Tracing your birth parents
This information applies to Scotland only.
If you've been adopted in Scotland, you have the right to access information relating to your birth and adoption when you become 16. You can:
- obtain a copy of your original birth certificate
- request a copy of your adoption record
- request a copy of your court record
As an adopted person, you have a legal right to receive counselling when you request or view your original birth certificate. You may find it useful to take advantage of this. You can request counselling from any local authority in Scotland or the adoption agency that arranged the adoption.
The National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit holds original birth records for people born in Scotland. You can contact them and ask for a copy of your original birth certificate if you're aged 16 or over. When you receive this, you'll also be told where your court records are stored. Copies can be requested in person, by phone, by fax or by post. You'll need to supply proof of your identity and pay £15 to obtain a copy of your birth certificate.
National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit
General Register House
2 Princes Street
If you were adopted in England or Wales, you must be at least 18 years old before you can obtain a copy of your original birth certificate. You can get a copy of your birth certificate by visiting the General Register Office website.
If you're thinking about finding out more about your adoption or contacting your birth family, you may wish to view your adoption records. These may provide details of the circumstances leading up to your adoption and the names of your birth parents. You can view your adoption records if you're 16 or over and were adopted in Scotland, or 18 or over and were adopted in England or Wales.
The adoption records could contain upsetting information and you may wish to think about getting counselling before you receive the records. You can get advice and counselling to support you through this process from several charities or from the adoption agency which arranged your adoption.
You can contact the adoption agency to ask them to organise for you to see your adoption records. If you don't know the name of the adoption agency, you can use the locating adoption records database on the Adoption Search Reunion website. This free service allows you to find the most likely holder of your adoption records, by searching for homes, organisations or local authorities involved in your birth or adoption, or for a staff member at one of these organisations.
Information about your adoption can be found in the documents that were given to the court at the time of the adoption.
If you were adopted in Scotland
You have the right to access the court records of your adoption if you're aged 16 or over and you were adopted in Scotland. Many adopted people find reading their court records a difficult experience. You can get advice and counselling to support you through this process from several charities or from the adoption agency which arranged your adoption.
If you were adopted in England or Wales
If you were adopted in England and Wales, you don't have an automatic right to view your court records, only a right to ask to see them if you're over 18. To request to view your court records, you should write to the clerk of the court that granted your adoption. It's at the judge’s discretion whether your court records will be released.
What will the court records contain
The court papers may contain a variety of information. They're likely to contain the following:
- a copy of the original birth entry
- an official report, called the curator ad litem report. This is a report written to the court at the time of the adoption. It'll have been written by an independent person, such as a solicitor or a social worker
- the adoption petition
- the consent form signed by the birth mother
- the name of any adoption agency involved
Court papers tend to include more information about the adoptive parents than about the birth parents. However you may still find it useful to read the records. Your birth father may be named in the court papers even if he's not named on your original birth certificate.
How to obtain your court records
If you wish to see these documents, you can contact the court which made the adoption order to find out where the documents are stored. They may be stored at the court or kept by the National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit. In most cases, if the adoption took place less than 25 years ago, the records will still be stored at the court. You can also find out where your court records are held by obtaining your birth certificate from the National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit.
To find court records which are kept by the National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit, you'll need to provide details of your birth name, the date of adoption and the court which dealt with the adoption. This information can be found from the adoption agency or local authority which arranged your adoption. It may also be on your original birth certificate, which is kept by the National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit.
National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit
General Register House
2 Princes Street
Contacting your birth relatives
If you want to make contact with, or provide information for, a birth relative, you can send such information to the adoption agency which arranged the adoption or an adoption contact register. A contact register is a confidential, computerised database which helps link birth relatives who wish to make contact with each other. Each party can register with a contact register stating whether they wish to be contacted or would prefer limited or no contact. Registering a wish for no contact can prevent persistent and distressing attempts at contact. You may have to pay a fee to add your details.
Once your details have been entered onto a contact register, your information will be checked against existing entries and your details will remain on the register to be checked against future entries. If a match is found, the register may provide a go-between service to exchange news and to help mediate contact between family members. You may have to pay a contribution for this service. This process can be paused or stopped at any time.
You may find it useful to be registered with at least one of the services below.
Birthlink - Adoption Contact Register for Scotland
Birthlink is a registered charity which operates the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland. Birthlink offers a go-between service if a match between an adopted person and a family member is found and contact is wanted.
General Register Office (England and Wales)
If you were adopted in England or Wales, you can place your contact details on the statutory contact register kept by the General Register Office (GRO). You can download the required registration forms from the GRO website.
If your birth relatives aren't registered on a contact register or with the adoption agency which arranged the adoption, there are other ways of trying to trace them.
Searches can be straightforward or challenging. While some may be completed in a matter of days, others may take many months or even years. Many people tracing their birth families find it a difficult experience. You can get advice and counselling to support you through this process from several charities or the adoption agency which arranged your adoption.
You may wish to use a professional tracing service, such as those offered by Birthlink, although this charity may charge a fee. It may be cheaper but more time consuming to conduct your own search by consulting the electoral roll or registers of births, marriages and deaths. ScotlandsPeople provide digitised birth, marriage and death records, wills and census records for a small fee.
Even if you decide to conduct your own search, you may find it useful to use a go-between service to make first contact with your birth relatives. Using a go-between service can give relatives time to think carefully about their response to the initial contact before deciding whether to proceed with contact. The Barnardo’s Scottish Adoption Service is an organisation which offers an independent go-between service if you want to contact your birth relative.
Barnardo’s Scottish Adoption Service
Barnardo’s Scottish Adoption Service is a post-adoption service offering advice, support and counselling to anyone affected by adoption. The service may be able to help you to find out about your adoption or trace birth relatives. They also provide a go-between service if you want to contact your birth relative.
Barnardo's Scotland Adoption Service
Birthlink is a registered charity that provides a range of services for people with a Scottish connection who've been separated by adoption. It operates the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland, which lets adopted people and their birth relatives get in touch with each other when both parties want this to happen. It also offers searching services, counselling and support and can help people to access public records.
21 Castle Street
Intercountry Adoption Centre
The Intercountry Adoption Centre runs an intermediary service which offers assistance to adopted adults whose adoption has an international element and who are seeking their records and/or want contact with their birth relatives. They may charge a fee for this service.
Intercountry Adoption Centre (IAC)
22 Union Street
Advice line: 020 8447 4753 (Monday to Wednesday from 10.00am to 12 noon)
Tel: 020 8449 2562
Fax: 020 8440 5675
Email: Contact form available on the website
Natural Parent Network
Natural Parent Network is a self-help group which supports the natural parents of adopted children.
ScotlandsPeople provides digitised birth, marriage and death records, wills and census records.
National Records of Scotland
2 Princes Street