After 80 years, adoptees in New York are seeing their original birth records |

After 80 years, adoptees in New York are seeing their original birth records

Berkeley Brean
Updated: February 24, 2020 06:50 PM
Created: February 24, 2020 06:42 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) — For 80 years, adopted children in New York were barred, by law, from getting their original birth records.

News10NBC started investigating this last year. 

New York agreed to change the law, and in January, the ban was lifted. Now people are sharing the new information about their lives. 

"So this is my official birth certificate," Elizabeth Terry said at her dinner table Monday afternoon. 

The piece of paper on the table was something New York State told Elizabeth her whole life she wasn't allowed to have. 

It was delivered two weeks ago. 

According to the certificate, her birth name was Cheryl Ann. Her mother's name was Andrea, and she was 20 years old when she gave Terry up for adoption. 

"I'm kind of sad in a way because, not only have I lost my adoptive parents, I'm going to cry, but my biological mother died in 2015," Terry said. "And had this bill come sooner I would have been able to meet her. And that makes me really sad."

How many people like Terry never got to know?

In 1939, New York State sealed the records of adopted children. It was signed by Governor Herbert Lehman who adopted a child from a notorious baby broker. 

Since access to records was granted on Jan. 15, New York state got 6,000 applications. Within three weeks, 900 records were mailed out.

I've covered this story for a year introducing you to adoptees fighting for this access including Karen Donahower of Fairport. She shared a photo of herself looking at her birth certificate for the first time. She told me was trying not to cry. 

Terry's birth certificate helped her find a yearbook photo of her biological mother. You can see the resemblance. And she met her sister on Facebook. 

"I've been trying to put together this jigsaw puzzle my whole life," she said. "I never had a sister. I now have a sister. She's very open. We're just sad it took so long."

The other thing Terry has is access to family medical history. For years when a doctor asked if something ran in her family, her answer was, ‘I don't know.’

Terry said it cost her about $100 to get her birth records. 

There are 650,000 adoptees in New York State.

To apply for original birth records, click here.

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