[APG Public List] Adopted children in genealogy

Charles S. Mason, Jr. cgrs791 at netscape.com
Sat Nov 13 12:53:38 MST 2010


This is a problem I have in several of my collateral families.  In most of
the cases the step-father did not adopt the children.  So therefore legally
their surname remained the surname of their birth father.  In a number of my
cases the children used their step-father's surname during the rest of their

The main thing we as genealogists need to keep in mind is which surname was
used to create records for these children.  Will they be created using their
birth father or their step-father's surname?

In a couple of my families there was a legal adoption.  In all of my cases
they were 20th century adoptions.  Therefore a legal name change was done in

Most of my name changes were not as a result of adoption.  Most of these
families lived in NJ during the 19th century.  Adoptions were acts of the
legislature, not the courts as they are today, until sometime in the 1870s.
I forget the exact year.  The list of children who were legally adopted as
acts of the legislature were published in the legislature's records and my
children were not among them.  The way I handle them is to enter them with
their birth surname and I use square brackets to indicate they took the
surname of their step-father.

In the cases where I know that their was a legal adoption, I enter the birth
name in parenthesis and the legal name change as the surname.  I also
explain the name changes in my notes, indicating if there was a legal
adoption or if the child just used the step-father's surname.

Other people my handle this differently.  It will be interesting to see what
others have to say.

Chuck Mason

-----Original Message-----
From: apgpubliclist-bounces+cgrs791=netscape.com at apgen.org
[mailto:apgpubliclist-bounces+cgrs791=netscape.com at apgen.org] On Behalf Of
Mary Swanson
Sent: Saturday, November 13, 2010 2:21 PM
To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Subject: [APG Public List] Adopted children in genealogy

I'm interested in the list readers' thoughts concerning the following.  A 
husband and wife have two children.  The marriage ends in divorce...the 
mother remarries and the ex-husband gives up all rights to his two children.

The two children are then known by their adoptive father's surname.  All 
family members know the biological and adoptive father's.  The original 
husband would be noted, of course, as the woman's first husband and 
biological father of the two children.  But should the children be entered 
only under their adopted surname or should the biological surname be 
included in parenthesis along with the adopted surname?  Or, is there 
another way of entering this situation in a genealogy?
Thanks, Mary 

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