The following is an updated list of answers and questions about the Weprin/Montgomery Bill, which was finally passed in the New York Assembly on June 20, 2019.
What bill passed the New York State Senate and Assembly?
The assembly bill is A5494. The senate bill is S3419. When the bill was considered in the Assembly for final passage, the Assembly ultimately voted and passed S3419. That bill (S3419) will now be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo for consideration and signature.
Who are the prime sponsors of the bill?
David Weprin is the prime sponsor of the Assembly bill, A5494. Senator Velmanette Montgomery is the prime sponsor of the New York Senate bill, S3419. Together the bill is known informally as the Weprin/Montgomery Bill.
What does the bill do?
In a nutshell the Weprin/Montgomery Bill requires release to an adult adoptee, upon request and payment of the regular fee for a vital record, of an unaltered and unredacted long form vault copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate.
How old does an adoptee need to be to request the copy of the OBC?
At least 18 years of age.
Is the OBC a certified copy?
Yes, the long-form vault copy the department of health provides is certified. I expect that it will, like all other released pre-adoption birth certificates in the United States, include a notation that it cannot be used for identification purposes. This prevents the document from being used to establish two identities. As a side note, certification of a document only relates to the vital records department attesting that the copy is a true and correct copy of the original document on file.
I was born in Florida but adopted in New York. Does the bill do anything for me?
Yes. Under a separate provision in the bill, those born in a state (or country) other than New York but adopted in New York may request and obtain, without restriction, the information that would normally appear on the adopted person’s original birth certificate. This information must be provided by either the agency that handled the adoption or by the court. How that process will work has not yet been outlined.
I think my original birth certificate is held by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Does the Weprin/Montgomery Bill address this?
Yes. The bill specifically addresses and requires the New York City Department of Health to release an OBC to the adult adoptee upon request. This is an important provision and was something advocates specifically worked to assure. It also requires that other specific local registrars, if they have the OBC, to provide the OBC upon request.
Can descendants of adoptees obtain a copy of their ancestors’ OBC?
Yes, under the Weprin/Montgomery Bill the people who can obtain a certified copy of the adoptee’s original birth certificate are: 1) the adopted person, if eighteen years of age or more; 2) the adopted person’s direct line descendants if the adoptee is deceased; or 3) the lawful representative of the adopted person.
How are descendants defined in the bill?
The bill uses the term “direct line descendants,” which would mean the children and grandchildren of the adult adoptee if the adoptee is deceased. This also includes any generation of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. The bill, however, is silent on whether descendants are considered biological or adoptive descendants.
Are the courts involved at all in the request for an original birth certificate?
No, the Weprin/Montgomery Bill separates the vital records process from the courts, as it should. All requests are to be made to the state or local registrar of vital records, depending on where the OBC is filed. There is one exception, and that is for adult adoptees who do not have an original birth certificate available in New York but who were adopted in a New York court. See the previous question “I was born in Florida but adopted in New York. Does the bill do anything for me?”
Does this mean I can get my OBC in New York right now?
No. See the next question, “when does the bill go into effect?”
When does the bill go into effect?
Assuming Governor Cuomo signs the bill, and we expect that he will, it is effective January 15, 2020. The New York State Department of Health, however, will begin to determine what regulations may be needed to implement the bill before it becomes fully effective in 2020. Unless you get a court order, you cannot get your OBC in New York upon request until at least January 15, 2020.
Where can I get more information and follow this bill as it goes to the Governor for signature?
Get updates from the New York Adoptee Right Coalition (NYARC) on its website and follow NYARC on Facebook and Twitter, where the most up-to-date news will be posted. Adoptee Rights Law Center is a core partner in NYARC, along with the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York and Bastard Nation (and Reclaim the Records has been a kick ass strategic partner in all this). You can also follow the bill’s progress on the New York Senate site here.
Lynda Hicks says
My daughter was born in NJ. I took her from the hospital to NYC and relinquished her to Spence Chapin. They handled the adoption. Her post adoption non I’d states she was adopted into NE US, but Spence Chapin told me she was adopted back into NJ. Since she was adopted through Spence Chapin in NYC would her birth certificate be in NY?
Gregory D. Luce says
Her birth certificate would be in the actual state of birth. While I have seen some inexplicable discrepancies (born in one state but somehow the birth was registered in another state) it is rare and I would expect that the certificate is in New Jersey and available to her, with some limited restrictions. All that said, Spence Chapin, if it was the child placing agency, may also have a copy of the OBC in the agency file.
I was born upstate , NY but the next day baptized in Brooklyn and put in catholic charities angel guardian home. Would I apply in NYS or NYC? I’m 65 so old enough. I know my birth name. Thanks
Gregory D. Luce says
While we’ll still need to see how the details roll out, it’s likely you will apply for your OBC through the State Department of Health, as New York City would not have registered your birth.
