Trove of old adoption records going digital in MinnesotaOld adoption records housed at a state agency in St. Paul soon could become a more important resource for people researching their family histories.
By: Christopher Snowbeck , St. Paul Pioneer Press
Old adoption records housed at a state agency in St. Paul soon could become a more important resource for people researching their family histories.
Minnesota is making plans to digitize about 5 million pages of old adoption records, including some that date to the late 19th century.
The records are stored on about 2,000 rolls of microfilm housed at the
Minnesota Department of Human Services. In December, the department put the job of digitizing the records out for bid, saying it shouldn’t cost more than $67,500.
“Anecdotally, we are aware there are some adoption records from the 1890s through today,” wrote Beth Voigt, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, in an e-mail. “Each roll of microfilm may contain 200 case records or more.”
Each record varies in size from a few pages to several hundred pages. So, the microfilm rolls probably have information on thousands of adoptions,
although state officials didn’t put an exact number on the tally.
Records will be better protected in a digital format and more easily
accessed by state workers, Voigt said.
Sandy Thalmann, a genealogist in Rochester, Minn., who uses adoption records in her research, notes another advantage: The digitization of records will precede by a few years the 100th anniversary of a state law that prompted a predecessor organization to the Department of Human Services to start collecting adoption records.
Once the anniversary arrives in 2017, Thalmann said, the records at the Department of Human Services will become a more important resource for genealogists, because they will be comprehensive. Plus, adoption records in Minnesota become public after 100 years.
“It’s important that you know where you came from,” said Thalmann, who specializes in researching family histories that include adoptions. “And even descendants of adoptees find it important to learn where their ancestors came from.”
“As medicine improves and family histories become an important part of medical treatment, that’s one practical application of it,” she added.
A possible increase in demand for the department’s adoption records in 2017 was not the impetus for digitizing the records, said Voigt, the spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. The primary reason is that the department’s microfilm reader quickly is becoming obsolete and therefore difficult to operate and maintain.
Even so, digitizing records should help the department satisfy public demand for the records, Voigt said.
The department “has seen an ongoing increase in demand for old records, and ease in accessing the documents will be a vital part of meeting that ongoing need now, in 2017 and beyond,” she wrote in an e-mail.