' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: How to find your New York City original NAME

Monday, May 2, 2016

How to find your New York City original NAME

Press Conference at NYC Hall with David Weprin, 2013
For years, a data base that led to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of adoptees born in the five boroughs of New York City access their original birth record if they had a copy of their amended one has been removed from the Main Branch Public Library, under a 2008 change in the New York City Health Code. We believe this is a bogus application of the regulation to defeat the increasing numbers of adoptees who are going around the law to locate their original families.

But take heart, adoptees born in New York--this does not have to defeat us!  The data base is not only on line, but it is also available for a
nominal fee of $10 at each of the Family History Centers, which, we are informed, are available at the Mormon churches throughout the country--making this much more accessible to everyone.

Furthermore, access is available on line at various sites for nominal fees: New York City-Specific Databases:
This link also has data bases all over the country.
and New York City Birth Index Search Service

I am including both a hot link (in bold) and the specific address here. The first listed is connected to Ancestry.com and also lists several other states and cities.

The years of some data bases are only up to 1965, but this morning I did stumble across a page that had records up to 1975. The sites above charge nominal fees for their use (the first is $30 for 90 days, $70 for a year's access), but considering the cost of going to New York City, Main Branch on Fifth Avenue, that is a bargain. The other appears to be $300 and includes the search itself. Finding the matchup is tedious and that also seems like a fair price. The more places this data base is, the better. If anyone knows of other sites with the data base, email me at: forumfirstmother@gmail.com.

While it may seem that physically removing the birth books from the shelves was a way to prevent adoptees from finding their original birth certificates, which then lead to locating their first mothers, let us use this as an opportunity to defeat the sealed records not only in New York, but in any state where they are still sealed!

It works like this. An amended birth certificate has a number, and that number corresponds to the one on the original birth certificate. You match them and Voila! You've got your name. According to search angel Priscilla Stone Sharp, it looks something like this: Public John Q 11 24 5 K 49445. This means John Q. Public was born 24 November 1955 in K[ings] County [i.e., Brooklyn] and that his birth certificate number ends in 49445. This number will correspond to the one on the amended document. Unfortunately, the names of the biological parents are not listed, but the last name is a big clue in the discovery process of one's identity.

Priscilla, of State College, Pennsylvania, reports that she is solving about five cases a week--and half of them through DNA alone!  She has even found the families of two foundlings, both from the Sixties, through DNA. Reach her at: Priscilla Sharp or on Facebook.

The top of my birth certificate 
Why were the books removed? I'm hazarding an educated guess after four decades of fighting for opening the records: Our opposition is fighting a latch-ditch stand. As we are getting closer to ending sealed adoptee birth certificates, those opposed are taking greater measures to shut down the avenues we are using to get around them. Judge John Czygier of New York Suffolk County Surrogate Court--this is in fact my closest state court!--spoke at length opposing the repealing of New York's sealed-records law at the 2014 hearing when we thought we had a shot at getting the law through. It's not unlikely that he could be behind the sudden application of a 2008 loophole he found to have the volumes physically removed. Or it could be Rep. Helene Weinstein in Albany, who has been our fiercest opponent in unsealing the birth records. Or someone else in the New York City Department of Health. Who knows? It does not matter.

Today, however, let us not be defeated by this. Those who want to search, should continue. Those who have have vague thoughts about finding their records, should step up their efforts. Before any institution so entrenched in society comes to an end, there will be confusion and chaos, just as there was when slavery ended. This may seem like a setback, but it is only a manifestation of a desperate losing side. They know they are losing. Take heart, and do the work. We Will Win in the end. The arc of justice bends to the right.--lorraine

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
"I felt that I was listening in to Lorraine's experiences across the years somewhere between her heart and her skin. Dusky writes as most people think."
 --Pam Hasegawa, adoptee, founder of AdoptionNS@yahoogroups.com former board member, American Adoption Congress

THANK YOU FOR ordering anything through the Amazon link. Click on the book title or jacket to get there. 


  1. April 30, 2016 at 4:28 PM
    I close my eyes and dream of Lorraine presenting this from podiums on the steps of state capitols across the country where adopted persons' right to our personal genetic history remains none of our business.

