In a nutshell: Through many years of research we identified the birth mother’s maiden name as Lena Stanley of Trumansburg, NY. Against her parent’s wishes, and without the knowledge of Joseph’s family, Lena and Joseph Myers were married across Cayuga Lake in Ludlowville, New York (abt 1906). According to local newspaper articles the loving couple honeymooned on a cruise to Texas. And that is where Joseph’s parents caught up with them and sent them home. Joseph was taken out of Cornell University and sent to Harvard. Lena went back home to live with her parents. It was a year and a half later that a son was born. And herein lies the difficulty. Who was the baby’s birth father? Was it Joseph (who could have traveled back through Ithaca from Boston on his way west to his home), was it the adopted father, or someone else?
Every adopted child has two birth certificates. Our friend had her father’s, but it listed his adopted parents as his “parents.” Sealed in the New York State archives is the original birth certificate for our friend’s father. It has the same number as his “adopted” certificate, but the original is sealed forever and would only be released if our friend hires an attorney and makes a good case as to why the adoption file should be unsealed.
We just learned the reason for why New York State adoption records are sealed forever. Former Governor Herbert Henry Lehman. He was governor for the years 1933-1942, and in 1935 he signed a law sealing birth certificates for New York adoptees. That was because he and his wife Edith had adopted a child through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society run by Georgia Tann.
Georgia Tann was a child trafficker. She stole babies, using a number of tactics, sometimes telling birth mothers that their child had died. She then sold the babies to wealthy people, the Lehman’s being one. Lehman signed a bill sealing adoption records into law to protect his family from finding out from where they came. Unfortunately, that decision has caused harm to the many people trying to find their birth parents.
If you wish to read more of this fascinating story, you can find a book on Amazon – The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller who Corrupted Adoption.
Back to the couple Lena and Joseph Myers. They divorced in another county (where they weren’t known) and both claimed (yea, right!) the marriage was never consummated (will save you the gory details of the divorce decree), and the marriage was annulled.
We don’t know if Lena listed the child’s father on the original birth certificate, and thanks to Governor Lehman, we may never know. Hopefully New York State residents will learn about why this law exists and request that it be repealed.