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Although adoption has been around in different forms for thousands of years, adoption statutes and official adoption records appeared in the United States only in the second half of the 19th century.
Before then and until regulations were implemented by all states, many adoptions in the U.S. were informal agreements that were never formalized by a court order and/or officially recorded.
Adoption laws and regulations are decided and approved at a state level. This means that the exact types of documents recording the different stages of an adoption may depend on state laws and policies.
Usually, adoptions are finalized with an adoption decree signed by a judge. However, adoption record history may include the original birth certificate as well as the new birth certificate that features the names of the adoptive parents.
In case of early adoption records, Roman Catholic adoptions were recorded in the baptismal information, while maternity home records included information on births that occurred at maternity homes.
In the 20th century, closed adoptions became the norm across many states (although this trend has later been reversed). This means that adoption records were often sealed and therefore, hard to access even for the parents and adopted person.
To access adoption records, you must first find out the specific laws that apply to your case and whether the records you are interested in were sealed. If that is the case, you may still be able to request a redacted copy of the adoption record that does not disclose sensitive information.
In case of open adoption records, it is much easier for the adoptee to access their original birth certificate and the state can disclose identifying information and court records with eligible individuals without having to obtain written consent from all parties.