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Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Adoption Research


Some people are stalled in their search for family history because the circumstances of their own birth are shrouded in mystery, with records sealed by the legal system and oral family traditions nonexistent. These are the more than 2.5 million adoptees in the United States. Each of these adoptees also represents a proportionate number of birth parents or siblings. This pathfinder is meant to help these people and others who are searching in a legal gray area. It will not supply answers for all questions, but it will identify useful materials available within the Allen County Public Library System, where these materials are located, and discuss other selected sources outside of the library.


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Beginning a Search

It is necessary to organize and analyze the information available, no matter how insignificant it seems. Establish who was involved in the adoption (judges, lawyers, agencies, and individuals) and then interview as many people as possible, gathering their recollections. It is vital to keep a record of the information obtained and to cite sources. This will eliminate searching the same source twice and will provide a means of evaluating contradictory information. Directories, both current and from the time of birth, can be helpful in locating names and addresses of hospitals, adoption agencies and newspapers in the city of birth. A copy of the adoption laws for the state or county of birth should be obtained and studied, as it is important to know what information is available at various offices, and the legal imperatives that govern the sharing of this information. One may also wish to read an adoption research guide to become familiar with the types of problems encountered and possible solutions. The Allen County Public Library has many guides for beginning adoption research, all of which are listed in the online catalog at . A researcher should select the Library Catalog option on the home page. Many of the sources listed are available in the Readers' Services Department or in branch collections for circulation. Those that are available only in the Genealogy Department are not available to be checked-out and taken home.


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Business & Technology Department

Adoption laws vary from state to state, and in some areas, from county to county. Copies of adoption laws for Indiana and selected other states are available in the Business and Technology Department. The Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest contains summaries of the laws of all states, as well as a directory of attorneys to facilitate locating lawyers who may have been involved in the adoption. There are also specialized dictionaries to offer help in translating the legal terminology found in documents into plain English. The Business and Technology Department also holds The Directory of Physicians in the United States and The Official ABMS Directory of Board Certified Specialists from 1985 to the present. These contain doctors' names and addresses, and should be requested through a librarian. Earlier editions may be obtained through interlibrary loan. Business and Technology also holds current city directories for Indiana cities, and current telephone books for selected cities throughout the United States. Ask a librarian for assistance in locating this material.


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Historical Genealogy Department

Once the name of a birth parent or child has been discovered, locating the correct person with that name can be a challenge. Several online databases resemble current national phone directories, and can be especially helpful in conducting nationwide searches for living persons.  Another useful online product is the Social Security Death Index, which can be used to determine whether a specific person is deceased, or to locate clusters of people with the same surname. It includes approximately 76% of all deaths in the United States from 1962 to the present and some earlier deaths. The Historical Genealogy Department holds non-current editions of Fort Wayne city directories and telephone books. Non-Indiana and all non-current Indiana city directories are also located in the Genealogy Collection. Some are in book form and can be accessed through the online catalog under the name of the city, and in some instances the names of the county. Pre-1936 directories for major cities are available on microtext and can be accessed through the microtext card catalog under “City Directories” and the name of the city. This department has older telephone directories for major United States cities on microfiche in the microtext area. These Phonefiche cover 1978 to 1988, although not all cities are represented for each year. The Genealogy Department has many other records a researcher may find useful as he or she continues to learn more about the family background. The same methodology should be employed in finding and using these materials as in any genealogical research. Most of these records date from before 1930. To locate records, search in the online catalog under the place of interest. The department houses a few more contemporary materials. Examples of these for Allen County include: Allen County marriage records (1824 to 1941 with various other year groupings to 1971 and indexes through 1981), Indiana marriage index (print index 1958-65/microfilm index 1962 1992), Fort Wayne obituary index, mortuary records, and Fort Wayne/Allen County  area high school yearbooks. Similar types of materials may also be available for other geographic areas. Ask a librarian for assistance in accessing this material. The Historical Genealogy Department pathfinder Sources for Modern United States Research should also be consulted for further suggestions. Just as this library houses extensive local material, other local community libraries in the search area may hold unpublished, private or less-widely distributed records. The American Library Directory provides information about libraries in the United States and Canada. Copies are available in both the Historical Genealogy and the Readers' Services Departments. The Historical Genealogy Department has audio cassette tapes pertaining to adoption records and search methods. These tapes are available for circulation through the staff of the department to anyone with valid identification. See a reference librarian if you are interested in these tapes. This department also produces The PERiodical Source Index (PERSI), a subject guide to genealogical and historical periodicals. These periodicals occasionally contain methodological articles on adoption research or transcriptions of early probate, guardianship or adoption records. Most of these records, however, are pre-twentieth century.


