Here you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked Questions about access to birth records for descendants of deceased adopted people.
I know both the adopted person’s original name and the name of the agency that arranged the adoption so what do I have to do?
With such information you are in a good position to find out more information about your family background. In this situation you can do your own family research by using public records or alternatively you can contact the adoption agency that arranged the adoption to find out if they hold any information and if so whether they are able to share this with you. The Locating Adoption Records database on this website will help you to find the contact details for the agency they need to speak to.
I know my father’s original name before he was adopted but how can I find out more information?
If you know the original birth name of your parent, prior to his/her adoption then you should be able to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate in the normal way. With the information on the birth certificate you will be able to begin a search for further information, such as whether or not the address on the birth certificate is a mother and baby home. You can check this address by using the Locating Adoption Records database on this website as this includes details of mother and baby homes. If it was a mother and baby home or shelter for unmarried mothers then you will also be able to check which adoption agencies used the home by going to the ASR website and looking at the database. This will hopefully lead you to the agency that currently holds the adoption records, who you can then contact to see if they have any further information that they are able to give you about your parent that was adopted.
I know the name of the adoption agency that was involved in my parent’s adoption but no other information so what can I do?
In this situation you should contact the adoption agency and ask if they are able to help you obtain more information. You will need to explain that you do not have details of the original name. It is likely that they would want confirmation of your relationship with the adopted person so you would need to have a copy of the adoption certificate and documentation that shows your biological relationship.
If records still exist the adoption agency may be able to provide background information and also an intermediary service if you are hoping to trace and contact birth relatives of the deceased adopted person. They may also wish to use their discretion under regulation 15 of the Adoption Agency Regulations 1983 to disclose identifying information such as the descendant’s birth name. If you are able to obtain your descendents birth name and other relevant information, then this will enable you to search through public records to locate members of your descendant’s birth family. If the adoption agency has closed down then the adoption records would have been transferred to either another voluntary adoption agency or to the local authority where the adoption agency was based. The Locating Adoption Records database on the ASR website can help you to locate the information you need.
I have a copy of my mother’s small birth certificate but it only shows her adoptive names so how can I get a copy of her original birth certificate?
When a person is adopted they are issued with an adoption certificate which looks similar to a long birth certificate but it has details of the adoptive parents’ names and not the birth parents’ names.
When people are adopted they are also issued with a shortened birth certificate which just shows the child’s name and date of birth. Often adopted people and adoptive families use a short birth certificate. This means that other people would not know from looking at this short birth certificate that the person was adopted. Unless you have the original name of your mother you will not be able to apply for a copy of her original birth certificate. You should apply for a copy of the full adoption certificate which will state where the adoption order was made and thereafter you could approach the court to find out if they have and are willing to share information with you.
Why should I apply for a copy of the full adoption certificate?
Although the adoption certificate does not give any information about your mother’s original birth name and details of her birth parents, it will show the date of the adoption, the Court where the adoption order was granted and the names and address of the adoptive parents. With this information you can:
- Write to the Court asking the Magistrate to use his discretion to release the information from the original adoption file or;
- Contact the adoption team in the local, or voluntary adoption agency (if known) or an adoption support agency to ask if they will provide an intermediary service and approach the Court on your behalf.
Courts seem to vary in how they respond to such requests; some courts are willing to provide information, and others may request that the descendent appears before the judge. There is no guarantee that you will be successful, but it's worth trying as some people have succeeded this way.
The Court where my father’s adoption took place has closed down, where do I look now?
This can be difficult, but if you contact the GRO they may be able to tell you where the files have been transferred to. For example. in London, the Old Street Juvenile Court closed and some of the records were sent to the London Metropolitan Archives and some were sent to Gee Street County Court, which took over from Old Street.
I have found out where the original adoption file should be archived but they cannot find it. What can I do now?
Your last hope is the GRO as they hold the Adopted Children’s Register that links the adopted person’s original birth record with the adoption record. The GRO will not reveal these details unless the applicant can show exceptional circumstances. You may have to ask the Court to grant such an order.
I know that my deceased parent was adopted but I have no other information.
If you are in this situation then you are likely to have a lot of difficulty finding information. The General Registrar Office holds the linking information about an adopted person’s original identity but they will not disclose this information if the adopted person had never made enquiries in their lifetime about their origins.
Find out about the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons (DAP) campaign
The Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons (DAP) group has launched a campaign to highlight the problems experienced by descendants who want to access birth information about deceased adopted relatives, and to bring about change.