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Adoption Research: Restrictions & Access

Record Restrictions

Court Adoption Records
Adoption records are closed for 100 years from the date of adoption pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 259.61259.83, and 259.89. A court order from the judge of the district court is required to view adoption records that are less than 100 years old.

Orphanage Records
Adoption records, including orphanage records, are closed for 100 years from the date of adoption pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 259.61259.83, and 259.89. A court order from the judge of the district court is required to view orphange records that are less than 100 years old.

Confidential Birth Records
According to Minnesota Statutes 144.225, subd. 2, a birth record of a child who was born to unmarried parents is confidential. Both a birth certificate and a non-certified copy of a birth record are confidential for 100 years from date of birth unless, at the time of birth, the mother designates the demographic data as public.

Accessing Court & Orphanage Records

Court & Orphange Records

Step 1

  • Completely fill in the Minnesota Historical Society Application and Use Agreement for Access to Restricted Records in the Minnesota State Archives form.
    • If the adoptee is deceased, please attach proof of death (a photocopy of a death certificate, obituary, or death card is required).
    • If the individual is currently alive, please include a letter signed by the adoptee granting permission to view the file.
    • Library staff will review your application and return it to you.

Step 2

  • Take the completed form to the court in the county where the adoption occurred and request a court order using the Petition for Access to Adoption Case Records. Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 259.61259.83, and 259.89, the Court Order should be issued by a judge in the county where the adoption occurred.  
  • Bring the petition, signed court order, and completed application to the MNHS library. 
    • If you are not able to visit the library, send the original signed court order, the completed application, and the completed Research Request for either an Owatonna State Public School record or a Specific Citation Request for a record from another orphanage in the MNHS collections to:  
      MNHS Library
      345 Kellogg Blvd. West
      St Paul, MN  55102

Accessing Confidential Birth Records

Confidential Birth Records

Confidential birth records are available only to:

  • the subject of the birth record if the individual has reached the age of 16;
  • the mother named on the birth record;
  • the father named on the birth record;
  • a legal guardian presenting a certified copy of guardianship papers;
  • an individual presenting a certified copy of a court order releasing the record to him/her;
  • the Commissioner of Human Services or authorized representative; or
  • an individual with a written and notarized authorization from any of the persons above.

More information is available from the Minnesota Department of Health

Record Restrictions & Access Links

Adoption Records, Agency Unknown

If you do not know the agency which handled the adoption or if the agency no longer exists, a written request can be sent to:

Minnesota Department of Human Services
Adoptions Operations Unit
PO Box 64944
St. Paul, MN  55164-0944

Gale Family Library • Minnesota Historical Society • 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906 • 651-259-3300
Currently open by appointment only.