In any adoption-related search, birth certificates help establish a starting point. What we hope to determine is information about:
- date of birth
- place of birth
- and perhaps other details about weight, length, time, single/multiple birth, hospital, attending physician, etc.
Original and Amended
When a child is born, an original birth certificate (OBC) is issued showing date of birth, time, parents’ names, etc. Birth parents should be given (and should request) this original document.
When a child is adopted, along with finalization papers, an amended birth certificate (ABC) is issued which can show any or all of the information on the original, but replaces the birth parents’ names with those of the adoptive parents, and the child’s name given at birth with the new name (if this is being changed). This is given to the adoptive parents.
The original birth certificate is then placed with other adoption records and the file is sealed by the court. The original birth certificate is generally not available to the adopted person… ever.
The birth certificate that adoptees use throughout their lives—to enroll in school, to obtain driver’s licenses, passports, and other documents, is the amended birth certificate.
Those searching hope that matching information birth parents have from the OBC and adoptees/adoptive families have from the ABC will help lead to reconnection.
Not All Birth Certificates Are Equal
According to research by Kate Workman, some states have been known to change information when issuing amended birth certificates. Several states (GA, FL, NC) have routinely shown place of birth as the residence of adoptive parents, even if that differs from the actual place of birth. Other changes have also been noted. These changes can also include date of birth. While differences in date of birth are not common, it’s important to keep in mind that they have been known to occur.
Every State is Different
Remember that the OBC/ABC from another state may not look anything like yours. The information included and format can vary greatly from state to state.
Search Note: Many birth parents do not have copies of the OBC; therefore, when searching, they may be working with old memories and some inaccurate information. Some were not even told the (correct) gender of child they bore.
If you are interested in learning more about the search and reunion process, read our Guide to Search and Reunion.
If you would like to download a FREE eBook in which others who have searched for and found birth family members recount their experiences, click here.
Credits: by Nancy S. Ashe