Requesting Adoption Search Information From the Paper Trail
· Determine the date of birth and place of birth
Adoptees generally have two birth certificates: their original birth certificate and their amended birth certificate. The starting point of the actual search is to confirm the date of birth and place of birth. If you are an adoptee and you don't have a copy of the amended birth certificate you should request it now.
Some amended birth certificates have the complete place of birth information such as the hospital, hospital address, city, county and state of birth. Other amended certificates may not give the hospital information. If the Doctor's name is on the certificate but not the hospital name you can do some research to find out what hospitals he was associated with professionally.
To request a copy of an amended birth certificate you can contact the state Vital Records office for the state of birth. Generally the County Vital Records office in the county of the birth will not issue an amended birth certificate but will refer you to the state Vital Records Office.
You can use this website to get office locations by county and state:
Be aware that some states changed the date of birth and place of birth on the amended birth certificate so that it does not agree with the date of birth and place of birth on the original birth certificate. Often the amended birth certificate is linked to the original birth certificate through a numbering system. Each person born in a state for a particular year will generally have birth certificate numbers assigned to their individual birth record. In these states the birth certificate numbers on the original certificate match the birth certificate numbers on the amended certificate. A few states have "birth indexes" on microfiche thatare available to the public so the amended birth certificate and original birth certificate can be matched to the same birth to determine the true date of birth.
The original birth certificate is sealed by court order but several states will give the adoptee a copy of the original birth certificate upon a request by the adopted person. Those states are Alabama (age 19), Alaska (age 18), Delaware (age 21), Kansas (age 21) and Oregon (age 21).
The following states will give the adoptee the original birth certificate with these restrictions: Maryland (pre 1947), Montana (pre 1967), Ohio (pre 1964) and Tennessee (pre 1951).
a.. Find out if the adoption was an agency adoption or a private adoption If you are an adoptee and do not know what adoption agency facilitated your adoption your adoptive parents should have this information. It is also possible that you were a non-agency (private) adoption. If you are not able to ask your adoptive parents for this information you can contact the Adoption Specialist in the state of adoption and request this information. This website will direct you to Adoption Specialists by state: http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/database/nadd/naddsearch.cfm. This website also lists private, public and regional adoption agencies for post adoption services in that state if you have an agency name but need an address or phone number.
a.. Finding a name to use in your search
If you were a private adoption often the adoptive parents will have legal court papers (Final Decree of Adoption or Relinquishment
Form) with the adoptee's birth name and sometimes the name and signature of the birth parent. Usually adoptions through adoption agencies do not have a birth name or a birth parents name on the paperwork that was given to the adoptive parents.
A few states have a birth index that is available to the public. Research on these records however has revealed that while sometimes both the adopted name and original name are on the lists that often that is not the case. It appears that for some years and in some counties the adopted name is listed but not the birth name. Or the birth name is listed but not the adopted name. In some cases, neither name is listed.
If you were adopted in a state that has "open records" and request your original birth certificate it will have the names of your birth parents on the certificate. Some adoptees have found their birth name or birth parents name on medical records that were requested through the agency of adoption or from the hospital of birth. If you know that the birth mother stayed at a Maternity Home you might contact them for records. Baptismal certificates issued before adoption have been found to be a good source for a birth name and a birth parent signature. In some states and some counties probate records have revealed relinquishment court actions with birth parents names.
It is also possible in some states to petition the court to unseal your adoption file. This file generally has the names of your birth parents and your original birth certificate.
a.. Determine where the adoption was finalized
It's important to know where your adoption was finalized. Your adoption file is located in this court of jurisdiction. The amended birth certificate gives the residence address of the adoptive parents at the time of adoption. Generally the county of residence of the adoptive parents is the county and state where the adoption was finalized. Also, if the adoptive parents have the Final Decree of Adoption the court of jurisdiction
will be noted. If you plan to petition the court to unseal your file you need to ascertain your place of adoption.
a.. Request non-identifying information
Contact the adoption agency that handled your adoption to request non-identifying information about the birth parents. If you do not know what agency handled your adoption or if you were a private adoption contact the Adoption Specialist in your state of adoption to request your non-identifying information. Click on this link to use this resource by state: http://naic.acf.hhs.gov/database/nadd/naddsearch.cfm.