    Announcements arrive at our inboxes from one state, then another, sharing the news of passage of legislation that will restore this right of access, and we cheer! Our throng is dispersed across continents and nations, but we hear each other and cheer as the wind blows the sighs of relief and tears of joy from one state to another here in the land of the free and from North America to Europe, Asia and the Global South.

    As Sister Dominica Maria, Superintendent of the NY Foundling Hospital wrote to New York State's Governor Herbert Lehman of the State of New York on April 25, 1935, “We disapprove of the bill concerning birth certificates (the sealing thereof from adopted persons) for the following reasons: 1) It legalizes the falsification of permanent public records, (and) 2) It nullifies the inalienable right of a person to know the actual facts of his birth.”

    Brava! Sister Dominica Maria. You spoke the truth for voiceless parents and children. We, no longer silent, will not be stopped by this illegal, immoral confiscation of public records.

  2. April 30, 2016 at 5:49 PM
    Further to your instructions, I want to point out that these indices are arranged alphabetically by year, which means an adoptee searching will have to start with the letter 'A' in their year of birth and go up and down the columns looking for month/day of birth, then borough (K-Brooklyn, Q-Queens, M-Manhattan, B-Bronx, and R-Richmond), Y--Born elsewhere, registered in NYC. Then match the last digits of their ABC. Then to the left will be the name.
    Fair warning: A few of the names will be aliases, and some will be the mother's married name, not necessarily the father. Very often it's a common name almost impossible to find (although I did solve a "Johnson" case in Manhattan one time). For these reasons, we encourage everyone to get their DNA in the Family Finder databases right away. See my instructions at http://www.womensvoicesmagazine.com/2016/03/01/what-you-need-to-know-to-start-your-family-member-search/
    Start with Ancestry, then upload the Ancestry raw data to FamilyTreeDNA ($39) and GEDMatch (free with donations appreciated). Do the 23andMe test ($200) only if you want medical data associated with your DNA or if you are finding no close (2nd cousin or closer) matches on Ancestry or FTDNA.
    All of the DNA sites have tutorials to help you understand this complex, technical, confusing stuff. Join on-line DNA sites such as ISOGG (DNA-NEWBIE on Yahoo) and several FB groups.
    DNA - the ultimate accurate birth certificate no one can deny.

    1. I just registered and am having issues logging in. This is not a NYC site, is this a searcher? or is it copies of the actual books. I am confused.

    2. Joe--To access either site, you have to pay. There are two different sites. The second is a searcher, who looks through the rolls for you, as I understand. The first is access, you search.

  3. May 1, 2016 at 4:45 PM
    It works like this. An amended birth certificate has a number, and that number corresponds to the one on the original birth certificate. You match them and Voila! You've got your name. According to search angel Priscilla Stone Sharp, it looks something like this: Public John Q 11 24 5 K 49445. This means John Q. Public was born 24 November 1955 in K[ings] County [i.e., Brooklyn] and that his birth certificate number ends in 49445. This number will correspond to the one on the amended document. Unfortunately, the names of the biological parents are not listed, but the last name is a big clue in the discovery process of one's identity.

    This is true for California too - matching up birth cert # - that's how I found my daughter in 2006. Also, in Ancestry dot com under my name is that I gave birth to a daughter, and listed the name I named her. So if you have someone with access to THOSE databases - easy peacy!

    And thank you Priscilla for helping adoptees and natural mothers! Bravo!

  4. May 1, 2016 at 8:23 PM
    Reading all this New York and California cloak and dagger stuff gives me a headache. The pillars of the US, the homes of the most sophisticated and educated people in the country, entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, writers, film-makers, and more. And yet little Oregon has them beat when it comes to opening records. Folks here are capable of learning their origins or where their child is without going off the deep-end; they don't need the government to protect them from one another.

    Oregon also allows legal marijuana sales. Step right up, put your money on the counter, and walk away with the green stuff.

    In New York and California buying pot is a nefarious act; something you do clandestinely, just like getting the name of the woman who gave birth to you.

  5. May 2, 2016 at 2:34 AM
    i dunno about new york but i'm sure the pot mafia has something to do with it here. can't make it legal too soon or else the mafias will lose out big time... they are scrambling to figure out how to keep the corner on the market and survive legalization.

