Editor’s Note: Several weeks ago marked the new release of The Ultimate Search Book: U.S Adoption, Genealogy & Other Search Secrets, 2015 Edition. The information, meticulously crafted and compiled by search expert Lori Carangelo, is the first new edition of this book since 2011.
We want to take this opportunity to illustrate Ms. Carangelo’s prowess as a finder of birth parents, missing persons, runaway children, and other contemporary individuals, by reprinting sample pages from the 2015 Edition. This list of tips will help you find adopted family information that may be a stumbling block in your genealogical research. The following comes from Chapter 2: “With or Without a Name.”
Adoption Search Tips (which may also apply to stepparent adoptions):
- Read Chapter 1: Search
- Determine The State: in which your adoption was finalized because the court in that state, and possibly an agency, holds your adoption file(s).
- Determine Law: in that state on disclosure of adoption information and access to records, particularly access to your original birth certificate (See Chart but also ask in case the law changes).
- Locate Your Adoption File(s): Your best bet is to ask your adopters which agency and court facilitated your adoption if you don’t already know and if your adopters do not have records to provide If you cannot obtain this information from your adopters, the central office of Social Services at the state’s capital city, can tell you if it was a public Social Services agency and which branch. Ifno record, chances are it was a private agency or attorney which they would not have record of. Since the agency and Court that finalized the adoption is usually in the county where the adopter resided at the time of placement, it would not be too hard to find the Court and agency that has your adoption files by looking up the Court and all adoption agencies in that county, and if no luck then look up adoption attorneys in that county.
- Request Your Non-Identifying Information: from both the Court of jurisdiction and the agency that holds your adoption file, by asking ALL of the Questions listed in this chapter.
- Provide Your Waiver Of Confidentiality: and your request for identifying information to both the agency and court at the same time you request your Non-Identifying Information. Request the Petition To Adopt and Final Decree of Adoption from the Court.
- Browse The Court Dockets: for the dates you were relinquished for adoption and also when the adoption was finalized (generally automatically, without necessity for hearing, one year from date of Relinquishment of Parental Rights and placement in your adoptive home, but there will still be a docket notation). Court dockets are publicly viewable records in Probate, Circuit, and Family Courts or similar named courts; not sealed; and even though your biological parents are most likely not in court, their names may appear on the earlier docket while your adopter’s name appears on the latter Fortunately they can be cross-referenced by same Case Number, so that if you find the Final Decree case number by the date, you can check one year prior for the Relinquishment and Petition to Adopt using the same Case Number.
- Request the Petition and Final Decree of Adoption: Years ago, Court Clerks were instructed to “block” names on these documents with an indelible black ink marker before providing the document to the adult Unless the blackened information has also been photocopied after blackened, first try photocopying the BACK side of the document on a very dark setting to see if typewritten impressions appear. Or, the impressions left by older typewriters can be revealed by penciling the back of the document where the names would be and thereby revealing the names (just backwards). Try removing the black marker ink with a dab of hairspray or cologne (alcohol based) on a q-tip. Since this will wet and possibly smudge it’s tried last.
- Deceased Parent Or Adoptee: If denied records on the grounds that the person is deceased, cite the following: “Davin U.S. Department of Justice, 60F.3d1043 (3rd Circuit 1995): Persons who are deceased have no privacy interest in non-disclosure of their identities.”