Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 3, Number 12 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 July 20, 2011
In this issue we will be discussing adoptions. It is always important to remember that the information provided with adoptions has changed greatly over the years, so you may or may not be able to find the information you need. We wish you the best in your genealogy search and hope you can find some of those missing links.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com.
James L. Douthat
Adoption Records - Bound Children
In nearly every family, there are children that come up missing or we cannot identify where they came from. As always, it is important to know the time period when this occurs as the laws change from time to time.
In the early part of this century, the counties had little or no money for care of orphans or indigent families. So these counties fell back on an old German method of taking care of children called bound children. Sometimes a family was unable to care for their children, or in some cases, one parent dies and the remaining parent is unable to care for the children. Most cases that I have seen are when one parent dies.
During the Colonial days, the Church of England was the main stay in the communities, except for New England and north of the Mason-Dixon line, so the church began the process of child care. The Wardens of the Church would make a recommendation that the County Court seek out someone who met the criteria for taking a “bound” child. This means they will feed and clothe the child until they becomes of age [21 years old]. In the mean time, the child is to be taught a trade, even if it is “housewifery”. When the child reaches the age of 21, they are to be given two sets of clothes - one on and one off. If they are taught a marketable trade, then they are to be given the set of tools to maintain their work in that trade. For the person taking on the role of parent, without a name change, they have the services of that child until they are of age. The child is cared for, clothed, fed and taught a trade in exchange for helping with the household.
Hopefully, the documents you find surrounding the bound children in your lineage will have the names of the parents, guardians, place they lived, trade taught and maybe other important information. These documents can be valuable information for a family if you can't find any documentation for wills or property sold.
In my family, the documents did not name the parents. The Church Wardens gave the Court the orders for three young children, two girls and one boy [my G-G-G-Grandfather] of a couple when the father died young and unexpected. I had the records of the Church Warden’s action as well as the Court Orders, but the parents were not named in either document. After years of research, I finally found the parents names in a “marriage packet” for one of the girls. A little slip of paper from the guardian stated “I have know her since birth to be the daughter of John and Mary Painter and on ?? dates she will be able to marry without my consent, but I give her consent to marry.” This was the only place the parents were identified.
Into the 20th century, the adoption records have taken a different turn. Now it is extremely hard to find the parents in the case of adoption. The records have been sealed and only a Court Order can release the information. If you are an adopted person, at the age of 21 you can request the non-identifying information for which you will receive the 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 and occupation of the birth parents, reason for placing the child for adoption and existence of other children born to each birth parent. In all of this information, there will be no names given. You may just be told that your mother was 17 years old, blue eyed, brown hair, high school drop-out who is unemployed.
If you want the identifying information, then this takes a lot of patience and probably a good lawyer. A Court Order has to be issued to unlock the records. The Court will contact the birth parents and seek their permission to allow you to have the records. If they agree, you might be on the road to getting the information. If they disagree then the file is sealed back and you will not have any information available.
This approach is beginning to change and some states are allowing more and more information to be given. In time, these records might be open a crack. In the meantime, you can always register on several adoption sites and see if your state has a registry as well.
Good luck with your search!
Grainger County, Tennessee Apprenticeships
32 Pages, Full Name Index, Soft cover, TN-1001, $7.50
This publication contains apprenticeship records which give evidence to what happened in families if the parents became unable to care for their children because of illness, death, or financial circumstances.
The usual approach was to bind the children to others in the community who (hopefully) would care for them and give them support, education, and a start in life. Armed with the date of the court order, the researcher can go back into original Court Minutes to see what action the court took.
Hunt County, Texas Court Record BOok "D" Volume 1: 1852-1855
198 Pages, Index, Soft cover, FI-0684, $18.00
This volume of the Record Book is the transcription of the day to day running of the county and contains information on the adoptions, deeds, citizenship applications, court proceedings and divorces as well as other items of interest.
Knox County, Tennessee County Court Minutes Volume 10: 1819-1820
233 Pages, Full Name Index, Soft cover, TN-1057, $50.00
The county court minutes of Knox County contain the day to day operations of the county during the years noted. There are land transfers, divorces, adoptions, guardianship, road orders, etc. Each of the entries are brief notes concerning the items of interest, but the names are given in most all cases.
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