Historical Adoption Research

Access to Adoption Information

Researchers use several historical records to find adoption information about their ancestors. However, because of the sensitive nature of the information, Oregon statutes restrict access to only authorized people. Published reports covering adoptions before 1919 are available without restrictions.

Researching O​​riginal Records

The Oregon State Archives has county court judicial journals, probate records, circuit court journals and some state agency records (e.g., Public Welfare Commission Records Care Facility Monthly Reports) that can be useful sources for adoption information.

However, viewing the records can be a problem because Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 7.211 specifically restricts access to adoption information. Researchers interested in viewing an adoption record held by the Oregon State Archives must submit a completed Restricted Access Form that includes written authorization from a "court of competent jurisdiction." In most cases, this will be the circuit court of the county from which the record originated. The forms are available at the Archives reference desk. Contact the Reference Unit for more information about accessing historical adoption records.

Researching Published Reports

​​From 1864 to 1919, Oregon adoptions were published in the Oregon Laws. The state passed an adoption law in 1864 entitled "An act to provide for the adoption of children" (Deady General Laws of Oregon 1843-1872, p. 562). The law required that each county judge annually report change of names made in the court to the Oregon Secretary of State, for publishing with the statutes the following year. 

The report includes the date, present name, former name, by whom adopted and county of adoption. These reports appear in the biennial Oregon Laws through 1919, reflecting changes of names and adoptions through 1918. The law was repealed in 1921. The biennial Oregon Laws are available in the Reference Room of the Oregon State Archives or other libraries in the state.​​​