Searching for an unknown parent is challenging and long and emotional and long and discouraging and long. Success will require computer skills, DNA testing, traditional paper genealogy, detective work and a spine of steel.
In the course of a searching for a adopted friend, I called upon my background working in a pediatrics office. My job there required me to obtain what we referred to as “baby papers.” Most pediatricians will see a newborn within the first week of their life for an office visit. Because the child is days old, any and all information about the baby is important. I would assist parents in procuring their child’s hospital medical record, so that their pediatrician would have all pertinent information about the tiny sweethearts.
Inevitably though, there would be some confusion. Mom and dad would have picked out their child’s new name long before it’s birth. They contact the hospital and ask for their newborn records, but the hospital has no records for that child’s name! What? Here’s the deal: medical folks must always use your legal name. LEGALLY, until a birth certificate is created, a child is known as Baby + Gender + Mom’s Last Name. For example, my son was known as “Baby Boy Sanner” on his newborn hospital medical records even though we’d picked his name months before. Only when I applied for a birth certificate and social security card (usually the applications are provided by the hospital) did my child have the legal name as I know it.
NPE – Non Paternal Event : It’s a generic and amoral term used by genealogists to define how a father on paper may not be a biological father. From the International Society of Genetic Genealogists (ISOGG) website. “An event which has caused a break in the link between the surname and the Y-chromosome resulting in a son using a different surname from that of his biological father (eg, illegitmacy, adoption, maternal infidelity).”
In searching for my adopted friend, I discovered that Ancestry.com and the State of California have released “California Birth Index, 1905-1995.” This index holds valuable information for those conducting NPE searches. What makes California’s so valuable is that the index often includes the mother’s maiden surname.
An original birth certificate is a holy grail for adoptees.
So why is this important for my friend and other’s searching for their unknown parents? Most adoptees have 2 birth certificates. A delayed certificate with their adopted name and adopted parents’ information, copies of which are easily obtained. There’s also an original birth certificate which can be very difficult (read as: near impossible) to obtain for adoptees, even though it’s their own! When a newborn child is put up for adoption a birth certificate is still created de facto by the hospital using the child’s name from their “baby papers.”
In California, this means that someone searching for his biological parents has a birth index record as “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” plus his mother’s maiden name. If you didn’t know your biological mother’s maiden surname, you do now. And if the child’s surname and the mother’s surname are different, that’s more information to parse.
Most of the information on an adoptee’s original birth record will still be unattainable, but a mom’s maiden surname is a valuable piece of data.
Many states have birth index information online, but the years available vary widely. As a matter of fact, my home state, Virginia has one. Check your favorite genealogy websites or contact the vital statistics office in your state of birth for more information. Search the index and filter by date of birth, gender and if possible birth county. Make a list of all possibilities and get to work.