In the nineteenth century, states began to pass legislation formalizing the adoption process.The establishment of charitable institutions that took an interest in abandoned and abused children created a variety of adoption options.
This removed children from the stigma of illegitimacy and distanced the birthmother from her pregnancy.
This secrecy also protected adoptive parents from scrutiny over their decision to adopt.
When examining nineteenth century documents, be careful not to equate "orphan" with an individual available for adoption.
It referred to someone whose mother or father had died.
State laws governing adoption restrict the amount of information that can be provided.
Also, since an adoption consists of three parties, the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the child, there is a good chance that most if not all of these individuals will be alive.A certain amount of data is necessary to increase the prospects of locating the adoption information.In particular you need to establish a time frame for the event and locate the name of the birth mother The first is usually easy to verify, but finding a name is a challenging task.No matter what the time period, finding birth parents is an emotional, time-consuming process that does not come with a guarantee of success.If you decide to research a contemporary adoption, then legal complications will hinder your search.Individuals unable to care for themselves, children included, were cared for by the town or city poor laws.Since these work or care arrangements were informal, the only positive proof may occur in a probate record where someone refers to "their adopted child." Unfortunately there are no statistics relating to adoption until the mid-nineteenth century.Census records, guardianships, and probate dockets also provide clues to adoption in the nineteenth and twentieth century.In the case of census records, look for children that have a different surname than the rest of the family or for lists of residents of orphanages and agencies.While infertile couples may have sought to adopt, children were also part of the economic process.They were placed in families that needed the extra labor or taken in by relatives.