  6. May 1, 2016 at 11:38 PM
    Jane I can't figure out why California is so ass backwards. Makes me crazy.

  7. May 2, 2016 at 12:01 PM
    I was the one of the lasts people to look at the birth indexes at the NYC Library. The call came in while I was looking at the 1966 index and I was told this would be the last day they would be available. I have always heard that the online versions only when up to 1965. I would gladly pay a fee to be able to look at it again. I was not able to find my number, I felt like I was rushed, I must have missed it.

  8. Another reminder to get your DNA in the Family Finder databases: I just found a mother today who used a fake name in 1966, NYC. We never would have found her if not for the adoptee being matched with a 2nd cousin.

  9. After reuniting with my son after 39 years, we planned a visit to the Main Branch of the New York City Public Library, History and Genealogy Department, where we accessed the 1970 New York City Birth Index. Finding "proof" of our familial connection was very exciting and emotional. My son recorded the event. By searching for his date of birth we were able to find his given name at birth, my surname, and his father's given name, and county of birth. This was a very meaningful part of our journey.
    I'm not so sure there is anything sinister in the books being removed. It could be something as simple as moving paper into a holding facility. Bureaucrats simply don't care about people's feelings when it comes to such things. Not sinister, just heartless.
    Just don't quit!

    1. They moved the books back to the New York City Department of Records. Now you have to search the database at the library through Ancestry.com unless you have an account with them, then you can search yourself. The books have been scanned, added and you can search just by the birth certificate number. Nothing nefarious. They were on loan to the library. I hope that helps.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this, Lorraine. As someone in the past who used to tediously search through the birth index in the NYC main branch of the library; I had no idea what searchers were to do going forward.

  11. from Carol Whitehead
    New York City Department of Health Forces New York Public Library to
    Remove Certain Indexes
    Jan Meisels Allen, Chairperson of the IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee, reports that the New York City Department of Health has required the New York Public Library to remove the post-1909 New York City birth indexes and the post-1948 death indexes from the library. The indexes were on deposit from the Board of Health and have been removed from their collections and returned to the city in accordance with the City's Health Code. The Department of Health claims these indexes are exempt from the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) because they are protected under the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) statute. Read about this statue athttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Portability_and_Accountability_Act.

    The credit should really go to the 5/1/16: Nu? What's New? The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy from Avotanyu. Gary Motoff, Editor. Volume # 17. #17.

    1. Considering the state laws were that the nyc birth index was public information, I am not sure how hippa has anything to do with them pulling the books. Plus they were pulled once before and Alma and others fought to get them back. I wish one of the lawyers would look into this Thanks,

  12. Hi:
    I was able to locate my original surname from the NYC birth index. Thank you for the information that lead me to it. I am now totally perplexed as to how to find out the first name of my birth mother and names of my birth father. I do not want to "find" anyone. I would just like the information for now. Mostly interested in medical data. I tried getting paperwork from the hospital where I was born, but the purge everything after about 10 years. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

  13. My Family History Center does not know what I am talking about when I asked about NYC birth records after 1909. Is there a name for this specific database?

    1. join nyadoptees.com I can give you the film # to order from them. You have to know how to find the list of birth index films. I have them. sincerely, Joan of nyadoptees

  14. I was born in 1992 in bronx county. I do know my mother's birth name but I'm sure she's married now and her last name has changed. Hospital has no records. Law office no longer exists and the address in the paperwork is 1 digit wrong with the building number. No apartment. Like the information they put on the paperwork was meant to have missing information. Where can I even begin to look for information. I paid for ancestry and recovered no information. I also have a sister. I did an estimated calculation of the year she was born. Any suggestions on where I can start to look.

  15. Ancestry.com now has the New York birth index online. It is very easy to search by birth date and find the birth certificate number. Then you can match it to your amended birth certificate number. I just did this for an adoptee but found that his name was Martin male, so it's not too helpful. Let me know if anyone needs help.

    1. Hi
      I am helping my mother in law search for her birth mother/family. I found her birth index on ancestry (1945). It contains a column that says "codes for names of mother/child", codes are 4 digits. The column and numbers are different from the certificate number column. Anyone know what the code means?

    2. Hi, this is an old column and you are not likely to get answers. You probably need to contact a search angel or a professional. Put your information on the ISRR (International Search Reunion Registry) and someone may contact you. It worked for me when I was hoping to find a granddaughter. And root around Facebook--you could start with the FMF page, I will post your comment.



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