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How the Locating Adoption Records database can help you find records

You can learn more about how to use the Locating Adoption Records database to start your search for adoption records by reading the questions and answers below.

What is this database for?

This database has been set up to help anyone who is trying to find out whether adoption records still exist and, if so, where they are kept. The database is the first of its kind and is a single source of information about residential establishments such as mother and baby homes, and also adoption agencies that were involved in providing services in relation to adoption for the United Kingdom and Ireland.

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Why has it been set up?

Many years ago Georgina Stafford produced a book called Where to Find Adoption Records. This book has been an invaluable source of information for professionals working with adopted people and for birth relatives who are trying to find more information relating to the adoption, such as the location of any records that could provide further details. Now, with advances in obtaining information electronically, it has been possible to make this resource more widely available online as a searchable database.

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What’s on the database?

The database has information about adoption agencies, welfare organisations, mother and baby homes, shelters, and hostels in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including information about what records still exist and where they are held. It also holds names of some of the people who worked in these places or for the organisations. New information has been added from on-line sources and catalogues, from social services departments and adoption agencies and by staff in local libraries, archives and record offices.

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How can the website help me?

This website is designed to help you make the best use of what has been kept. It will let you search for a name or a place and will bring up any matching information that it holds. If there are still records in existence it will tell you where they are held and who to contact to obtain further information. Sometimes records have been lost through war, fire or flood, and if this is the case then you will be informed of this. See ‘How to use the database’ for more help on this.

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How up to date and accurate is the information?

Prior to the database becoming available, a lot of work was undertaken to ensure that the information is correct and up-to-date. We also carried out further research to try and find out if there are any other establishments and information that have not been included before. This has uncovered a lot more material and this has come from on-line sources and catalogues, from social services departments and adoption agencies and local libraries, archives and record offices. However, we are aware that there may still be information about some homes and other records relating to adoption that we are not yet aware of, and although not every single home and establishment will be found on the site, anything new that comes to light can be added.

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Who can use this site?

It can be used by anyone who is trying to find out where records relating to an adoption might be kept. For example, a birth mother may want to find out the name of the agency that arranged the adoption of her son or daughter or an adopted person may want to try and find out more about the mother and baby home where he or she was born. The site can be used by:

  • Adopted people
  • Adoptive parents
  • Birth mothers, birth fathers and other birth relatives
  • Adoption advisors
  • Historians

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What help can I get in my search for information and birth relatives?

You can obtain further advice and help from adoption workers in local authorities, voluntary adoption agencies and adoption support agencies. You can find out more about agencies that can help you and search our database of agencies that can help you on this website.

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How can I start to use this database to help me in my search?

Each person who uses this database will come with their own starting point. Some will be starting to search from something they have been told or found out, some from documents with names or addresses on them. The site gives you opportunities to search the database with the information you have to see if it will lead further towards finding other information and records. See the instructions on using the databases for more information on how to use the information you have.

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I am trying to identify an address on my birth certificate. What should I do?

If you are starting with an address on a birth certificate you can try to search for any part of that address, house name, street name or town, on the database to identify whether that address belonged to a mother and baby home, shelter or hostel. It was common for single girls who were unable to have their baby where she usually lived to go to a mother and baby home to give birth and later to go on to a hostel, and you may be able to match the address you have with that of a home or hostel. Tracing the place where someone was born may be the lead to the voluntary organisation which ran it and so perhaps to the adoption agency which made the placement. For each home there is the name of the welfare agency which ran it and, where possible, suggestions about which adoption agencies were connected with it or had working links with it. There is also information about any records of the home and who holds them.

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Can the database help me to search for mother and baby homes?

The database does include information about mother and baby and similar homes, and you can look for a home using a name or any part of the address. The term ‘mother and baby home’ is now used very generally but it did have a specific meaning. If the home was a ‘mother and baby home’ the mother probably went to hospital for the delivery but if it was a maternity home her baby would have been born there. The mother may then have gone to a hostel, which might have had a nursery where the baby could stay while she found employment. During the war the government asked some of the homes to become special emergency maternity homes so that could be evacuated from cities to reception areas to have their babies in safety and other homes were set up for service women and war workers. Where known, the category of home will be one of the pieces of information that the database will show you when it displays the name and address of the home and this may add something to the story you are building up and open up some more leads for you.

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What can the database tell me about welfare and adoption agencies?

Roman Catholic, Church of England or Church in Wales moral welfare organisation, non conformist religious groups and the major children’s societies ran many of the mother and baby homes and shelters included in the database. Some of organisations were themselves adoption agencies and others had working links with agencies. The religious agencies worked across a diocese, an administrative area of their church, and this territory might have extended across several counties so the moves of any one person from home to hospital to shelter might have been over a considerable distance.

The database holds a list of organisations known to have been working in the adoption field in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a list that includes those that have closed, those that have changed their names, merged with other agencies, or continued to the present day. It has against each name all its former titles, and the location of any adoption records that have been traced and a contact address. Any contact with record holders should be in writing and it may be a requirement that the enquiry is through a professional intermediary. This might be an adoption worker in a local authority, a voluntary adoption agency or an adoption support agency. You can find out more about agencies that can help you and search our database of agencies that can help you on this website.

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I was adopted before 1927 so can this site still help me find some information?

Adoptions were first made legal in the UK with the passing of the Adoption Act 1926. However before that time permanent placements were made by Guardians of the Poor or Public Assistance bodies. The county record offices are now the main holders of this information.

Record offices are archives run by the local authorities to hold historic documents and there is free public access to all of them. Many record offices have provided details for the database of what they hold in these categories and you can search for Guardians of the Poor or for Public Assistance as welfare organisations. If there are records for the district in which you are interested, you will then find contact details for the appropriate archive.

Record offices will appreciate it if you email or write in the first place and they can then tell you about the kind of information that is in their records and about what arrangements you need to make if you want to view them. Records with personal information in them are guarded very carefully by those that store them and it may be necessary for a third party to view them on your behalf. This might be an adoption worker in a local authority, a voluntary adoption agency or an adoption support agency. You can find out more about agencies that can help you and search our database of agencies that can help you on this website.

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Do record offices hold anything else I might want to look at?

They often hold adoption records or registers on behalf of the courts. These records might appear as closed records on the record office catalogue, which means they are closed to the public, but not to the individual named in them. However, you can access these through an intermediary, which might be an adoption worker at the agency you are in touch with.

Record offices can also be good sources of general information about moral welfare organisations because they hold collections of material for the churches about their dioceses and you may already have found their names (and links to them) as record holders when you were searching for homes or agencies. If you have found from the database that a particular record office, local studies or archive holds something of interest, then you will find contact details against that entry and, as with the county record offices, you can phone or email to check if you have to book a seat beforehand or if the record you want to see has any special requirements for access.

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