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Adoption Angels Basic Search Help

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Worldwidemap
Surnames/tags: Adoption Search Adoption_Angels
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Categories: Adoption Angels | Adoption | Adoption Resources.

WikiTree Adoption Angels are volunteers who have taken on the mission of helping adoptees look for and connect with their biological families. With our global family tree and our DNA features, WikiTree can be an invaluable asset for assisting adoptees in their search.

Angels can also help adoptees get settled into WikiTree. Even how to set up their own profile can be difficult! Angels can help smooth the way.

Contact one of our WikiTree Adoption Angels for assistance with questions or for help setting up your WikiTree profile!

You can also email our Angels google group with any questions you might have: wikitree-adoption-angels at googlegroups.com.

Lastly, be sure to follow the tag "adoption_angels" in our G2G forum. We'll share helpful tips and links to useful sites there.


The Basics to Starting a Search for Biological Relatives

Searching for your birth family is a big decision and there are many things to consider. It is also important to decide whether what you want is more information about your birth family or to actually meet them. You should determine what your expectations are and how you will deal with them if they are not met. Some adoptees have wonderful experiences when reuniting with their birth families, others do not. You might worry your birth parents don't want to meet you, or you maybe you don't know if you want a relationship with them. These are all things to think about before deciding to search.

Start with Yourself

Like genealogy, the best place to start is with yourself. Take a few minutes to write down everything you know about your birth and your adoption, from the name of the hospital you were born to the name of the agency you were adopted from and anything else you might be aware of regarding those things.

Talk to Adoptive Family

This is not always an easy thing to do. These people raised you and you don't want them to think you are not grateful for their love and support. However, it's OK to want to know who you are for many reasons, the least of which is to know about your medical background. This doesn't dishonor or disrespect your adoptive family; they are and will always be a very important part of what makes you who you are.

Some adoptees won't search until their adoptive parents have died, or because they are afraid that their adoptive parents will be upset by the search. This may be true in your case. You are the one who knows best so you will have to judge for yourself if you can approach your adoptive parents for information.

Talk to Agency/Attorney

If you can, find out what agency or attorney handled your adoption and contact them. They can give you non-identifying information. It varies by state and agency/attorney but that can include things like:

  • Medical history
  • Health status
  • Height, weight, eye, hair color
  • Ethnic origins
  • Level of education
  • Professional achievement
  • Religion

It's possible your birth parents may have left permission with the agency/attorney to give you their contact information. You could also leave a letter with them indicating that if your birth parents contact them, they can give out your contact information.

Adoptee Non-Identifying Reports

At the onset of your search, it is imperative that you obtain a non-identifying report from the state or county department that handled the adoption. In nearly all States, adoption records are sealed and withheld from public inspection after an adoption is finalized. Most States have instituted procedures by which parties to an adoption may obtain both non-identifying and identifying information from an adoption record while still protecting the interests of all parties.

Approximately 26 States allow birth parents access to non-identifying information, generally about the health and social history of the child. The word “approximately” is used to stress the fact that the States frequently amend their laws. Currently, states that allow birth parents access to non-identifying information are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania (if the adopted person is at least age 21), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

In addition, 15 States give such access to adult birth siblings: Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.

Policies on what information is collected and how that information is maintained and disclosed vary from State to State.

When requesting a non-identifying report, you may do so by writing a letter such as the one which follows. Be certain to have your signature on the letter notarized and attach two acceptable forms of identification (preferably what you used for the notarization).

If you are unable to locate where to send your request for a non-identifying report, contact the Adoption Angels Project and one of our angels will assist you.

At the same time, you request the non-identifying it is a good idea to contact the agency that handled the adoption such as Florence Crittenton Home, Salvation Army Maternity Home, or Harriet Walker Hospital to name a few. and ask for as much information as possible. Often, these facilities have a program instituted to provide non-identifying information to adoptees or birth parents. And in most cases, obtaining information from the institution that handled the adoption is much more quickly accomplished than getting a report from a state or county agency. An adoptee should, however, request the non-identifying information from both because there might be somewhat different information in each report. You should always provide your telephone number and email address as ways to contact you.

After sending your request (it is recommended to send it by registered mail, return receipt so you are certain it is received) you must be prepared to wait. Most agencies who provide non-identifying reports respond rather quickly because they know you are anxiously awaiting the information. And they usually give you a time frame which you can expect to receive the report. If not, after 90 days have passed, it is recommended that you follow-up with a phone call if possible or a letter asking when you should expect the report.

Example of Request for Adoptee Non-Identifying Report
(can be used for both government agency and facility handling the adoption)

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is (NAME). I was born on (DOB) in (CITY), (STATE). I was adopted at birth by (adopted parent’s names). My adoption was handled by your agency/organization. I would like to request all non-identifying information related to my adoption, as mandated by state law.

