Be very careful when disclosing information about adoptions. Some individuals really do not know that they were adopted. It can be very upsetting to find out at 55 that your parents were not your biological parents. Some children were never officially adopted. It was common for an unwed mother to marry someone who was not the child's biological father, but the child took his name and was raised as if were his own. Other times a tragedy or inability to care for a child happened and the child was left with relatives to be raised. After a while, they assimilated into the family and started using the surname. There are instances in the census that suggest this. Also, the census may actually state that a child is adopted. In the image below, you will notice that Lynette is the adopted daughter of Louis Altman:
The best way to find information on any of these situations is to be diligent and persistent. If you are looking in the time period after 1850, the census may be a huge help, especially from 1880 onward as these census actually state family relationships. Then go to the records, look for bible records, church records, and, most importantly, courthouse records. It's in the court house where you will find the bastardy bonds, guardianship records, and all other family law disputes. Finally, ask the older relatives. They know a lot more than they tell. Many of them will be glad to answer your questions if you just ask. Most of the time the older generation does not realize that you have an interest in the family history. So always ask. The stories you will get are priceless. Don't be discouraged when you come across difficult situations involving adoptions. Laws concerning adoptions were put in place to protect the privacy of all of the parties involved. With some persistence and a little thinking outside of the box, you can discover wonderful information about your ancestors lives.
(c) 2008 Keith Gilbert