How to trace your birth mother or father

Understandably, being adopted can leave you with a lot of questions about your identity. This might lead you to seek out your birth parents. But how do you go about it? Suffice to say, there are a lot of things to consider. The Mix is here to help you figure some of them out.

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Discovering that you’re adopted can be unsettling 

After learning that you’re not biologically related to the people who raised you, it’s only natural to feel that tracking down the people who share your DNA will help to restore order. Of course, not all adopted people feel like this. 

But if you do have a burning desire to find your birth family, that okay. Just make sure you go about it the right way. This includes taking some time to process the information that’s been dropped on you. So, if you’ve only just found out you’re adopted, before you do anything rash read our article on finding out you’re adopted.

Tracing your birth parents isn’t always easy

It can be frustrating when records don’t show up or take their time being released by the authorities. We totally get it. But you’re gonna have to take it in your stride. This whole process is bound to be an emotional roller coaster. If you’re really committed to finding your birth parents then you’re gonna have to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the months ahead. We’d recommend confiding in a friend for added support if you can.

Beware of how easy it can be to idolise the image you have of your birth mother and/or father

It’s easy to think they must be these awesome people who had the best reason in the world for doing what they did. They’ve not been around to give you a hard time, after all. And that’s the part of raising children that’s probably the most difficult. The risk with getting your hopes up is that you may be setting yourself up for a fall. Remember, no-one can be that perfect. We know that it’s difficult but you have to try to be realistic with your expectations if you choose to meet them.

Even though it’s your right to trace your birth parents, your adoptive parents may feel hurt

Make sure to soften the blow by being upfront with your adoptive family members. They’ve been there for you all those years, they’re still very much your family. Even if they hid this from you, they probably did it because they were just waiting for the right time. Adoption is not an easy thing to do, meaning they really, really want you in their lives. 

It’ll also be useful to speak to them first just for practicalities sake. There may be reasons why you shouldn’t contact your birth parents which they’ll be able to tell you about. And don’t just think that everything they’re saying is false cause they’re scared to lose you. While that fear might be there, odds are they truly only have your best interests at heart.

Tracing your birth mother and father

There’s no two-ways about it, trying to track down someone is difficult. So here are some tips on how to go about it: 

  • Adopted children must be 18 or over (16 in Scotland) to make enquiries into tracing their birth parents. If you were adopted through a court in England and Wales, the provisions of the 1976 Adoption Act entitle an adopted person to the information on their original birth or adoption records. Plus, they have a right to know which court or agency handled the entire process.
  • If you’d like to take the first step, here are the links to the relevant Register Office in England and Wales; Northern Ireland; Scotland.
  • If you were adopted before November 12, 1975 you’re required by law to receive counselling before gaining access to the information. This is required because some birth parents may have been led to believe that their children would never be able to trace their original names or the identity of their parents.
  • People adopted after November 11,1975 don’t have to seek counselling. Regardless, if you do decide to seek your birth parents we’d still recommend really thinking things through and talking to someone about it. Your local authority’ll be able to help you.

Other lines of enquiry about your birth parents

The Adoption Contact Register

A number of agencies allow birth parents or relatives to leave their details, which can be made available once an application is filed. Similarly, if you made the initial enquiry, they’ll inform you if any relative gets in touch. The General Register Office in England and Wales also runs an Adoption Contact Register. In Northern Ireland, contact the Registrar General and for Scotland try Birthlink.

Post adoption centres

For info, advice and/or counselling before or after you seek out your birth parents, check out Post Adoption Centre UK (England and Wales) or the Scottish Adoption Service (Tel: 0131 553 5060)

Next Steps



By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 15-Jun-2022