Illinois adoptees often ask about an item found on some original birth certificates, usually where the birth father’s name should appear. Legally Omitted is sometimes written in place of a name.
Original birth certificates are created when a child is born, and before an adoption takes place. They potentially include the child’s birth name and the names, ages, and birthplaces for the birth parents. When a child is adopted, an amended birth certificate is created. It lists the name the adoptive parents gave the child, and his or her adoptive parents’ names.
A birth father’s name does not always appear on a birth certificate, and sometimes a birth mother’s name is not listed. Some assume that the lack of a birth parent’s name indicates that their identity was unknown. While possible, it is far more likely that the birth parents were not married to one another.
Some claim it was illegal for the information to be left from the record. In general, that is incorrect.
So, what gives?
We need to turn to the law to determine why “legally omitted” was found on birth certificates.
To find a law, consider what category that law falls into. A birth certificate is a vital record, so the laws regarding vital records need to be checked. It is easiest to look for laws by topic, so a compiled or revised set of statutes will be reviewed first. Compiled and revised statutes clump laws by topic – they present them in their codified form.
In Illinois post-adoption research, the phrase Article 13 is sometimes heard when legally omitted names are discussed. Article 13 of what? I decided to find out.
I turned to Courtright’s Illinois Statutes, a book of annotated compiled statutes covering Illinois laws in force from 1874 through 1915. It is the most complete compilation of older Illinois statutes in my current virtual law library.
The volume is divided by chapters, which organize laws by topic. Chapter 147 covers the State Board of Health, and “certificate of birth” is on page 2020. I found the answer there.
Chapter 147. State Board of Health. Section 29. Certificate of Birth.
29. Certificate of birth.
“That the certificate of birth shall contain at least the items of the standard certificate of birth as approved and adopted by the United States Bureau of the Census: Provided, that the certificate of birth and record thereof required by this Act shall not, in the case of an illegitimate child, contain the name of [or] other identifying fact, relating to the father or reputed father or to the mother thereof, without the consent of said father or reputed father to the use of his name, nor the use of the name of the mother without her consent to the use of her name. [L. ’15, p. 665, § 13.]”
Article 13, found. Except it was actually a section – Section 13. The notation in square brackets shows where the law was printed in the session laws: Laws of 1915, page 665, section 13.
It was time to head to the session laws in my virtual law library. Session laws are laws passed by a legislative session. They are printed in chronological order.
State Board of Health, Registration of Births and Deaths [Senate Bill No. 213 Approved June 22, 1915]
Aside from the italicized word, the law was identical to the one in the compiled book.
This 1915 law is why so many birth certificates listed “legally omitted” in place of a father’s name. It also confirms that a birth mother could once elect to have her name left from the birth certificate. This law applied to any Illinois birth certificate created when a child’s parents were not married to one another.
Like any research, a find leads to more questions. What did the Bureau of the Census deem should be collected on a birth record? How long was this statute in effect? What is the law today?
The census bureau question needs to wait for another time. How long the statute was in effect was not determined in this research session, due to a gap in my virtual law library. But I can certainly check to see if a version of this law is still on the books.
The chapter number has changed, but the topical arrangement makes the law regarding birth records easy to locate.
Somewhere between 1915 and 2014, the language that allowed a birth mother to have her name omitted from the birth certificate was removed. A few compiled statute volumes would clear up the timing of that change.
For today, I’m satisfied with the research results. Section 13, now Section 12, was found in its original and its present forms. Legally Omitted. It is the bane of those who hold birth certificates and ask who – just before they ask why.