Out On a Limb: Adoptees’ birth info becoming easier to access – Wilkes Barre Times-Leader


Tom Mooney Out on a Limb –

To many of us (not just genealogists), Thanksgiving is the ultimate family holiday. Here’s some very topical good news — barely days old — for adopted people trying to trace their families.

Adoptees have long faced problems of gaining access to birth certificates listing names of birth parents. Recently, though, states have begun opening up records so that people who’ve been adopted can find out who their birth parents were, information that for generations has been shrouded in secrecy.

The latest is the state of New York, which just this month took action.

“For the first time since 1935 when the state sealed adoption records, adoptees will be able to obtain their original birth certificate when they turn 18 and find out the names of their birth parents,” said www.syracuse.com in a Nov 19 article. The bill passed by the state legislature became law when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it.

Back in 2017, Pennsylvania modified its law regarding adoptees and access to birth certificates, but it is more restrictive than New York’s. “(birth parents) may file a contact preference form or a request to remove their name from the original birth certificate,” says the website of Pennsylvania legal firm Petrelli Previtera.

In 2014 New Jersey also modified its law, giving adoptees, their direct descendants, their siblings and spouses, adoptive parents or other legal representatives as well as New Jersey and federal authorities access to the original birth certificates. Birth parents had only until 2016 to opt out of sharing their names, but they may limit or ban contact.

For information on other states’ policies, go to the various state websites.

DNA Advances: Are there Vikings in your family history? Scientists at University of Leicester in Britain have been trying to learn if the Normans who invaded Britain in 1066 really did originate as Vikings – seafarers from Scandinavia. With many Americans claiming English descent, and genealogists among them finding Norman elements in their DNA, this is a question worth asking.

So far, it looks as if there is a likely Viking-Norman connection that goes beyond the mere story of “Norman” being a shortened form of “Northman.” Normans, incidentally, lived on the coast of France and Belgium from the ninth century onward, with one of the provinces there becoming known as “Normandy.”

The study, the joint British-French “Viking DNA Project,” involved 89 men with surnames suggesting Scandinavia and with long family traditions in the Cotentin peninsula. While many turned out to be only possible candidates for Viking ancestry, the DNA tests showed 11 with a highly likely possibility of such ancestry. The genetic makeup of these 11, in fact, resembled that of men with known Viking ancestry.

News Notes: Hats off to the Nanticoke Historical Society and Wyoming Seminary for a project that could pay dividends to local genealogists. Seminary recently sent nine students, under the direction of history teacher Clark Switzer, to the society for a National Day of Service event. The students, an international group, entered records into the society’s archives.

With genealogists traditionally relying heavily on the U.S. Census for their research, here are some census quick facts. The census to be taken next year will be the first to include online participation. People may also respond by phone or via a paper questionnaire. While general statistics will be announced quickly, information about specific individuals in the census of 2020 will not be made available to the public until April, 2092. The Census of 1940 will be released to the public in April of 202.

Tom Mooney Out on a Limb

Tom Mooney is a Times Leader genealogy columnist. Reach him at [email protected]