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Tracing your birth parents

This advice applies to Scotland

This information applies to Scotland only

If you have 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.

Original birth certificates

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 counsellingfrom any local authority in Scotland or from the adoption agency that arranged the adoption.

The National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit hold original birth records for people born in Scotland. You can contact them and ask for a copy of your original birth certificate if you are aged 16 or over. When you receive this, you will also be told where your court records are stored. Copies can be requested in person, by phone, by fax or by post. You will need to supply proof of your identity and pay £15.00 in order to obtain a copy of your birth certificate.

National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit
Room 3
General Register House
2 Princes Street
Edinburgh
EH1 3YY

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 receive a copy of your birth certificate by visiting the General Register Office website at www.gro.gov.uk.

Adoption records

If you are 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 cannot view your adoption records if you are under 16 and were adopted in Scotland or under 18 and were adopted in England or Wales.

The adoption records could contain upsetting information and you may wish to think about getting some 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.

arrowUseful contacts

You can contact the adoption agency directly which arranged the adoption to ask them to organise for you to see your adoption records. If you do not 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 by homes, organisations or local authorities involved in your birth or adoption, or by a staff member at one of these organisations.

arrowLocating adoption records – Adoption Search Reunion website

Court records

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 England or Wales

If you were adopted in England and Wales you do not have an automatic right to view your court records, only a right to ask to see them if you are over 18. To request to view your court records you should write to the clerk of the court that granted your adoption. It is at the judge’s discretion whether your court records will be released.

If you were adopted in Scotland

You have the right to access the court records of your adoption if you are 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.

arrowUseful contacts

What will the court records contain

The court papers may contain a variety of information. They are 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 will 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.

The court papers will tend to include more information about the adoptive parents than 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 is 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 they may be kept in 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 will 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.

arrowObtain a copy of your original birth certificate

National Records of Scotland Adoption Unit
Room 3
General Register House
2 Princes Street
Edinburgh
EH1 3YY

Contacting your birth relatives

Contact Registers

If you want to make contact with, or provide information for, a birth relative you can send such information to the adoption agency who arranged the adoption or an adoption contact register. A contact register is a confidential, computerised database which helps to 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 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.

arrowUseful contacts

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. You can download the required registration forms from www.gov.uk.

Searching Services

If your birth relatives are not registered on a contact register or with the adoption agency who 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 from 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 Registrars of Births, Marriages and Deaths. ScotlandsPeople provide digitised copies of birth, marriage and death records, wills and census records for a small fee.

arrowUseful contacts

Go-between services

Even if you do 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 one organisation which offers an independent go-between service if you want to contact your birth relative.

Useful contacts

Barnardo’s Scottish Adoption Advice Service (SAAS)

SAAS is a post-adoption service offering advice, support and counselling to anyone affected by adoption. SAAS 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 Scottish Adoption Advice Service (SAAS)
Suite 5/3
Skypark SP5
45 Finnieston Street
Glasgow
G3 8JU

Telephone: 0141 248 7530
Website: www.barnardos.org.uk

Birthlink is a registered charity that provides a range of services for people with a Scottish connection, who have 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. The contact details are:-

Birthlink
21 Castle Street
Edinburgh
EH2 3DN

Tel: 0131 225 6441
Fax: 0131 225 6478
Email: mail@birthlink.org.uk
Website: www.birthlink.org.uk

Intercountry Adoption Centre (IAC)

IAC runs an Intermediary Service which offers assistance to adopted adults whose adoption has an international element and who are seeking their records and/or who wish indirect or direct contact with their birth relatives. They may charge a fee for this service.

Intercountry Adoption Centre (IAC)
64-66 High Street
Barnet
Hertfordshire
EN5 5SJ

Helpline: 0870 516 8742 (Mon and Weds 10.30am-1.00pm; Mon, Tues and Thurs 2.30pm-5.00pm)
Tel: 020 8449 2562
Fax: 020 8440 5675
Email: info@icacentre.org.uk
Website: www.icacentre.org.uk

National Organisation for Counselling Adoptees and Parents (NORCAP)

NORCAP was a support group for adopted adults, adoptive parents and birth parents. It had a contact register which is now being held by the agency who are handling the administration of BAAF who previously held the contact register for NORCAP. You can lodge an interest to have the contact register searched on this website CoramBAAF

Natural Parent Network

Natural Parent Network is a self-help group which supports the natural parents of adopted children. The contact details are:

Natural Parent Network
41 The Lindens
Friern Park
North Finchley
London
N12 9DL

Helpline: 0845 456 5031 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-11.30am)
Email: administrator@n-p-n.co.uk
Website: www.n-p-n.co.uk

ScotlandsPeople

ScotlandsPeople provide digitised sources of birth, marriage and death records, wills and census records.

ScotlandsPeople Centre
Room 28
New Register House
3 West Register Street
Edinburgh
EH1 3YT

Booking tel: 0131 314 4300
Website: www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

Scottish Adoption Advice Service

Scottish Adoption Advice Service, run by Barnardo’s, provides post-adoption advice and counselling services. The contact details are:

Scottish Adoption Advice Service
Suite 5/3 Skypark SP5
45 Finnieston Street
Glasgow
G3 8JU

Adviceline: 0141 248 7530 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4.30pm)
Fax: 0141 248 8032
Email: saas@barnardos.org.uk
Website: www.barnardos.org.uk/saas.htm

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