other websites such as Bastard Nation’s (BN). On this particular site you will find links pertaining to the adoption disclosure laws of 50 states although it should be said that you may find that a few of the links do not work and some of the information could possibly be out of date.

When performing adoption record research relating to your LDS family search you will come to realise that there is are some rather unique terminology’s that are used within the adoption laws. You will be able to find a good dictionary of the terms, definitions and abbreviations used on the BN website. Hospitals, adoption agencies and other institutions involved in the adoption process would frequently make arrangements between both the adoptive parents and the birth parents. If you contact these agencies you should find that as a general rule of thumb they will be willing share information that is non-identifying in nature. One of the problems you may face during your adoption research based on LDS family search is that many of these agencies have since closed, so how are you going to go about identifying these institutions and where can you find the records being held?

During the seventies Reg Niles who was a research consultant for the adoptees rights movement, recognized the necessity for a comprehensive directory of orphanages, adoption agencies and also maternity homes. His research of this information was gathered for a number of years and compiled into a directory. The information he collected was gathered from a number of sources including censuses, directories, annual reports and telephone directories. The book that is the end result of his years of research is called: “Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes: An Historical Directory” the directory is split into two volumes.

This book in the past used to be very hard to find due to it being out of print. Thankfully the author has generously allowed TRIADOPTION to use a scan of the the entire contents of the book and make it readily available on the triadoption website. The records of adopted children pertaining to your LDS family search can be found with some dedication and patience.

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