Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Massachusetts

My mother (deceased) was orphaned at the age of 7 in 1925 in Massachusetts, placed into foster care by a church orphanage and raised by the same foster family into adulthood/marriage. Her foster family's last name appears on her high school diploma (1936), my parents' marriage certificate (1944), as well as my birth certificate (1952).

Recently, in preparing vital statistics documents for my application towards dual citizenship (on my father's side), I have established that my mother was never legally adopted by her foster family (no proof of adoption in child/family probate records found upon formal search, as well as any held by the church orphanage's archives).

Thus, I have 2 vitals documents for my mother (birth and marriage certificates) to file with the citizenship application and they do not agree: not only did she use her foster family's name on the marriage certificate, she also listed an adjacent town as birthplace and a day later as her birthdate from what is stated on her birth certificate.

I have obtained orphanage and other relevant corroborating documents that demonstrate the linkage: that the (historically-accurate) birth certificate and (historically-misrepresented) marriage certificate refer to the same person.

Clearly, for her own reasons, my mother was trying to obfuscate her actual family origins. At all appearances, she merely appropriated her foster family's name going forward (a not-uncommon practice for the times, I have been repeatedly told by various records clerks within the Commonwealth).

Unfortunately, this discrepancy threatens to derail my application, since the foreign consulate clearly states that all discrepancies must be resolved prior to filing the application. I have been unsuccessful in obtaining an amended marriage certificate, from the town clerk's office in the town of marriage, from the probate court in the county of marriage, and from the vital statistics registry of the Commonwealth. All these entities state essentially the same response: they are unable to issue an amended marriage certificate. End of story.

My question: what remedy is available to me at this point to produce a legal document, sufficient for an apostile, that acknowledges the situation sufficiently that a foreign government's consular office will accept it towards my dual citizenship petition ?

Asked on 11/30/17, 9:45 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Alan Pransky Law Office of Alan J. Pransky

I can't answer your question directly. I hope that this can help. In Massachusetts, people have a common law right to change their names. This means that a person can lawfully change their name merely by using a different name provided that they consistently use the new name and that they don't change their name for fraudulent purposes. This is explained in the case of SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH vs. CITY CLERK OF LOWELL, 373 Mass. 178 (1977).

It appears that your Mother lawfully changed her name without a court order due to the common law right.

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Answered on 11/30/17, 11:19 am

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