CONCORD, N.H. – In a bittersweet moment, a half-dozen adults adopted as children lined up Monday to take advantage of a new state law to get copies of their birth certificates. Among them: a state lawmaker who was herself adopted.
Jack Ferns, 53, of Loudon, had hoped his father's name would be on the certificate, but it wasn't.
"I was hoping it was, but I was a realist, too," he said a few minutes after getting his certificate.
Ferns said he knew his birth mother's name, and she died two years after he was adopted. He said he also knows some of his relatives — his uncle came with him to the Division of Vital Records to offer support.
It was his father's name he sought.
"I just want to know," he said.
The law took effect on New Year's Day, giving Ferns and other adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates if they were born in New Hampshire. Monday was the first day they could obtain the certificates after filing out a request form and paying a $12 research fee.
First in line Monday was State Rep. Janet Allen (search), who pushed hard for the state to change the law though she identified her birth parents several years ago through other means.
"I spent three years going through probate court arguing and fighting. I probably petitioned that judge eight times," she said.
Allen said getting a copy of her birth certificate was a matter of civil rights for adoptees. She got it in five minutes; the victory brought tears and smiles.
"I should have brought gold bullion," she said.
New Hampshire becomes the fifth state to allow adult adoptees unfettered access, joining Oregon, Alabama, Alaska and Kansas. Delaware and Tennessee also allow access, but with some restrictions.
Under another provision of the law, birth parents can indicate whether they wish to be contacted.
State Registrar William Bolton said a handful of parents have sent the contact forms to the bureau since the Legislature passed the law. He said perhaps three dozen people filed requests for the certificates in recent weeks in anticipation of the law taking effect.
Answering requests may take a few minutes to a few weeks, depending on whether the information is in Concord or in a sealed file in the town where the person was born, Bolton said.
In Allen's case, the judge refused to give her the copy of her birth certificate even though her parents were dead. He did tell her mother's last name and where she was born, allowing Allen to track down a brother through genealogy and public library records.
"I was the youngest of nine," she said.