Illinois Adoption Research

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Finding Early Adoption Records, Before 1900s[edit | edit source]

  • Check out the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county the adoption took place for early adoption records. A Wiki page for the county will give contact information. Ask for searches of probate records and guardianship records.
  • National Orphan Train Complex of Concordia, Kansas Wiki page: Orphan train research helps find foster children between 1853 and 1930 who rode trains from New York City, Boston, or Chicago to new homes in other states or Canada. Many children rode the train to the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, or Texas where they were "placed" with families.
  • Children's Aid Society of New York City Wiki page. The Children's Aid Society of New York was the primary sending institution involved in the orphan train movement from 1853-1930 which "placed out" by railroad 200,000 orphans, abandoned, or homeless children to 48 states and Canada. In some cases they have records of birth parents.
  • New York Foundling Hospital Wiki page. The New York Foundling Hospital was one of the two main sending institutions involved in the orphan train movement from 1853-1930 which "placed out" by railroad 200,000 orphans, abandoned, or homeless children to 48 states and Canada. In some cases they have records of birth parents.
  • Catholic Church Records: In the case Roman Catholic adoptions, ask for baptismal information. Sacramental records are available to involved parties and sometimes contain identifying information on birth family members.
  • Maternity Home Records: Records were created if a birth mother lived in a maternity home. A maternity home, girls’ home, or work home was a place for pregnant women to live and sometimes work. Many unmarried women were sent away from home during their pregnancies to avoid a hometown’s prying eyes. Check local and state historical societies and archives to see if maternity home records are preserved.
  • Search for orphanage records in the Census & Voter Lists index of Ancestry.com. If you’re looking for orphanage records and know the child’s original name, try searching census records with the name and using keywords “orphan” or “orphanage.” This can turn up the name of the orphanage at which the child lived. In older censuses, children who lived at orphanages may have been referred to as “inmates.”

Finding Recent Adoption Records, 1900s-2000s[edit | edit source]

Assembling Information and Documents[edit | edit source]

  • Adoptive parents knowledge: Discuss the details of the adoption with the adoptive parents or other close relatives.
    • Adoption agency: Determine the name and contact information of any adoption agency the adoptive parents used.
    • Hospital: See if family members know the hospital where the child was born. They may have received the child at the hospital.
    • Attorney: If the adoption was arranged by an attorney, ask for his name and get his contact information.
  • Documents: Gather any documents the family has about the birth.
    • Amended birth certificate
An amended birth certificate, created after an adoption is finished, lists the names of the adoptive parents just as if the child had been born to them originally.
Illinois allows adults to have access to their original birth certificates unless the birth parent specifically requested that the information not be released. See Adult Adoptee Access to Original Birth Certificates
If the birth parents requested that the information not be released, an original birth certificate may be obtained through a court petition.
  • Hospital records: Hospitals often retain birth registers and occasionally have medical information on children born there. Medical records regarding the person you are searching for may sometimes be obtained.

Researching Relevant Laws[edit | edit source]

Understand the difference between identifying and nonidentifying information.[edit | edit source]

You will want to research and understand state statutes about the release of these two different levels of information.


Nonidentifying information: Nonidentifying information includes the health, behavioral health, developmental, educational, and social histories of the child and the child's parents and other birth relatives. Nearly all states allow an adult adoptee to access nonidentifying information about birth relatives, generally upon written request. Usually, the adoptee must be at least age 18 before he or she may access this information. Information may include:

  • Date and place of the adoptee's birth
  • Age of the birth parents and general physical description, such as eye and hair color
  • Race, ethnicity, religion, and medical history of the birth parents
  • Educational level of the birth parents and their occupations at the time of the adoption
  • Reason for placing the child for adoption
  • Existence of other children born to each birth parent


Identifying information: Identifying information is information from the disclosure of adoption records or elsewhere that may lead to the positive identification of birth parents, the adult adoptee, or other birth relatives. Identifying information may include current or past names of the person, addresses, employment, or other similar records or information.

