Individuals can have different reasons for wanting to search for their birth parents. Some people have a desire to learn more about their ancestry. Others are simply curious, or feel that they just need to know. Since most women change their names when they get married, it is often easier to locate a birth father. But even if you do not know either of your birth parents’ names, having information of any kind will give you somewhere to start your search.
Begin by asking your adopted parents questions. They may be willing to share with you what they might already know about your birth parents. Ask your adoptive parents to see their copy of the final adoption papers. Although the names of your birth parents may not be included, you should be able to find out the name of the adoption agency, attorney or judge involved in the adoption proceedings.
Prepare yourself psychologically for the search. Seek emotional support from your adoptive parents, other family members and friends. Join a support group for adopted individuals. See the Resources section below for a link. This may give you the opportunity to connect with others who may also be searching for their biological parents.
Gather all known facts and organize them into a file. You will want a copy of your amended birth certificate listing the names of your adoptive parents, in addition to whatever other facts you can get. Having the name of the adoption agency or attorney who facilitated the adoption process, the name of the hospital where you were born, any previous addresses of your birth parents, as well as information about people related to your birth parents might help you to locate them. Marriage and death certificates, military records, divorce decrees, school records, or even high school or college yearbooks could give you some valuable clues.
Try to acquire information from hospital records if you know where you were born. You may at least be able to get the name of the attending physician present at your birth.
Look into reunion registries. See the Resources section below for a link. Some state and private organizations allow adopted children and birth parents to register independently. Although these types of registries do not actively search for people, they will help arrange for mutually consenting parties to contact each other if a match is found. There are also active registries, which search for birth relatives, however, they charge a fee.
Search through local newspaper archives for birth announcements or information about adoptions, which occurred around the time that you were born. Many newspapers publish a notice of the filing of a Petition to Adopt in the classified section. In these cases, the birth name of the child and the name of the adopting couple are usually listed. If a social worker was assigned to the case, her name might be included in the notice. That might give you a contact person.
Petition the court for access to your original birth certificate. Some states allow this request. If your adoption records are sealed, you might want to try petitioning the court to have the records opened. While some judges may deny the petition, others often agree to release information that cannot identify the parents. In certain cases, an intermediary is appointed by the court to locate the birth parents to ask them if information may be released, or if they want to be contacted by their adult child.
Some state laws require that adoptees meet with a counselor experienced in adoption issues before beginning the search process.
Non-identifying information included in adoption records may contain details about birth parents, such as religious affiliation, ethnic background, level of education, occupation or profession, pertinent facts about family medical history, and sometimes the age and sex of any siblings.