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Reader's Services Department

The Readers' Services Department offers several sources to assist the adoption researcher. The Encyclopedia of Associations is useful for locating adoption search and support groups. It is possible that in some cases, hospital records concerning the mother and/or child may still exist. The American Hospital Association Guide to the Health Care Field can supply the names and addresses of possible birth hospitals as well as the names of the current administrators. Local newspapers often list birth announcements, as well as other useful information, such as obituaries and marriage notices. The Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media contains names and addresses of local newspapers and periodicals published in the search area. Readers' Services also holds other useful books concerning adoption, adoption research, and reunions. Some of these are included in the “Selected Bibliography” section of this pathfinder. Periodical articles concerning adoption research may also provide new avenues for investigation. InfoTrac, a part of the E-Resources link accessible in all Allen County Public Library locations at , is one of the most useful sources for locating references to articles pertaining to adoption. At the Welcome Screen, the researcher should select the Other Catalogs option, and then InfoTrac Databases. The researcher can choose any of the databases (General Reference Center Gold or Custom Newspaper Database, for example). Some useful subject headings are: Adoptees Adoption Birthparents The citation will give the name of the periodical in which an article appears, volume number, date and page number. The citation may be accompanied by an abstract, or perhaps a full text version of the article, and will indicate whether the Allen County Public Library owns that particular periodical title. Some periodicals have been bound into volumes, while others are available only on microfiche. Ask a staff member in the Periodicals Area of the Readers' Services Department for assistance in locating specific titles.


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Allen County & Indiana Research

If the adoption took place in Indiana prior to July 1941, the researcher can obtain the records directly from the courthouse in the county of adoption. The records before this date are, by law, open records. Those researching adoptions after July 1941 should submit an Indiana Adoption History Registry form. Copies of this form are available at the reference desk in the Historical Genealogy Department, or may be obtained from the State Registrar of Vital Records, Indiana Adoption History Registry, P.O. Box 1964, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1964. Records cannot, by law, be released until both parties register. The researcher should remember to notify the Registry in the event of an address change. For records of public adoptions and records of children’s protective services agencies, contact Allen County Child Protection Services (260-458-6100) and ask for a supervisor. Catholic Charities of Fort Wayne holds most adoption records for the Diocese of Fort Wayne and South Bend, Woodhaven Maternity Home/Crossroads, and St. Vincent Villa Orphanage. These records will be searched upon request by staff member Barbara Burlingham (574-234-3111). Use of a Catholic agency does not always indicate a Catholic connection although it is possible. Saint Elizabeth's of Indianapolis (2500 Churchman Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46203, 317-787-3412 holds records for the Catholic Archdiocese of Indiana. Staff contact is Susan Whitten. Lutheran Social Services of Fort Wayne (260-426-3347 contact person is Kathie Gallop) and Lutheran Children’s and Family Services in Indianapolis (317-359-5467), mainly handle only Lutheran adoptions. Other Indianapolis agencies are Coleman Adoption Agency (317-638-0965, contact person: Catrina Carlisle) and Children's Bureau of Indianapolis (317-545-5281, contact people: Judy Bannister and Annette Lofton). Both handled private adoptions. For most of these agencies and many others in the state, non-identifying or medical information can often be supplied, and an attempt may be made by the agency to contact the other party in order to encourage use of the Registry program. Therefore it is best if the researcher registers prior to contacting any agency. Staff members will search records only after the researcher has obtained consent through the Indiana Adoption History Registry. With all of these agencies, as with agencies in other areas, the amount of information supplied is dependent on current law, organization of the records, staff time, and agency policy. An inquiry to the agency concerning availability of records is usually the best starting point.


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Selected Bibliography

There are a great many books and other materials on the strategies and emotional effects of adoption searching which a researcher may wish to examine. The following list represents only a brief collection of titles. The researcher is encouraged to browse the various catalogs and other sources previously mentioned. Be sure to consult the newer titles for contact information while the older publications can provide useful methodologies and meaningful search strategies.


