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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
New Jersey Unseals Birth Certificates of Adopted Persons
This is not another ordinary request for a vital record in New Jersey.
This envelope contains a request for a copy of a birth certificate that was sealed because the child was adopted.
THIS IS BIG NEWS for New Jersey. If your birth certificate was sealed because you were adopted, you can now request your original birth certificate, containing the names of your biological parent(s). The certificates will be mailed beginning January 1, 2017.
New Jersey Statues Annotated 26:8-40.1 has been amended to:
c. The State Registrar shall cause to be placed under seal the original certificate of birth and all papers pertaining to the new certificate of birth. Such seal shall not be broken except:
(1) by order of a court of competent jurisdiction; or
(2) upon request for an uncertified, long-form copy of the adopted person's original certificate of birth by a person 18 years of age or older who can establish himself as one of the following:
(a) the adopted person;
(b) a direct descendant, sibling, or spouse of the adopted person;
(c) an adoptive parent, legal guardian, or other legal representative of the adopted person; or
(d) an agency of the State or federal government for official purposes.
The Department of Health has a link to the form (REG-41) with instructions. (The links for the State change often, so if the link does not work, turn to Google.)
The certificate that I requested is for a birth from 1936. The court records about the adoption were not sealed, so the name of the birth mother was known. (New Jersey sealed adoption records in 1940.) Several women carried this name, so the exact birth mother was not identified with certainty and most candidates were dead. A few years ago, DNA testing linked several close cousins of one possible mother, prompting an elderly family member to identify the birth mother and explain some of the story.
The biological father was not named in the court records. His name may or may not appear on the original birth certificate; however, he has been identified through DNA tests submitted by some of his descendants and close cousins. His identity may have never been uncovered if not for DNA testing.
Both biological parents are long deceased.
DNA testing influences the debate when deciding to grant access to original birth certificates of adopted persons. As more people test their DNA, chances increase for an adopted person to figure out their biological family without the help of viewing the original birth certificate. If a relative as distant as a third cousin of a biological parent tests his/her DNA, the adopted child can possibly figure out the identity of the biological parent. As the pool of DNA testers grows, finding biological parents becomes inevitable. Other states should unseal the birth certificates of adopted people. The child was not a party to the decision to seal the certificate.