goal of confidential adoption records was not to prevent adoptees
from obtaining the information on their original birth certificates.
As this 1949 excerpt makes clear, the U.S.
Children's Bureau considered it “very important that the
child’s original birth certificates be identified so that
his complete birth record will be available to him when needed.”
The Confidential Nature of Birth Records, including the
special registration problems of children born out of wedlock, children
of unknown parentage, legitimated children, and adopted children
Section D. Legitimated and Adopted Children
1. State laws should stipulate that the State registrar shall accept
evidence of the marriage of the parents, together with an acknowledgement
in writing of paternity by the father as satisfactory evidence of
The purpose of such statutory provision is to relieve the
registrar of the necessity of adjudicating the evidence. In most
cases, legitimation recorded of the basis of this evidence will
2. Complete reports of all court decrees of adoption and legitimation
and annulments thereof should be sent to the State registrar on
standard forms prescribed by him. These reports should be filed
within a specified time limit and should contain sufficient information
to identify the original birth certificate and to enable an amendatory
birth record to be prepared, showing the essential facts about the
adopting parents and the new name of the child if so desired by
the adopting parents.
These reports should be made by the clerks of court to
the State registrar in the State of legitimation or adoption at
the end of each month. Use of a standard form by the various court
clerks would improve the completeness of the report and assure its
adequacy for registration and statistical purposes. It is very important
that the child’s original birth certificates be identified
so that his complete birth record will be available to him when
3. The original birth certificate of an adopted or legitimated
child should be sealed and an amendatory record showing the new
status of the child should be placed in the regular file. The amendatory
record should be used in making certified copies.
To protect the person, all certifications for routine purposes
should be made from the amendatory record and not the original certificate.
The original certificate should be sealed to prevent its use except
in the cases specified in section D, paragraph 7 and 8.
4. Each State registrar should forward reports of adoptions and
legitimations, or annulments thereof, for out-of-State births to
the State registrar in the State where the child was born. In the
State of birth, the State registrar should seal the original certificate
and file an amendatory record indicating the new status of the child.
Routine reporting of adoptions and legitimations to the
State registrar in the State of birth is essential both to complete
the person’s birth record and to prevent duplicate registration
which is detrimental to the individual’s own interests and
to the efficiency of the vital registration system.
5. Standard forms for the reporting by courts to State registrars
of legitimations and adoptions should be developed and adopted by
Interstate reporting and the compilation of national statistics
on legitimations and adoptions would be facilitated by the use of
a standard form by all States.
6. If certifications are issued by local officials their record
should conform to the record in the State office. The local registrar
should be required to maintain the confidential nature of all birth
records in the same degree as is required in the State office.
So long as it is possible to secure certifications from
two or more different sources, great care must be taken to assure
that the several records are identical and show the latest status
of the person. It is also essential that in such cases the records
in the local office be fully protected from inspection by the public.
7. The right to inspect or to secure a certified copy of the original
birth certificate of a legitimated child should be restricted to
the registrant, if of legal age; his parents or parent, guardian,
or their legal representative; or upon court order.
(See section A, paragraphs 2 and 3.)
8. The right to inspect or to secure a certified copy of the original
birth certificate of an adopted child should be restricted to the
registrant, if of legal age; or upon court order. The right to inspect
or to secure a certified copy of the amendatory birth record of
an adopted child should be restricted to the registrant, if of legal
age; the parents or parent by adoption or their legal representative;
social and health agencies upon approval of the official custodian
of vital records; or upon court order.
The reasons for careful protection of the record of an
adopted child are similar to those previously mentioned. In many
cases, the original certificate will show that the child was born
out of wedlock or that its parents are unknown. It is desirable,
also, that the natural parents and adopting parents should remain
unknown to each other.