Genealogy and Ohio Adoption

Adoption is defined as "the act of establishing a person as a parent to one who is not in fact or in law his child." Its roots can be traced to Greek and Roman civilizations where its purpose was to continue the male line of a family. Invariably, the adoptee was male and frequently an adult. Interest today centers on creating a parent-child relationship. 

The U.S. was in the forefront of the adoption movement with Massachusetts passing the first adoption statute in 1851. Since this date, adoption practices developed by each state have varied greatly. Ohio's first adoption statute was created 29 March 1859. Before this date, many children were cared for by legal guardians or adults other than their birth parents, but they were not legally adopted children. Guardianship does not constitute adoption. Ohio law provided that any "state inhabitant not married, or husband and wife jointly, had the right to petition the proper county probate court for adoption of a minor child not theirs by birth, and for a change of name of such child." If the child was over fourteen, his consent was necessary and that of his parents, provided they "were not hopelessly insane or intemperate." If the parents were unknown or if the child was abandoned, it was necessary for a legal guardian or court appointed individual to give consent. All legal rights between child and birth parents were severed. Such rights were transferred to the adoptee and his adoptive parents with one exception: upon the death of the adoptive parents and the subsequent death of the adoptee without issue, the property of the adoptive parents would descend to their next of kin, rather than the adoptee's next of kin. Later, laws gave institutions the right to place children for adoption. Ohio law also provided for husbands or wives who wished to adopt their spouses' children by previous marriages. 

Traditionally, adoption records have been sealed, but today some states, including Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina and Ohio have allowed some access to adoption records. The Ohio Department of Health web site has information on obtaining adoption records. Ohio now allows adoptees whose adoptions were finalized before 1 January 1964 access to their vital statistic records. They are also available for lineal descendants with proof of identity and genetic linkage. For those adopted between 1 January 1964 and 18 September 1996, adoption records are open to adoptees whose births occurred in Ohio, with proper identification. Also they are available for lineal descendants with proof of identity and genetic linkage. Records of those adopted after 18 September 1996 are open to adopted parents when the adopted person is between the ages 18 and 21. If adoptees are 21 years or older, the records are open to the adoptees. Some records of Ohio adoptees born out of state were sent to the state of their birth.

The Ohio Adoption Registry was established by the Ohio General Assembly to provide a confidential and voluntary way for adopted Ohioans and their biological families to find one another. To assist those adopted after January 1, 1964, the State of Ohio offers the Ohio Adoption Registry, which allows biological parents and biological siblings to connect by registering.

Several helpful books are:

  • Search: A Handbook for Adoptees and Birth Parents by Jane Askin
  • The Adoption Searchbook by Mary Jo Rillera 
  • Adoption Agencies, Orphanages, and Maternity Homes: An Historical Directory by Reg Nigles.