Tracking Down Adopted Ancestors

Question: My grandfather was adopted as an infant. How do I go about finding information on his birth family?

Answer from Cathy Barlow, a professional genealogist with expertise in adoption research writing in the Monthly Update in July:

Historically, knowing one’s true ancestry has been thwarted for adoptees because of the practice of “sealing adoptee’s records,”which began in the 1940s. Until the last few years this created a nightmare for adoptees doing genealogical research. It has been estimated that 118,000 U.S. persons were adopted per year since 1940,totaling approximately 6,000,000 adoptees. This in turn has created almost 20–90 million descendants of adoptees who have been stonewalled in researching their blood lines. But social and legal avenues are now opening for adoptees to access their information. A search for a grandfather (or anyone) who was adopted will depend both on where and when he was adopted. The website will inform you of exactly which states allow access to information for which years.

As in much genealogical research, precisely what is available will often depend upon state law at the time the record was created. Her article "Ask the Expert: Adoption Records" may provide you the tools to help you uncover the parentage of your adopted ancestor within the Ancestry Library Edition subscription database -- available inside all the branches of the Beaufort County Library. We are unable to offer access to ALE at your home or office.  

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.