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02 February 2014

Most Adoptions are Unofficial

Genealogists love records. But adoptions are one of those situations that present problems. Throughout much of American history adoptions were "informal" with couples simply taking the child in with no "paperwork." And when there was legal paperwork, those records are often closed.

But don't be surprised if there's no "documentation" to provide evidence of an adoption. Many before the World War I era fall into the category of "unofficial."


  1. This is still true. When my mother remarried in 1960, my siblings & I used our stepfathers' name without being officially adopted. When a birth certificate was needed, we just explained why we weren't using our birth surnames. We never had any problems, but it could make future research confusing if the facts aren't preserved as family lore.

  2. My grandfather's "sister" was taken in, but I don't think she was ever formally adopted. I actually came across her obituary in some family papers which listed her father's name. A bit of searching later and I had her parents, siblings, step-mother and half-brother's names as well. I actually contacted all the various tree owners on Ancestry to let them know Maud was taken in by my great-grandparents, her date of death, and cemetery where she was buried. In my tree, I listed the names of her biological parents and siblings in a note for other researchers.