Sunday, May 7, 2017

Adoption Resources for New England

New England Genealogy: Adoption Resources for New England
In 2009 and 2012, I wrote about one of my distant cousins, Mary Haley, who disappeared from records after 1871. I learned that she was adopted and after stumbling upon her name change, was able to locate her marriage record and trace her at least until 1930.

While I located this information thanks to a Google search, finding name changes and adoptions doesn't always come so easily. If you have a family member who disappears at a young age and for whom you can't find a death record, a name change or adoption might be your answer. But where to begin?

After exhausting your search of census records, you might try:

1. Google

That ended up being the last step in my search for Mary Haley, but considering the power of the search engine it is well worth making it an early step. In my 2012 post, I shared that I found this resource, which is how I learned about Mary Haley's name change:

"List of Persons Whose Names Have Been Changed in Massachusetts 1780-1892", Collated and Published by the Secretary of the Commonwealth under Authority of Chapter 191 of the Acts of the Year 1893. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1972.

So try a Google search and see if you get a hit with the answer.

2. Town Reports

If you know both of a child's parents died when the child was young, try checking the town reports, as they often have interesting information about what became of the children. This includes pauper accounts, warnings out, coroner's inquests, and much more. You might find some useful nuggets about changes in families.

3. State Archives

Some state archives have adoption records available, but how open they are will depend upon state regulations. Some states have published reports of adoptions that are more than 100 years old, with more recent information restricted to specific parties. Adoptions could have fallen under probate records as well. State archives should be able to tell you where to find them for that specific state.

4. Birth, Marriage, Death & Probate Records

Even if someone was adopted and their name was changed, their biological parents' names might be listed on their marriage or death record. This is probably more likely if the person was older when the adoption or name change occurred.

As for a birth record, the original birth might exist and give the person's original name before adoption. For example, my uncle's grandmother was born Mary Caufield and her parents were both listed on her birth record, available from the town where she was born in New York. But she was adopted by people I believe were her uncle and aunt, Job Jenney and Anna Cassidy. So while her original birth record has her birth name and birth parents, she appears in the 1900 and 1910 censuses as Mary Jenney.

Adoptions and name changes were generally handled in probate court, so check probate indexes for the time period, as well.

5. Naming Clues

Sometimes a child's birth name is in their adopted name. In the case of Mary Caufield, her adoptive parents retained Caufield (sometimes incorrectly indexed as Carfield) as her middle name.

Adoptions can be tricky, but there are more records and clues than we might realize if we dig.

I'd love to know your experience with researching adoptions and what records you found that helped you along the way.


New England Genealogy: Adoption Resources for New England



Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

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