Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Member Questions: Obtaining Original Birth Certificates for Adoptees

by Heather Murphy

TCGS has a new way for members to ask questions about general genealogical topics.  If you have a general question or topic of interest that you would like to see addressed there are a couple ways to submit it.  At our monthly meetings a container and note cards will be placed in the back of the room.  Simply write your question on the card and put it in the box.  If you would like a direct reply, please put your name and contact information on the card.  You can also submit by sending an email to tcgseducation@gmail.com.

We will respond to the questions in a variety of ways - directly by email, an announcement at our monthly meetings, or a blog post.  The nature of the question or topic will determine what kind of response is appropriate.  For example, whether it can be explained in a few sentences, or whether it would take more detailed information and perhaps even a presentation.

Examples of topics submitted include obtaining sealed original birth certificates for adoptees, determining Native American tribe through DNA, and orphan trains from Europe.  We would like to answer questions that multiple people can benefit learning about, rather than specific questions regarding an individual's research.

The following is the topic I would like to address today:

Question:  "How do I get a legal birth certificate when an adoption was sealed?  I have proof that both the biological and adoptive parents are deceased?"

Answer:  It depends on the state where the birth took place because each state has their own laws regarding access to original birth certificates.  The Adoptee Rights Law Center, in Minnesota, has a great website for determining the laws for each state.  The website has a chart with icons that helps give you a quick overview of all the states.


As you can see in the excerpt above, there are icons next to each state, each meaning something different.  Some states have straight forward access (the green circle), some are completely inaccessible (the red lock), and others have complicated restrictions (Ohio).  Below the list of states is a key explaining the meaning of each symbol. You can click on the name of the state to read more about its laws.

In many states, access to these records has changed in the recent past, some becoming more restrictive and others becoming more open.  This website seems to do a good job of keeping up-to-date information.  Each state page includes the date it was last updated and regular blog posts follow current legislation regarding original birth certificates throughout the country.

If you are looking to obtain an original birth certificate for an adoptee, this website is a great resource to quickly identify the level of difficulty in obtaining such certificate.