Congratulations New York!

I want to share a quick story from R.S., who was born in New York City and adopted.  DNA easily pointed us to his birth father, but identifying his birth mother has been a struggle. 

The closest maternal matches are to a Texas family whose matriarch was an orphan train rider.  Christina was sent as a young girl by rail from a foundling home in New York City to East Texas, where she was adopted by a Czech family sometime around 1905.  She spoke nothing but Czech to her grandchildren, so they had no idea she was Irish by birth until I contacted them.

Orphan train riders


The DNA matches and mitochondrial haplogroups all line up for R.S.’s grandmother to have been Christina’s half sister.  Unfortunately, that means R.S.’s grandmother was probably also adopted.  All of which explains why we’ve had so much trouble tracing this family line.

The birth certificates of adoptees are typically amended to show the adoptive parents’ names, and the original document is sealed.  Yesterday, New York became the 10th US state to allow adult adoptees open access to their original, pre-adoption birth certificates.


R.S. showed up at the New York City Department of Health’s Vital Records office at 9 AM yesterday.  He said the process took 2 hours—getting the application packet, having his signature notarized, obtaining a money order, waiting in line—and throughout, the office staff were incredibly helpful and kind.

They actually had a separate semi-private area set up for those like me—with a table in a cordoned off area that had “Congratulations” silver balloons attached—it was actually very touching and welcoming.

There were other adoptees on the same journey, including a woman who’d flown in from California the day before to request her original birth certificate.

R.S. was told the process may take as long as 12–14 weeks—they’re in uncharted territory and the records are stored in an off-site location—but there may be more than just his original birth certificate in his file.  Now we wait!

Thank you so much to the generous people in the Vital Records office, to the legislature and governor of New York for passing this law, and especially all of those who have advocated for their rights for years.

You can see the state of play for adoptee rights in the US here.

Next up:  Massachusetts?

Information for those born outside of New York but adopted in the state is here.

10 thoughts on “Congratulations New York!”

  1. That was heartfelt! Still waiting for Kentucky to come out of the dark ages and unseal original birth records for adopted children, specifically my mother, born 1926. Hopefully, before my time ends……….I get very emotionally about that.

  2. I was really excited about this, but the fact is that we have no clue if my husband was adopted by his step father, or not. If there is no adoption, then you still can’t get the original birth certificate.

  3. It shows his stepfather as the father. Either his father was not named on the original and the stepfather was added later, or they had it legally changed. He only found out that his father was not biological recently at the age of 73. We have no way of knowing if his stepfather adopted him or not.

    1. That’s an interesting puzzle. Was his mom with his step-father at the time of birth? If so, she may have named the step-father as the father and there’s no other birth certificate to be had. I’d love to take a look at the birth certificate if you’re willing to show me. You can email me at theDNAgeek at gmail.

  4. Thanks for asking. I have sent you the birth certificate and a few facts. His stepfather was not in the picture until several years later. This was a classic DNA discovery long after both parents were dead.

  5. Thanks so much for this article. I shared it with an adoptee I’ve been helping who is so hopeful that this will help him find answers. Fingers are crossed that he won’t be bogged down in a waiting game for too many months. I sent him a copy of your blog. The balloons are a nice touch.

  6. Great news, still praying for Florida to allow this. Fortunately, I have been able to confirm my birth parents through non id info, dna testing & genealogy.

    Congrats, Doug

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