Rachida Djebel says
The OBC remains in the state in which the adoptee is born. It does not transfer to the state handling the adoption. While agencies may have this when the child is an infant (because said child was born in that state), it is highly unlikely that OBC from another state will be provided to and available from the agency handling the adoption. (OBCs are not immediately available to anyone after the birth of a child because of the process and procedure time it takes to produce and index it. Once that process is complete, normally the parents receive a copy by mail, whether 74 years ago or today.)
The OBC is a record of the birth state, and it is that state determines its disposition and the laws concerning who may or may not have it.
Case in point: I and my younger sister were adopted in Nebraska due to being abandoned by our parents in that state. My sister was born in ID and I was born in OH. Both OBCs reside in those states. NE does not have these documents in its Dept of Vital Statistics. (Felonious parents do not carry incriminating evidence; in fact we parents don’t cart our kids’ certificates with us when we travel-not simply to pick up groceries or to go on vacation.)
For years NE refused me my OBC and still refuses me any information on my sister-like her adoptive name – despite the fact that I now have my OBC and hers. Had they been patent and transparent about not having it because we were not born in the state, I would have left them to their whiles and moved on.
As it was, in 1982, the US Passport Agency’s initial denial of my application (because my amended certificate supplied only this for my birth place “(child was) born within the continental limits of the United States” which did not meet the requirements of any passport to include city/territory, state/province, country. (NE has since slightly altered the above statement but it still does not meet passport requirements.) This spurred me on to regroup and to do some more research which lead me to canvassing 47 states to locate my birth state. I will skip the details of my methods, but will say that no matter what one does the key to success is to persevere and to find that one rare individual who can go beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of it and thus take the time to listen and give you advice on how to obtain what you need.
When I began this lengthy search I knew only my date of birth and my father’s surname and that I had 2 siblings. (None of this will get one an OBC.)
OH confirmed my birth in that state, and my angel from the Department of Vital Statistics explained how I needed to petition the court which I did. I was advised that he court would determine whether or not my parents’ names would appear, but assured me that it would include the city, county, state and country as required by any Passport Agency in or out of the US. Within a week-and -a-half of receipt the court provide me with certified unredacted copies of the OBC It took me quite a few years to understand the reality of my status in OH regarding my birth certificate: The state was obligated to provide it intact because I was not an adoptee in the state of Ohio and therefore was like any other non-adoptee with the right to have the document no strings attached.
I have since obtained my mother’s and brother’s OBC’s from Ohio, and my sister’s from ID as I can prove that I am daughter of my mother and sister to my siblings-by documentation and by DNA-the latter by inference because of direct DNA matches to members of my maternal and paternal family members.
NYS Legislation (Assembly A5494 and S3419) now passed-but not signed as law by Gov. Andrew M Cuomo- specifies this in its document:
“PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
Restores the civil right of adult adoptees to receive a certified copy
of their original long form birth certificate if 18 years of age or
older. The specific provisions are intended to ensure that all adult
adoptees adopted in New York will have the same unimpeded right as non-adopted people born in New York to access such birth certificates or, if not available, the true and correct information that would have appeared on them.”
It very clearly specifies adoptees BORN IN NEW YORK, which is unambiguous- leaving no room to add any other interpretation. Again, the only way an OBC from another state would be attached to the amended version would be if the parent provided it… and that is highly unlikely. If the ‘true and correct ‘ information ‘that would have appeared’ was provided by the mother who relinquished custody of her child, it may not be accurate. The wording in the PURPOSE appears to mean information obtained from a ‘legal’ document. But appearances can be deceiving, as can the individual providing the information.
In the meantime, the more time that passes without Cuomo’s signature, the more the reason to suspect that this legislation will not become law. As they say, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings…
It would be a tragedy if he vetoes this… especially since it is OUR information to which we have a right. It does not matter how we may have been conceived (which apparently is the new wrinkle of a formerly contentious issue for 83 years) but that we were conceived and born. Unlike others who heard the Governor’s recent press conference on the OBC issue, I am not convince that it was his affirmation that the legislation would be made law if passed. (The new issue is rape…. and the mother needing confidentiality … If today she were in a court case regarding an incident of rape, it would become public knowledge .. and there would be a rape kit which proved the raped and its after affects by medical examination. Even so, one condition has nothing to do with the other. If, for instance, my son was born due to my being raped, he will still have a birth certificate created the same as all OBCs… no mention of how he nay have been conceived, only a record that he was born. My OH OBC dos not contain information does not contain information about my conception, but that I was born and the immediate conditions of my birth. My son’s CT OBC is similar. (We were both born prematurely.)
Note to Cuomo: Sign! Just sign!
