Case Closed?

Case Closed?

How to search for genealogical records when you're adopted.

If you’re an adoptee searching for your biological roots, you face a formidable challenge — most records of modern adoptions are sealed. In fact, Alaska, Alabama, Kansas, New Hampshire and Oregon are the only states that currently allow adult adoptees complete access to their birth records.

So how do you hurdle that brick wall? Start by requesting nonidentifying information, such as location and time of birth, from the adoption agency. If you don’t know the name of the agency, call the state social services department or the birth hospital to ask. (Check the government section of your phone book, or type the state name plus social services department into Google <>.) Unfortunately, this isn’t always successful. If you do learn the name of the adoption agency but discover it no longer exists, check with local historical societies to see whether they have the records (or know who does).

A more costly approach — but the one that potentially could yield the most information — is to petition the court to open the records. First, locate the county that holds the adoption record, so you know where to file your case: Start with the county where you were born, then check the county where your adoptive parents lived when they adopted you. Keep in mind birth mothers sometimes used aliases, and adoption agencies generally didn’t verify birth information. You’ll also need to know the state laws governing records access by adoptees; see <> for a state-by-state synopsis and links to statutes.

Posting queries on online forums such as <> also may prove fruitful. State your question clearly and give all the details you know. Finally, contact the American Adoption Congress. To find your state’s representative, visit <>.
From the February 2007 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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