Adoption Research

This guide contains a sample of The Newberry's resources on this topic. To locate additional resources, please check our catalog or consult a reference librarian.

Subject Headings

The Newberry holds some records and registers of orphanages and children’s homes. You can search by Subject in our Primo VE catalog using the “Advanced Search” function to the right of the search bar. Select “Subject” in the drop-down menu of search features in place of “Any field,” then copy-and-paste one of the following subject headings:

  • Adoption [locality]
  • Children [locality] Registers
  • Homeless children [locality]
  • Orphanages [locality]
  • Orphans [locality]
  • Orphans [locality] Registers
  • Orphans and orphan-asylums [locality]

Results can be filtered by Material Type, Language, Date, Author, Title, etc. prior to searching by using the drop-down menus in the search panel. If your search produces too many options, you can also narrow results using the faceted options on the left-hand side, under the heading “Refine your results.” Clicking on one of these filter terms or the box to their left will limit results to only those that fit this criterion, while clicking on the red box to the right of the term will exclude those results. For more information about searching in our online catalog, please see our Guide to Primo VE.

General Search Guides

Culligan, Joseph J. You, Too, Can Find Anybody: a Reference Manual. Miami, FL: Hallmark Press, c1996. Call # Local History Ref HV6762.U5 C85 1996 (2nd floor open shelf).

Johnson, Richard S. How to Locate Anyone Who Is or Has Been in the Military: Armed Forces Locator Guide. 8th ed. Spartanburg, SC: MIE Pub., c1999. Call # Local History Ref U11.U5 J54 1999 (2nd floor open shelf).

Adoption Search Guides

Askin, Jayne. Search: a Handbook for Adoptees and Birthparents. 3rd ed. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press, 1998. Call # Local History Ref HV881 .A8 1998 (2nd floor open shelf).

Klunder, Virgil L. Lifeline: the Action Guide to Adoption Search. Cape Coral, FL: Caradium, c1991. Call # Local History Ref HV875.55 .K58 1991 (2nd floor open shelf).

Rillera, Mary Jo. The Adoption Searchbook. 3rd ed. Westminster, CA: Triadoption Publications, 1991. Call # Local History Ref HV875 .R5 1991 (2nd floor open shelf).

Shea’s Search Series: the Definitive Guide to Self- Empowered Adoptee Search.

Strauss, Jean A. Birthright: the Guide to Search and Reunion for Adoptees, Birthparents, and Adoptive Parents. New York: Penguin Books, 1994. Call # Local History Ref HV874.82 .S77 1994 (2nd floor open shelf).


Carson, Ruth. So You Want to Adopt a Baby. Public Affairs Pamphlet no. 173. New York, Public Affairs Committee, 1951. Call # H31387 .715 no. 173.

Le Shan, Eda J. You and Your Adopted Child. Public Affairs Pamphlet no. 274. New York, Public Affairs Committee, 1958. Call # H31387 .715 no. 274.

Paul, Ellen, ed.The Adoption Directory: the Most Comprehensive Guide to Family-Building Options, Including State Statutes on Adoption, Public and Private Adoption Agencies. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989. Call # Local History Ref HV875.55 .A364 1989 (2nd floor open shelf).

Orphan Trains

Holt, Marilyn I. The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, c1992. Call # HV985. H65 1992.

O’Connor, Stephen. Orphan Trains: the Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004. Call # HV985 .O36 2004.


Angel Guardian Orphanage. Catholic Church. Baptisms 1881-1916, Confirmations 1891-1911, Deaths 1880-1912. Available on microfilm from the Family History Library. Film No. 1630908 Items 2-3.

Cmiel, Kenneth. A Home of Another Kind: One Chicago Orphanage and the Tangle of Child Welfare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Call # HV995.C42 C553 1995.

Heenan, Kathleen M. St. Vincent’s: an Orphanage that Shined. Mundelein, IL: Gold Leaf, c2002. Call # HV995.C42 S25 2002.

McCausland, Clare L. Children of Circumstance: a History of the First 125 Years (1849-1974) of Chicago Child Care Society. Chicago: Chicago Child Care Society, 1976. Call # HV995.C4 C45.


Illinois offers a Confidential Intermediary service that provides a way for adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, and other birth relatives to connect. A courtappointed Confidential Intermediary locates the sought-after relative(s) and facilitates contact if it is mutually desired.

Other Resources

The American Adoption Congress advocates for greater openness in adoption records. Their website details legislative updates concerning access to adoption records, particularly by adult adoptees. There are also links to search and support organizations and pertinent bibliographies.

Bastard Nation is an adoptees’ rights organization, and campaigns for adoptees’ access to their birth records. Their website contains a state-by-state synopsis of access laws for both the U.S. and Canada, as well as a primer for researching adoption’s legislative history.

Cyndi’s List offers a comprehensive listing of links to websites pertaining to a number of genealogy topics, including adoption. The adoption page contains over 180 links to search, reunion, and support websites.

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