Sandy Mietz Allen says
My grandfather was born in 1905, likely Central NY. In 1906 he was surrendered to St Mary’s Maternity Hospital and Infant Asylum in Syracuse. In 1911 he was adopted. In the past, I have requested from Albany, under his adoptive name, a birth certificate. It came back “not located”. What are the chances I will be given his original birth certificate from 1905 without knowing his birth name? How should I proceed? We have a vague theory of his lineage from DNA but not enough to specifically identify his parents. Any suggestions are greatly appreciate.
Gregory D. Luce says
So, the fairly old birth certificates may take some digging and prodding for them to find them, and it’s possible—given that they did not seal birth records after adoptions in 1905, that it’s difficult to link up the amended certificate to the original. So I would be prepared to push back if they say they cannot find it. But they hopefully will be able to link the adoptive name and date of birth to the original certificate. Can you find no birth certificate at all for him? It is possible that one was not produced, as it was very early in the days before birth certificates were absolutely required.
Margie Louise Wright says
How would this work for a person who was born in New York state and adopted in New York state and then returned to the state by the adopted parents who then relinquish and terminate all rights to the adoptee ? Should said adoptee be able to retain their original birth certificate as well as their birth name from the minute the judge terminates the adoption?
Gregory D. Luce says
Whether the person reverts back to the original birth certificate in that case will depend entirely on what was in the order that terminated the adoptive parents’ rights. Generally, terminating parental rights will not result in sealing of the birth certificate related to those parents. But, in general, if your OBC was sealed on account of an adoption, this law will still give you the right to request a certified copy of that OBC.
Sandy Allen says
Considering the only avenue in requesting a birth certificate, since I don’t know the exact birth location, is through a form sent to Albany. That is their only process option and it’s running with a 14 month backlog. There is no opportunity to speak directly to anyone to push for a better search and I am skeptical an attached letter would be acknowledged . In 1905, in Central NY it would have been highly unusual for a birth certificate not to be filed. His mother retained custody of him for over a year. Would hiring a lawyer be more effective?
Gregory D. Luce says
I’d consider a professional genealogist first before seeking a lawyer, if you haven’t done that already.
Judy Scanlon says
For adoptees who are living, or their direct offspring, the autosomal DNA test is a wonderful and effective tool for researching genealogical (and genetic) roots. It will give adoptees matches with real genetic relatives on both sides of their family tree. I encourage everyone who wants to research their genealogy, to do this while they wait for the adoptee rights bill to be signed and go into effect, especially because the name of the birth father is not always listed on the OBC.
A simple saliva sample gives you matches with real biological relatives out there who have also done DNA testing where you test. I have found both my maternal and paternal birth family because of help from an excellent genetic genealogy search angel, and autosomal DNA testing. DNA is an excellent search tool. I have now met maternal and paternal birth relatives and am well on my way building an extensive family tree. I never thought NY State would ever pass a clean adoptee rights bill any time soon, and I was in my 50’s, so I was not going to wait for NY once autosomal DNA testing became available. But now that NY passed the adoptee rights bill (I am now in my 60’s), I am excited that I will be able to finally have a copy of the record documenting my birth.
Because you never know where someone will test, it is important to fish in all DNA testing company ponds. Cast a wide net. Start with Ancestry as over 10 million people have now tested there. Then transfer those match results to FTDNA for 19.00, and MyHeritage for 29.00. Finally test with 23andMe. And if the person is a male, they can also do a Y-DNA 37 marker test to get matches with men from their direct paternal line. It may lead to the identification of the surname of your birth father. Many people (male) doing genealogy research are researching their paternal surname using Y-DNA testing.
DNA results with Ancestry have been coming back in about 4 weeks. If a birth parent, sibling, 1/2 sibling, aunt/uncle, 1st, 2nd, 3rd cousins, has tested where you have tested, you will be matched. You will receive matches with 4th-to more distant cousins as well. I now have a match with a younger 1/2 sister who is another adoptee, that I didn’t know about. And she was never told about me when she registered with the NYS adoption reunion registry (they are supposed to tell you how many children were born to your birth mother before you). So DNA testing is a way to cover all the bases while waiting for our Bill to be signed into law. Once it is signed, if in effect Jan 15th 2020, it could still take months to actually receive the document once you request it. Adding DNA testing will get you well on your way to obtaining a fuller picture of your beginnings while you wait for your OBC.
So Gregory, I would suggest adding seeking a “genetic genealogist”, ,and doing autosomal DNA testing to your recommendation above!
Sandy Mietz Allen says
Thank you for taking the time to respond.
I am a certified genealogist and a genetic genealogist. I have done the steps you have outlined. In 2014 I began testing all our family members. In 2017 my uncle was tested using the Y-DNA. I tracked down a distant cousin in California and ran a Y-DNA test on him. I am confident in my theories of my grandfather’s biological lines but it appears both his parents were also NPEs themselves, thus muddying the waters. While I have a good idea whom his parents were, their exact names (at the time of his birth) elude me. That paper record is invaluable.
