Walter Gallagher and Ruth Burrows were married on August 7, 1922. By 1924, for whatever reason, they had not had any children. That part is still a mystery.
In any case, they decided they wanted a child. I can only assume that they visited the New York Foundling Hospital in Manhattan and selected one – a la Little Orphan Annie. A boy. On April 24, 1928, the Foundling Hospital sent the couple a the fostering contract for Joseph Smith, along with a letter explaining that after six months they would be eligible to adopt their foster child. He was placed with them on May 15, 1928.
They signed that document on May 23, 1928. About a week later, apparently Ruth wrote to the Foundling Hospital expressing their pleasure about Joseph and asking about his birthday.
Sister Maria Cyrilla returned a letter explaining that Joseph was born on September 29, 1924. Clearly, Walter and Ruth were overjoyed with their foster child, and on November 13, 1928, they made an agreement to adopt the boy.
The agreement is accompanied by an Affidavit by the Treasurer of the Foundling Hospital, Sister Xavier Maria (Sarah E. Hurley), indicating that on October 8, 1924 (9 days after he was born), Joseph was brought to the New York Foundling Hospital by the Department of Public Welfare. Since that time, no parent or relative has made any inquiries about the child or provided any support for the child. It also says that Walter and Ruth are “persons of good moral … habits.” More on that later.
On December 4, 1928, they appeared at the Surrogate’s Court and – through their attorneys, Peck & Hancock – filed their Petition for Adoption.
On the same day, the Order of Adoption was also signed and filed, thus changing the child’s name to John Joseph Gallagher.
And then what is probably the most disappointing document of all time was filed with the Order of Adoption. The Order Sealing Papers. It is this document that is preventing me (and thousands of other researchers and adoptees) from accessing these archival records from the Surrogate’s Court in New York.
The court documents you see here are merely copies that were held by the Foundling Hospital. The originals would surely show the signatures of everyone involved, but they are still under lock and key at the Surrogate’s Court. My only hope is that they are being protected from damage wherever they are held, and have not been destroyed. My grandfather spent the latter years of his life trying to get access to his adoption records, but died before that could happen. I hope I am able to find the answers that eluded him for so many years.