Orphans, Adoptions and Indentures, part 2

As I mentioned in the previous post, the first law in New York State that dealt with adoptions was passed until 1873. The entire law is over here on Bastard Nation an adoptee rights website. Important parts of the law are that both adopting spouses must agree to adopt a child. If a birth parent is living, they must agree to the adoption. If the child is over age 12 then the child must agree to be adopted. Also, the adopted child did NOT have the right to inherit from their adopted parents. The adopted child did get the right to inherit at some time before 1900 but I can’t find any reference to the exact date.

I have another web page that I originally listed as private vital records that I now can tell that it is an index to other extracted adoption records from 1860 to 1917. I still am not able to say where these records came from under an agreement with the record holder. I will also send all the information I have from these records upon email request (except to tell where they came from). These approximately 1000 records show that were other organizations in the Rochester area that placed out children. There is a famous organization in New York City called the Children’s Aid Society. They are famous as the organization that had “Orphan Trains” that sent orphans from NYC on trains to the west. There was also a Children’s Aid Society of Rochester that was organized in 1895. I am not sure if they were affiliated with organization in NYC but I don’t think so. I have approx. 150 adoption records for this organization although these records usually don’t list birth parents names. This organization existed until after 1930.

Church Home of the Protestant Episcopal Church on Mt. Hope Ave. was organized in 1868. They were usually referred to as a place for older women. I have a few records mentioning that they did do a few adoptions in the early 1900s but the number was probably never more than a handful of adoptions. The organization still exists on Mt. Hope as Episcopal SeniorLife Communities.

Finally the Rochester Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed in 1875 and worked to improve the life of children. In some cases, when they found a child in a terrible condition, they would end up with a child to care for. The number of adoptions done by the organization was probably less than a dozen. More probable is that they sent children to other larger organizations.

Child labor laws in the early 1900s finally put an end to the indenturing children. In the early 1920s New York State passed laws stating that organizations doing adoptions had to be licensed. That put an end to smaller organizations doing adoptions.

After I extracted adoption records, the question came up if the children were listed in the New York State Vital Record Index under their birth name or their adopted name. I just picked 8 children to look up and found 5 under their birth name and couldn’t find the other 3 under either name. Other sources including the NY State Department of Health website would make you believe that all birth records of adoptees have been been amended so that the indexed births would be listed under the adopted name. Further research on the web helped to understand how changes in laws effected adopted children. In 1924 a law was passed that said a judge COULD seal adoption records at his own discretion but it was 1935 when New York State sealed all adoption records. Then in 1936 the State passed a law that would amend birth certificates after an adoption.

New York State does offer an adoption registry and adoptees can get “non-identifying information about your birth parents even if they do not register with the Adoption Registry or consent to sharing.” If the adoptee and the birth parents are both registered, they can get current names and addresses. Otherwise, getting information from the State is currently impossible.