How does someone get an original birth certificate after they've been adopted?
October 26, 2009 7:41 AM   Subscribe

How does someone get an original birth certificate after they've been adopted?

A relative of mine is trying to get a non-redacted copy of his original birth certificate, so he can track down his birth father. Either due to some legal shenanigans surrounding his adoption by a stepfather, or his mother's sealing the original, he's unable to get a copy of the birth certificate without the names being whited out. The stipulation that Vital Statistics have given him is this: he can receive it once he provides them with death certificates for both his mother and stepfather. The problem: his mother has Alzheimer's and he's not been on speaking terms with his stepfather for decades.

Are there other options here? I read that someone can court-order a birth certificate to be released, but am having trouble finding the how of the process. Or are there other avenues of trying to determine the identity of his father (i.e. - scrolling through microfilm of the newspaper in the area where he was born for possible birth announcements).

Thanks in advance for any assistance.
posted by Hesychia to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The answer to this might vary by country/province/state. Could you let us know where your relative lives?
posted by the dief at 7:43 AM on October 26, 2009

He was born in Florida in 1958. He might have been legally adopted there. His family then moved to New Jersey for about a decade, then to Georgia, where he still lives.
posted by Hesychia at 7:46 AM on October 26, 2009


In the US, typically, you can't. You can obtain a modified (though valid) birth certificate from your state, but many states have "closed adoptions", where they deliberately mask information about birth parents.

There are fairly wide differences by state, though. Finding a local adoption lawyer is the best way to get a straight answer for where you are - and get a lot of other questions resolve at the same time.
posted by Citrus at 7:49 AM on October 26, 2009

On preview: Florida's the right state for all this. There doesn't seem to be a good internet resource with any details.
posted by Citrus at 7:54 AM on October 26, 2009

Citrus - I'm glad I'm not the only one having a hard time with the internet sources.
posted by Hesychia at 7:57 AM on October 26, 2009

Obtaining the original birth certificate of an adoptee is one of the most difficult things to do, it is nice of you to help your relative. I have no experience with the state of Florida, but here are some helpful links to provide you with possible avenues:

Florida Department of Health FAQ (frequently asked questions) appears to confirm what you know, but under the circumstances with the adoptive parents, is not likely to happen soon.

Florida Adoption Reunion Registry (FARR) While it sounds like your relative is seeking information, rather than a reunion, this might be the only way to go until such time that the adoptive parents have passed away. Depending upon the current age of the adoptee, it may be reasonable to assume either or both birth parents have died. It might be a way to start to get some information, at least, but again, if the adoptee is older, items like "medical information" was not routinely collected until perhaps the last twenty years or so.

The key to obtaining an original birth certificate is patience and perseverance! I assisted one of my parents with their search, albeit in a different state with one of the strictest set of laws regarding release of original birth certificates, and it took nearly a decade before successful completion (and even then, there was only one parent listed).

There are groups around the country that are devoted to helping adoptees, which are easy to find by searching the Internet so I won't link to them.

Good luck with the search, and know you and your relative are not alone!
posted by kuppajava at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2009

I'm adopted and I've never seen my original. I was told that the hospital has it and it's under seal, which requires a lawyer, judge, etc. and if the birth mom signed something 'do not open' then I was SOL.

So I took the alternative route. I took my current birth certificate and all adoption papers (which all I had was the adoption decree and record number), birth mom's last name, and hired a priviate investigator. It took 1 month to find her (and my stepbrother, whom I never knew I had).

It was faster and more informative and really not that expensive ($600 total). But note they only give what you request. I only wanted to know my birth mom's info so that's all I got. They only gave me birth heritage and occupation of the father, nothing as far as the father's name, situation, etc. My birth mother told me that when I met her.

So there are alternatives instead of dealing with the very long routes of the court and hospital.
posted by stormpooper at 10:02 AM on October 26, 2009

Thanks for the story, stormpooper. Glad you were able to track down the information.

It makes you wonder, though, what resources a private investigator has that those of us not in the know don't have.

Did you already have the adoption papers on hand or were those something you had to track down? My relative doesn't even have those to turn to.
posted by Hesychia at 10:08 AM on October 26, 2009


My parents (reluctantly because they never wanted me to find out) gave me my records. Birth certificate is easy (not the original but the current). But I only had one paper (which I lost along with my "journey" diary with all the notes and results). The investigator looked up the record, did some poking around and couldn't find anything. She said she'll try a little harder and discovered my birth mom changed her last name (back to maiden) then entered the army. Once she had the army info, she could track her whereabouts. From there she started calling army people but then her ex husband was the one, in the end, who gave her up. She called posing as a long lost classmate for reunion info and he gave her up (not knowing he did so). Yes, sneaky and I never told her that's how I found her because I'm sure the investigator found all sorts of goodies along the way once I heard from my birth mom her tales of her life before and after giving me up.

All I know is it taught me that sometimes, things are better left unsaid or unfounded. I advise all adoptees to prepare for a doosey of a tale and sometimes you wish you didn't get the answer.

All is good though. I still keep in contact with my 1/2 brother. The birth mom relationship just didn't work out. I think in the end all I wanted to know the "who am I/where did I come from/why?", got it, and really saw nothing more after that. She didn't raise me, I didn't fully agree with her lifestyle choices that led up to a lot of things, and thought in the end, my parents who adopted me where really my parents who sacrificed, etc. I felt bad for my birth mom because I'm sure things weren't easy to do but I also have personal feelings about people's choices and one of those "did you think of looking for me? "meh, not really" answers as crappy. When I met her and saw how she treated my brother (who she gave up to foster care at 5 years old) I figured you know, things are what they are and some people weren't cut out to be the parents we expect. So he and I moved on.

Good luck.
posted by stormpooper at 10:58 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

It makes you wonder, though, what resources a private investigator has that those of us not in the know don't have. my case, when I decided to search, the partner of the PI I hired had an...intimate...relationship with someone working in records.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:56 AM on October 26, 2009

When I did a search for my birth mother (washington state) I went through the adoption agency. I was born in the 70s and there are undoubtedly differences due to the time and the state so, FWIW.... The agency sort of had a deal worked out where you could contact them and if they had contact info from the mother, they could pass your info along to her. It cost me $500 along with my request. For the money, they sent back records with non-identifying information -- her medical history such that they had on file and a few other things. Then they passed along my info and she contacted me. I don't believe I have a copy of my original birth certificate, though. I suppose it would be easier to get now even though I have lost touch with her over the years.

Getting the father info is likely going to be harder. As far as I know, his name isn't on my original certificate and that's pretty common. My birth mother told me she could try to find him for me if I wanted but their relationship ended before I was born and they did not keep in contact. So, it would probably require more info from her and a P.I. to get contact.

Good luck to your relative.
posted by amanda at 12:18 PM on October 26, 2009

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