Adamec, Christine A. and William L. Pierce, Ph.D. The Encyclopedia of Adoption. 2nd ed. New York: Facts on File, 2000. /362.734 Ad1e 2000/


Askin, Jayne. Search: A Handbook for Adoptees and Birthparents. 3rd ed. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1998. /362.8298 As4s 1998/


Bailey, Julie Farrell. The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide: Preparing Yourself for the Search, Reunion, and Beyond. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2001. /362.8298 B15a/


Culligan, Joseph J. Adoption Searches Made Easier. Miami, FL: FJA, Inc., 1996. /Gc 929 C89ya/


________________. You Can Find Anybody! San Diego, CA: Jodere Group, 2000. /363.2336 C89y 2000/


Carangelo, Lori. The Ultimate Search Book: Worldwide Adoption, Genealogy, and Other Search Secrets. Palm Desert, CA: Access Press, 1999. /Gc 929 C176ua/


Gediman, Judith. Birthbond. Far Hills, NJ: New Horizons Press, 1991. /306.874 G26b/


Gilman, Lois. The Adoption Resource Book. 4th ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 1998. . /362.734 G42a 1998/


Heiderer, Michele. Before the Search: An Adoption Searcher’s Primer. Indianapolis, IN: Ye Olde Genealogie Shoppe, 1997. /362.8298 H36b/


Johnson, Richard S. and Debra Johnson Knox. Find Anyone Fast. 3rd ed. Spartanburg, SC: MIE Pub., 2001. /Gc 973 J632hba/


________________. How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military. 8th ed. Spartanburg, SC: MIE Pub., 1999. /Gc 973 J632haa/


Jones, Merry Bloch. Birthmothers: Women Who Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories. Chicago, IL: Chicago Press Review, 1993. /362.8298 J72b/


Klunder, Virgil. Lifeline: The Action Guide to Adoption Search. Cape Coral, FL: Caradium, 1991. /362.734 K711/ or /Gc 929 K71L/


Lifton, Betty Jean. Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness. New York, NY: BasicBooks, 1994. /362.8298 L62j/


McColm, Michelle. Adoption Reunions. Toronto, Ontario: Second Story Press, 1993. /362.8298 M13a 20/


Niles, Reg. Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes. Garden City, NY: Phileas Deigh Corp., 1981. /362.73 N59a/ or /Gc 929 N59/


Paul, Ellen, ed. The Adoption Directory: The Most Comprehensive Guide to Family-building Options Including State Statutes on Adoption, Public and Private Adoption Agencies, Adoption Exchanges, Foreign Requirements and Adoption Agencies, Independent Adoption Services, Foster Parenting, and Support Groups. 2nd ed. New York: Gale Research 1995. /362.734 Ad68 1995/


Rillera, Mary Jo. The Adoption Searchbook. 3rd ed. Westminster, CA: Triadoption Publications, 1991. /362.734 R45a 1991/


________________. The Reunion Book. Westminster, CA: Triadoption Publications, 1991. /362.734 R45r/


________________. Search & Support Directory. Westminster, CA: Triadoption Publications, 1991 /362.734 R45s/


Sorosky, Arthur D., Reuben Pannor & Annette Baran. Adoption Triangle. Austin, TX: Corona Pub. Co., 1989. /362.734 So6a/


Strauss, Jean. Birthright. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1994. /362.8298 St8b/


Cyndi’s List of Genealogy Sites of the Internet contains a category for adoption links that is quite useful. It can be found at


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Search and Support Groups

Because of the difficulty of this type of research and the possible emotional issues involved, the assistance of a support group may be of considerable benefit. Some groups guide and direct a researcher, while others offer exchange programs to facilitate searching in distant locations by other researchers. Other groups hold meetings to offer support, provide information, and exchange searching techniques. These groups will also be able to inform the researcher about statewide registry programs which are similar to the Indiana Adoption History Registry. Most were organized by experienced adoption researchers who understand the difficulties and stress of adoption searching. Some of these groups are:


Anonymous by Adoption
P.O. Box 12132
Fort Wayne, IN 46862-2132

Adoption Resources
Resources for Your Family Tree

Adoptees’ Liberty Movement Association
P.O. Box 85
Denville, NJ 07834

Indiana Adoption Coalition
P.O. Box 1292
Kokomo, IN 46901

Adoption Network

Reunion Registry of Indiana
P.O. Box 361
South Bend, IN 46624

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