  • Statutes in nearly all states permit the release of identifying information when the person whose information is sought has consented to the release.
  • If consent is not on file with the appropriate entity, the information may not be released without a court order documenting good cause to release the information. A person seeking a court order must be able to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that there is a compelling reason for disclosure that outweighs maintaining the confidentiality of a party to an adoption.
  • Access to information is not always restricted to birth parents and adoptees. Approximately 37 states allow birth siblings of the adoptee to seek and release identifying information upon mutual consent.[1]

Study the laws specific to Illinois.[edit | edit source]

Use this link to learn about the statutes governing the adoption in Illinois.

Select "Illinois" from the drop-down menu.
Then check the box for "Access to Adoption Records" under the "Adoption" list.
Click "Go!".

Filing Court Petitions[edit | edit source]

  • If you were adopted, you may petition the court to open sealed adoption records. Whether this is successful may depend on the state, the judge, the reason given for the request, and other factors. Medical necessity will be the most successful reason used. If the birth parents are deceased, petitions are usually successful.
  • Petitioning the court does not require an attorney’s services, although attorneys may be helpful.
  • Depending on state laws, the judge may
    • agree to release only nonidentifying information (which should be available by asking any agency),
    • agree to release a summary of information,
    • deny the petition completely,
    • appoint an intermediary, such as the original adoption agency or a professional searcher, to locate the birth parents and determine whether they want to release information or be reunited (in some states).[2]

How to File[edit | edit source]

Contact the county clerk where the adoption took place and ask for a petition form. File the completed form with the county court. A judge will review the petition and may require an interview. Attorney services are not required.

Getting Help[edit | edit source]

This is a service available in all states. It consists of individuals who have experience conducting searches for birth relatives and will conduct adoption searches free of charge. Search angels are not private detectives or paid professional searchers. They can also be found on adoption search blogs, social networking sites, search support groups, and other online forums.
  • Adoptee Search Support Groups: There are nonprofit organizations that help teach methods for searching.
Click on National Foster Care & Adoption Directory Search.
Select "Illinois".
Check the box "Birth Family and Adoptee Search Support Groups" under "Support Groups".
Click: "GO".
  • Hiring a Professional Researcher:
    • Professional searchers include certified independent search consultants, licensed private investigators who may or may not have adoption experience, nonprofit organizations that train in adoption searching, and experts in a field who may or may not have a certification (e.g., confidential intermediaries).
    • If you choose to hire a professional searcher, you should research the reputation of the searcher or company before obtaining their services.
    • Reputable professional searchers will always respect your pacing and boundaries. These professionals will not move beyond search into reunion unless you request this step.
    • Support groups and online forums can be a ready source of information about professional searchers.[3]

Making Contact With Relatives[edit | edit source]

Mutual Consent Registries[edit | edit source]

A mutual consent registry is a means for individuals directly involved in adoptions to indicate their willingness or unwillingness to have their identifying information disclosed.

  • Illinois is one of the states that has a mutual consent registry.
  • Most registries require consent of at least one birth parent and an adoptee over the age of 18 or 21, or of adoptive parents if the adoptee is a minor, in order to release identifying information.
  • Most states that have registries require the parties seeking to exchange information to file affidavits consenting to the release of their personal information.
  • Click on State Reunion Registries/Confidential Intermediary Services
Select "Illinois" from the drop-down menu.
Scroll down to "Adoption Search" and click the box for "State Reunion Registries/Confidential Intermediary Services".
Click on "GO".

International Soundex Reunion Registry[edit | edit source]

Confidential Intermediary System[edit | edit source]

  • Illinois has a search and consent procedure called a confidential intermediary system. With this system, an individual called a confidential intermediary is certified by the court to have access to sealed adoption records for the purpose of conducting a search for birth family members to obtain their consent for contact.
  • Click on State Reunion Registries/Confidential Intermediary Services
Select "Illinois" from the drop-down menu.
Scroll down to "Adoption Search" and click the box for "State Reunion Registries/Confidential Intermediary Services".
Click on "GO".

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

For a more detailed understanding or answers to other questions you may hove, consult these excellent articles:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Access to Adoption Records", Child Welfare Information Gateway, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/infoaccessap.pdf, accessed 11 September 2020.
  2. "Searching for Birth Relatives", Child Welfare Information Gateway, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_search.pdf#page=1&view=Introduction, accessed 11 September 2020.
  3. "Searching for Birth Relatives: Hiring a Professional Researcher", Child Welfare Information Gateway, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_search.pdf#page=1&view=Introduction, accessed 11 September 2020.