My greatest concern is that requesting genealogical birth certificates through Albany is “form and rubber stamp” process, not to mention their lengthy backlog. I am skeptical that anyone being asked to fill my request will make any additional effort to find his original birth certificate since his original name is not known to us. He was left at a Syracuse Orphanage so it is likely he was born in that area. The records could be in the city or any of the towns in Onondaga County. Considering his grandparents lived in Oswego, his birth certificate could have been filed in the City of Oswego or any of the towns in Oswego County. Going that route would be a needle in a haystack especially due to the lack of a birth name.
Once again, your input is appreciated. Thank you
JUDY SCANLON says
Wow, you have described some major challenges regarding the key records you need and I do not envy you. Searching in haystacks is familiar to me. I actually had my adoption final order papers which named my birth mother, and I spent several decades searching for a Jones in a haystack….. Without DNA I would have never found her because as I found out later, “Marie Jones” did not exist, it was a fake name. My Jones birth name was also fake. So I am really curious what name will actually appear on my OBC, Marie Jones, or her real name which is not even close to Jones (or Marie).
You may be familiar with the DNAadoption group. Some of their computer gurus there have developed some special comparison tools to use with your DNA results from different companies that you may not have tried yet. Joining the group is free so you could post your search and what you have done and see if any of the genetic genealogists there can recommend something new for you to try (or ask them to contact you privately). You can leave the group at any time as you are very experienced, and they help people at all levels, but someone there may be able to think of a comparison tool or something you have not tried yet. Just a thought.
JUDY SCANLON says
Greg, how will the passage of this new law work for children born in Italy (and other foreign countries), and sent over to NY for adoption?
Gregory D. Luce says
Good question. For intercountry adoptees it wouldn’t provide the OBC that is on file in Italy (for example) but it would require any agency involved or the court—if it has a copy or has identifying information—to provide “true and correct information about the adopted person and the adopted person’s birth parents, including their identifying information, that would have appeared on such original birth certificate.” This is true for people born in another state and adopted in New York or born in another country and adopted in New York. Have you also thought about or completed a FOIA request to USCIS?
Linda A says
In my seventies been waiting long time for this!! Come on Andrew sign!!
Stephanie Wolf says
I am right there with you, Linda A.!!
I was born in Nassau county and adopted, but a decade ago I did a legal last name change so I assume I will have to provide notarized copies of my ID and/or BC, and my name change decree since without the name change decree my last name wouldn’t match the OBC.
Renee Wilson says
When can the request be sent since this starts in January 2020?
Gregory D. Luce says
We are waiting on the bill to be signed by Governor Cuomo. After that, the departments responsible for issuing birth certificates will need to develop the forms and the process to be followed to request the OBC. So, for now, we don’t know when the request can be sent and whether it can be sent in prior to January 15, 2020. We’re waiting and monitoring how that develops over the next six months.
Judy Scanlom says
Joyce Bahr at Unsealed Initiative said the governor has until the end of the year to sign, but hopes he will sign sooner. I hope he signs soon or we may see that Jan 15th date slip further out. And I don’t even want to think about the possibility that he does not sign it……. This is like watching paint dry! I will try to remain positive, and look forward to any updates indicating that there is some forward motion towards getting this bill enacted.
Roni Moskowitz says
Quick question…..received my OBC from New Jersey in Oct. of last year.,,, my question is ,,,,If the bill is signed and goes into law Jan.15,2020 will the actual adoption records / file be available for me to receive…..I’m trying to find out why a private adoption took two attorneys and four years ( 1949-1953 ) and a lot of crying during that time by my adopted mom to be completed….. I’m 70 years old now both parents are gone birth and adopted. Soooo many many questions no answers……thank you.
Gregory D. Luce says
The New York bill only provides a certified copy of the original birth certificate, with one exception: if the adoptee was born in another state but adopted in New York, information that would normally appear on an OBC will be provided. No adoption court records or actual records from the agencies are included in this bill.
Roni Moskowitz says
I was afraid of that ……thanks so much for your quick response…..Roni moskowitz
Thank you so much for posting this helpful Q&A. My late husband was adopted from the New York Foundling Home in 1967. I’m not sure what state he he was actually born in…probably NY or NJ. He was 11 months old when he was adopted. He passed away in 2013. Would our son (who is over 18) apply for his father’s bc through NYC, since that’s where the foundling home was?
Lisa Roche says
NJ and NY (the latter beginning in 2020) will allow lineal descendants of deceased adoptees to request original birth certificates. If I were in your shoes, I’d apply for NJ as it’s currently available and let them tell me if they can’t find a record. And if that’s the case, I’d request from NY once it’s available. Best of luck to you! You are searching at a wonderful time!