By Doris Michol Sippel
New York State stole my birth certificate, revoked it, sealed the facts of my birth on Jan. 7, 1956, and replaced reality with an amended birth certificate in the name of Joan Mary Wheeler, swapping out the names of my parents with the names of my adoptive parents. This new document states that I, as Joan, was born to two people who neither sired nor birthed me. These legally appointed guardians renamed me when my adoption became final on Jan. 14, 1957.
I legally reclaimed my name of birth in 2016. My adopters remain my legal parents. Joan’s birth certificate remains my legal birth certificate. Doris’ accurate birth certificate remains revoked and sealed under the 1936 state law designed to conceal verifiable facts.
I’ve owned my secret birth certificate since 1974. My adoptive mother gave my documents to me days after my natural family initiated a reunion.
Knowing that I do not have the legal right to use it, I did so anyway to reclaim my name, to update my name and parents’ names with Social Security and to obtain a driver’s license and a passport. My legal birth certificate does not match my other identity documents.
The final step for a legal name change is to send the court order of name change to Vital Statistics to update my name with the “parents of record.” If I do that, a new amended birth certificate will be issued stating that I, Doris Michol Sippel, was born to Doloris and Edward Wheeler. That amended birth certificate would be far worse than the one issued upon my adoption. At least in 1957 my adoptive identity was completely separate from my identity of birth. Complying with this last step would mean that both identities would be mixed together, and my parents’ names — Genevieve and Leonard Sippel — would not be on my birth certificate.
Does your brain hurt? Mine does.
I refuse to take this last step. I broke the law. I do not care. New York State is at fault for revoking my birth certificate, sealing it, and replacing it in 1957.
Three remedies are possible.
I petition New York State Supreme Court to update my parents’ names on a new amended birth certificate to align all of my identity documents with one another. Obviously, creating yet another amended birth certificate is illogical.
I petition the state to restore my revoked birth certificate. According to current law, this would undo my adoption and dissolve inheritance laws with my adoptive family.
The third and most realistic resolution also violates current sealed records law: Restore Doris Michol Sippel’s certificate of medical live birth, annul Joan Mary Wheeler’s amended birth certificate, and issue an adoption certificate. By doing so, the state would validate the facts of my life while not vacating my adoption. Then my brain, and my heart, would not hurt.
Doris Michol Sippel is the author of “Forbidden Family: An Adopted Woman’s Struggle for Identity.”