United States Adoption Research

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Finding Adoption Records[edit | edit source]

Early Adoption Records, Before 1900s[edit | edit source]

  • Check out the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county the adoption took place for early adoption records. A Wiki page for the county will give contact information. Ask for searches of probate records and guardianship records.
  • National Orphan Train Complex of Concordia, Kansas Wiki page: Orphan train research helps find foster children between 1853 and 1930 who rode trains from New York City, Boston, or Chicago to new homes in other states or Canada. Many children rode the train to the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, or Texas where they were "placed" with families.
  • Children's Aid Society of New York City Wiki page. The Children's Aid Society of New York was the primary sending institution involved in the orphan train movement from 1853-1930 which "placed out" by railroad 200,000 orphans, abandoned, or homeless children to 48 states and Canada. In some cases they have records of birth parents.
  • New York Foundling Hospital Wiki page. The New York Foundling Hospital was one of the two main sending institutions involved in the orphan train movement from 1853-1930 which "placed out" by railroad 200,000 orphans, abandoned, or homeless children to 48 states and Canada. In some cases they have records of birth parents.
  • Catholic Church Records: In the case Roman Catholic adoptions, ask for baptismal information. Sacramental records are available to involved parties and sometimes contain identifying information on birth family members.
Children at New York Foundling cph.3a23917.jpg
  • Maternity Home Records: Records were created if a birth mother lived in a maternity home. A maternity home, girls’ home, or work home was a place for pregnant women to live and sometimes work. Many unmarried women were sent away from home during their pregnancies to avoid a hometown’s prying eyes. Check local and state historical societies and archives to see if maternity home records are preserved.
  • Search for orphanage records in the Census & Voter Lists index of Ancestry.com. If you’re looking for orphanage records and know the child’s original name, try searching census records with the name and using keywords “orphan” or “orphanage.” This can turn up the name of the orphanage at which the child lived. In older censuses, children who lived at orphanages may have been referred to as “inmates.”

Finding Recent Adoption Records[edit | edit source]


Wiki Articles on Adoption Research for Each U.S. State

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]