Genealogy research is not always easy or straightforward. This is especially true for genealogists who were adopted when they were an infant or child. A law in New Jersey is making it a little bit easier for genealogists who were adoptees to locate important family information.
Every state has its own rules regarding the access to adoption records. Many will seal the records until the adoptee reaches adulthood. In some cases, those records are never made available to the adoptee, even after her or she has become an adult.
Obviously, this has a very negative effect for genealogists who were adopted and who want to put together their family tree. It is impossible to learn more about an ancestor if you have absolutely no idea what his or her name is. No matter what online genealogy website a person uses – they will be expected to input a relatives first and last name.
Another problem faced by adoptees is that they are unable to put together their medical family tree. A medical family tree focuses on the diseases and conditions that run in the family. It can reveal information that a person can discuss with his or her doctor.
New Jersey is among the states that sealed adoption records. That law went into affect in 1940. When a child is adopted, his or her original birth certificate is placed into a sealed file. An amended birth certificate, with the adoptive parent’s names, is created. The new birth certificate may also list the adoptive parents’ address as the child’s place of birth.
What if an adult adoptee wanted to see his or her original birth certificate? The adoptee had to go through the court system and hope that a judge would rule in their favor.
This will change in 2017 thanks to a new law. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the New Jersey Adoptees’ Birthright bill into law in April of 2015. The law allows adoptees who are age 18 (or older) to access their original birth certificates without having to go through court intervention. The law will go into effect in 2017.
In the meantime, there are some rules. For adoptions that are finalized after August 1, 2015, the long-form birth certificates will be available without redaction. Birth parents will be allowed to submit an information statement electing their preferred method for personal contact with a child they put up for adoption.
For adoptions that were finalized before August 1, 2015, the rules are different. The birth parents can choose to file a preference for contact with the State Registrar. They can choose from direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or sharing of medical information only. That last option will enable birth parents to continue their privacy.
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