Genealogy Guides

A group portrait of orphaned children taken after they arriving in Lebanon, Missouri.

Adoption Records

Missouri does not have open adoption records. This situation, although common to most states, can complicate a genealogist’s search for their adopted ancestor.

Official Records

Prior to a new law that became effective August 28, 2011, Missouri adoptees were required to obtain permission from both their biological and adopted parents before learning the identity of their biological parents. Since the new law took effect the following changes apply:

Adult adoptees no longer need the permission of their adopted parents to request “identifying information” about biological parents, however, adoptees are still required to obtain permission from the biological parents before requesting the information.  Identifying information consists of: name, date of birth, place of birth, and last known address.  If the adoptee’s birth parents are deceased, the adult adoptee can request identifying information from the circuit court that had original jurisdiction in their adoption.  Finally, descendants of a deceased adoptee can request and receive “non-identifying” information about their biological grandparents, such as the age of parents when the adoptee was born, the parents’ occupations, and where the parents lived. For more information use the Adoption Information Registry, a service of the Missouri Department of Social Services.

For information about adoptions occurring prior to 1917, researchers should check with the Office of the Recorder of Deeds in the adopted child’s county of residence. Beginning in 1857, the State of Missouri required adoptions to be filed by deed in the county of residence of the person adopting the child. [Laws of Missouri, 1856-57, pg. 59] It was not until 1917, that adoptions in Missouri required a petition to be filed in the juvenile division of the circuit court of either the county where the child resided or the county where the person seeking to adopt resided. [Laws of Missouri, 1917, pg. 193]

Resources Available at the State Historical Society of Missouri

Prior to 1853 some adoptions were made by legislative act. A reference specialist at SHSMO will check the personal act list in An Index to the Statute Laws of Missouri for adoptions occurring during this early period.

Other Resources

Orphan Train Adoptions

During the years 1854-1929, the Children’s Aid Society of New York sent approximately 100,000 children from the streets of New York to find new homes with families in the Midwest. Many of these children were then adopted by the families. Those who came as children on the “Orphan Trains,” or had parents or grandparents who came, may have success locating family members by contacting the following organization:

Researchers may also want to consider consulting with a professional genealogist who specializes in adoption research.