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Adoption Options
4/1/2004
Advice on obtaining records of an ancestral adoption.
Q. My mother, born in 1913 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville, was adopted as an infant. Virginia birth records are sealed for 100 years. How can I find my natural grandmother?

A. Adoptees can request nonidentifying information, such as location and time of birth, from the adoption agency. If you don't know the name of the adoption agency, call the state social services department or the birth hospital to ask. Unfortunately, this isn't always successful: I made calls to the Virginia Department of Social Services <www.dss.state.va.us> and the University of Virginia Hospital <hsc.virgtnia.edu>, and both organizations said their records date to only the 1940s. If you do learn the name of the adoption agency but discover it's out of business, check with local historical societies to see whether they have the records (or know who does).

A more costly approach — but the one that potentially could yield the most information — is to petition the court to open the records. First, locate the county that holds the adoption record, so you know where to file your case. Start with the Clerk of Circuit Court for Albemarle County, where your mother was born, and then check the county where her adoptive parents lived. Keep in mind that birth mothers sometimes used aliases, and adoption agencies generally didn't verify birth information.

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