Walter Adopts a Son!

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.

1928 04 25 Letter sending contract for fostering

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.

1928 05 23 Indenture p2 1928 05 23 Indenture p1

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.

1928 06 01 Letter about birthdate


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.

1928 11 13 Agreement for Adoption p1 1928 11 13 Agreement for Adoption p2 1928 11 13 Agreement for Adoption p3

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.

1928 11 13 Affidavit of Custody p1 1928 11 13 Affidavit of Custody p2

On December 4, 1928, they appeared at the Surrogate’s Court and – through their attorneys, Peck & Hancock – filed their Petition for Adoption.

1928 12 04 Petition for Adoption p1 1928 12 04 Petition for Adoption p2

On the same day, the Order of Adoption was also signed and filed, thus changing the child’s name to John Joseph Gallagher.

1928 12 04 Order of Adoption p1 1928 12 04 Order of Adoption p2

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.

1928 12 04 Order Sealing Papers

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.

John J Gallagher 1929 (800x1024)