Over the years, I've discovered a few ancestors or collateral relatives who went through this process. Most of those discoveries were made through a lucky Google search that turned up their name. This usually isn't a topic we have to learn about until we encounter a question about where a family member ended up.
Sometimes this is a story we know from the start - that a grandparent was actually reared by an aunt or uncle, or another, unrelated family entirely. What isn't always known is whether or not there was a formal adoption. The first state to enact legislation on adoptions was Massachusetts in 1851. Even still, not every adoption was recorded, so finding formal paperwork on one in the 1880s is very much hit or miss.
This is a topic I'd really love to learn more about - what resources exist online? Offline? (I know the Massachusetts Archives has adoptions available at their facility.) What criteria did a person have to meet to obtain guardianship? For those who were not formally adopted, but still changed their name, was this just something they could do without it really being an "issue"? (It seems like it was just fine for people to take the name of the family who cared for them, without filing paperwork in court.)
Is finding adoptions a matter of luck or skill, or - like so many aspects of genealogy - a little bit of both?
Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan