Archived Booth records to be digitized

Records function as a tool in reuniting families 

By Lois Sellars – 

The Salvation Army Booth Memorial Homes and Hospitals opened in the late 1800s as places of refuge for unmarried pregnant women to receive prenatal care, counseling, and a safe place to be in her time of need.

Until this March, Western Territorial Headquarters (THQ) stored many of the records for its Booth homes. Now, after all these years, the old and crumbling paper records will be sent to a scanning service to be digitized and preserved.

Through decades of service provided by the Booth Homes—up until the 1980s—the records served as any agency records would; they gave accounts of each individual’s stay at the Booth Home. The records were housed at either the individual Booth homes or at the divisional level in the West until being shipped to territorial headquarters to assist in missing persons cases.

Major Leslie Peacock, territorial retired officers’ services director, played a big part in getting the records to THQ for searching and reunion purposes, which she directed at the time.

“The current ‘public’ mood is swinging toward open access to adoption records. As adoptees are able to obtain their original birth certificate and discover they were born at a Salvation Army Booth facility, they make contact with us to get more information so they can locate their birth mother,” Peacock said. “Since we were in contact with the birth mother at the time she was pregnant, she already has a connection with The Salvation Army, and hopefully trusts us in either assisting with keeping her current information confidential or with reuniting her with the child she parted with years before.”

Since missing persons was already equipped to conduct confidential searches, it expanded that service to include searches for the birth mothers of those born at Western Territory Booth Homes.

Prior to utilizing the Booth records for searching, a birth mother or child could request certain limited information from the file, and be listed on the reunion registry. The Booth Records became a useful source of information in conducting these searches in which an adult “Booth Baby,” usually in their 30s or 40s, sought contact with his or her birth mother.

In one circumstance, a woman born in a Booth Maternity Home reached out to the missing persons department and located her birth mother. Her mother was Native American, and the daughter wanted to enroll in her mother’s tribe. The Booth records contained the daughter’s unamended birth certificate, proving her Native ancestry to the tribe.

“I would like to thank The Salvation Army for graciously walking me through the process that resulted in a lovely reunion with my birth mother and half sister,” she said. “I will always be grateful to Booth Memorial and The Salvation Army Missing Persons Services.”

In the new digital format, the records will provide easier access to information needed for successful Booth reunions.

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