Non-identifying information is background information
from the adoption file. The non-identifying information generally does not include any identifying information
that could be used to identify any one who is a party to the adoption.
For an adoptee the information in their report could include the following about the birth parents and their families:
.ages of birthparents at the time of relinquishment
.states of birth
.reason for relinquishment
.often there is information about the ages and occupations of the birth grandparents and ages, occupation and gender of any siblings of the birth parents.
Some states will only release information about the adoptee's biological medical history and will not give non-identifying information about the birth parents. There is no national standard. The information that is given to a searching adoptee or a searching birth parent can vary from state to state and agency to agency within a state.
If you have non-identifying information that was given to your adoptive parents at the time of adoption it might be helpful to contact the source of that information and request "updated" information. Adoption agencies and government Social Service agencies are giving out much more comprehensive information now than they gave to adoptive parents at the time of the adoption.
The agency may have a form that they want you to use to request your non-identifying information. Usually this form will have instructions about any additional proof of identification the agency requires to be submitted with the request for non-identifying information. If the agency does not have a specific form adoptees might want to use this format to request the non-identifying information. I would recommend that you mail it Registered Return Receipt Requested so you have proof that it was
received. Keep a copy for your records:
(name of agency)
(city, state, zip code)
To Whom It May Concern:
Please send me all available information in my adoption file. I have attached a copy of my amended birth certificate and a copy of my driver's license. My signature on this form has also been notarized.
(and adopted name if current name different through marriage)
Mailing Address: (street address/city/state/zip code)
Date of Birth:
County and State of Birth:
Adoptive Father Name:
Adoptive Mother Maiden Name:
Birth parents requesting non-identifying information about the adopting family could expect to find the following information in the non-identifying information: ages and occupations of the adopting parents and sometimes information about other children in the adoptive family. The date of birth and gender of the relinquished child would be included. This is very important information, as some birth parents do not have the exact date of birth. Here is a sample of a letter to write requesting non-identifying information by a birth parent if the agency
does not have a specific form for you to use. I would recommend that you mail it "Registered Return Receipt Requested so you have proof that it was received. Keep a copy for your records.
(name of agency)
To Whom It May Concern:
Please send me all available information in the adoption file regarding my (son/daughter) that I relinquished for adoption. I have attached a copy of my birth certificate and a copy of my driver's license. My signature on this form has also been notarized.
My Current Name:
(and former maiden name for a birth mother request):
Mailing Address: (street address/city/state/zip code)
Date of Birth of child:
City, County and State of Birth of child:
Gender of child:
Name of child at birth:
a.. Request medical information
Contact the hospital where you were born and request your infant medical file under your birth name if it is known to you. Your family Dr. may be able to request this information using his/her medical letterhead for better results. Often the hospital will say that the files were destroyed after seven years, however, some adoptees have been very successful in getting their infant medical file. If the files have been destroyed or archived on microfilm it has been found that an admission record still
exists in the hospital. Occasionally the birthmother's full name and date of birth and sometimes her address has been noted in the infant file but generally the file is "tagged" and this information is deleted. The hospital would have an admission record for the birthmother and a separate admission record for her infant. It is always wise NOT to mention adoption when requesting your infant file.
Contact your infant Pediatrician or medical Dr. and request those medical records. Some adoptees have found reference to their birth name or information about the birth mother in these medical reports.
a.. Talk to adoptive parents about the search
Try to find a mutually convenient time and place to meet with your adoptive parents to discuss your search with them. Some adoptees hesitate to talk to their adoptive parents about information they might know or paperwork that the adoptive parents might have in their files. Adoptive parents might also hesitate to bring up the subject if the adoptee has not shown an interest before in this information. Many adoptive parents
are supportive of their adult adopted son or daughter searching for their biological family. Adoptive parents can often be a wealth of information so be sure and explore this resource. If the adoptive parents are not supportive of your search there is no need to share the details of the search with them. An article of interest by a supportive adoptive parent
, Colleen Buckner, can be found at:
Information that the adoptive parents might have is: a birth name or name of birth parents; the original baptismal certificate with your birth name; notes the adoptive parents made about the birth parents from their interview with the Social Worker during the placement proceedings; a hospital bracelet with your birth name; a Final Decree of Adoption with identifying information; any other information that may not be included in your non-identifying information.