In addition to the non-identifying information, please send me copies of all original documents with identifying info removed as well any photos of me from before my adoption.

Please include the following in the non-identifying information:

The age of my parents at the time of my birth
My given name at time of birth
My mother’s and father’s weight, height, hair color, eye color, general appearance
Any educational information, certificates, degrees held
Any religious background or affiliations
My birthparents ethnic origins (Irish/Italian etc.) and places of birth.
The number of sisters/brothers my birthmother had at the time of my birth, plus their ages/occupations.
Any information on my birthparents upbringing, including places of birth, and where they resided at the time of my birth.
Information on chosen occupations, certifications, honors, military service
Any information on my birth grandparents ages/ethnic backgrounds/religion/occupations/education
All other non-identifying information including hobbies, talents, and interests

In addition, please examine my file to see if my biological mother and/or father placed there, a consent form granting permission to disclose identifying information. Also, please check for contact permission/consent forms. After, you reply, please place this request in my file to indicate my full permission for contact.

If the records of my adoption are no longer held by your organization, please be so kind as to inform me of where they are now stored.

Thank you for your attention to my request.

Adoption Registry

Sign-up for any adoption reunion registry for your area (where you birth/adoption took place) Adoption registries may be available even if you live in a closed state. Do a general Google search for a registry in your area.

These registries work by allowing for each member of the adoption triad to register in hopes that they'll be matched with someone else who might be searching for them.

Open Adoption Locations

Check Resources by Location and see if your adoption area is an open adoption area. If so look in the links section of our project location resources pages and contact the local authority and order your original birth certificate (use the long form, not short form).


Get your DNA Tested. If you have known relatives get them tested too. If you don't know the names or other identifying information for members of your birth family, pursuing DNA testing is probably your best avenue for finding family.

Once you've tested you can work with your DNA matches to piece together your family. WikiTree has wonderful tools for working with DNA. The more information on your limbs you have posted to WikiTree the more your DNA connections will show. Here is a DNA Basics for Adoptees page for more information on how to get started with DNA testing. You might also want to review our DNA FAQ.

Internet/Social Media

Start building your family tree online even if you don't know anything yet beyond yourself. WikiTree can be a great help by making your information available. When search engines like Google do searches WikiTree will place your information "out there" for others to find. Combined with our DNA features we're a great resource for finding DNA matches which can help you find your birth family. See here for help on setting up your WikiTree profile.

If you know the name(s) of your birthparents and their approximate age, it is usually pretty easy to find them using an online search. This may cost a small amount of money, but it's likely you can find them.

See our Social Media Search Help Page with tips and helpful links for Facebook, Google+ and other social media.

Making Contact


Once you have found contact information for a member of your birth family, consider how to approach them and what you might say to them. It might not be the best idea to turn up on their doorstep as eager or anxious you might be. Some people need time to digest information and you don’t want to overwhelm them. It's good to be mindful that other family members may not have been told about you.

The three most popular methods of contacting birth families are by phone, by letter, or by a third-party intermediary. The more sensitive you are in your approach to this, the better chance you have of establishing a lasting relationship with them.


Remember, like you, it is quite likely that your birth parents will have a variety of reactions and emotions when they hear from you. They could feel excited, nervous, guilty, surprised or all of that at some point . They might need some space and some time to manage these feelings. Remember also that while you may have given your decision to find your birth family a lot of thought, it might be new for them. It is possible that you are ahead of them in the process of working through how you feel. They may have unresolved feelings to work through. Try to be patient.

You might find that your birth parents have stated they do not want to be contacted. Remember, their decision not to be contacted by you does not mean they feel negatively about you. There are any number of reasons that parents might not want to be contacted, including the emotional consequences it would have on both you and them.

Choosing Not to Search/Contact

While many adoptees choose to find their birth parents or family, it's certainly not uncommon to determine that you don't want to search for or contact your birth parents. You could have a number of reasons for feeling how you feel and each of them is legitimate.

Deciding whether or not to search for your birth parents might be a relatively straightforward process, or might be more complicated and take a long time. After you find them, deciding to contact them can be equally straightforward or complex. Whatever you decide, it is important you make the decision that is best for you, and that you try to be ready for all of the possible outcomes.

Other Resources

WikiTree Resources

Outside Resources


On 20 Mar 2018 at 14:56 GMT Steph (Obrien) Meredith wrote:

I have sent you a private message Michelle hope it helps

On 20 Mar 2018 at 14:39 GMT Michelle Ford wrote:

My grandad Philip john ford, born 1921, was adopted, as far as I was aware he has been associated with the surname white, I'm going round in circles trying to find anything about his and can't ask him as he passed in 1986 please help.