Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Illegal adoptions in Ireland

I have been contacted by professional genealogist and APG member Fiona Fitzsimons, of Dublin based firm Eneclann (www.eneclann.ie), who has asked me to share an article she has written on the background to the historic adoption scandal currently playing out in the Republic of Ireland, and offering advice for those who may need it. (Fiona has also published the story on the Association of Professional Genealogists Britain, Ireland & the Isles Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/APG.BII/):


So, post-Referendum, and with little or no pause, Ireland is straight into another scandal where women’s reproductive rights are/ were stage-centre. This time, it’s all about adoption.

In 1952 legal adoption was introduced into Ireland by an Act of parliament (the Dáil). From this date, records of all legal adoption are held by the Adoption Board.

This last week evidence that illegal adoptions took place in Ireland after 1952 has come into the public domain.

Tusla, the child and family agency issued the following statement.

Media Statement re St Patrick’s Guild adoption records 
29 May 2018: Tusla – Child and Family Agency has identified at least 126 instances of incorrect registrations of birth in the records of St Patrick’s Guild. The registrations in question relate to births between 1946 and 1969 and were discovered as a result of Tusla proactively undertaking significant work to scan St Patrick’s Guild records and identify instances of incorrect registrations. http://www.tusla.ie/

Tusla’s statement concerning 126 cases is only the tip of the ice-berg. As early as 1956 over 500 cases of illegal adoptions were known. The issue of illegal adoptions was openly debated in the Dáil, by Maureen O’Carroll of the Irish Labour party (incidentally, mother of comedian Brendan O’Carroll, aka Mrs. Brown). See https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/removal-of-those-children-definitely-illegal-ocarrolls-mum-told-dil-in-1956-36967348.html

Falsifying records, or making no record in the first instance, has had and continues to have, catastrophic consequences: it places a huge obstacle to the person adopted from tracing a birth mother/ father; it likewise prevents birth parents from tracing their children.

Many readers will have seen the film Philomena with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. But there are hundreds of other similar stories out there. (see https://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/getting-back-to-his-roots-after-american-adoption-as-a-boy-30218730.html)

So how can we as family historians/ genealogists assist in tracing Irish children in these circumstances?

Here’s some guidelines:

Records were kept for the greater number of children in Ireland (26 counties corresponding to the Irish Republic) raised in care/ fostered from the 1920s.

Where an illegal adoption has taken place after 1952, records are not usually held by the Adoption Board.

What records were made were usually controlled by the Adoption Agencies (like St. Patrick’s Guild), or by the individual homes. The greater part of these records known to have survive, are part of the AIRR collection.

The A.I.R.R. (Access to Institutional and Related Records) Project is a central index to records of children raised in care in Ireland between the 1930s and 1990s.

Even where records have been falsified, there is often some note to this effect made at the time of the event. This is how Tusla uncovered the 126 cases.

These records are held by two Irish State agencies. A person directly affected, or their next of kin, can apply for access to these records.

The A.I.R.R. records are accessible through the Department of Health and Children.

Phone: A.I.R.R. 00 353 1 635 4190 or 1 635 3030

In addition, the Health Service Executive operates a Tracing Service that has greater coverage of the records of infant hospitals, mother-and-baby homes, adoption societies, and a large number of registers of private nursing homes. The earliest records date from the late 1890s.

Phone: H.S.E. Tracing Service: 00 353 1 8976858

If you have been directly affected by this and would like advice, please contact us. We can’t take individual cases, but are willing to act as guides, directing you to sources and contacts.

(With thanks to Fiona Fitzsimons)


For my genealogy guide books, visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html, whilst details of my research service are at www.ScotlandsGreatestStory.co.uk. Further content is also published daily on The GENES Blog Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BritishGENES.

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