Other sources of information
This page collects a variety of useful information sources you should consider while performing a search for a birth relative
If your birth relative married but you cannot trace them under their married name you may wish to check to see if the marriage ended in divorce. It can be costly, however, as you cannot do this yourself. The way to do so is by application to the Central Family Court, which holds the Central Index of Decrees Absolute. For further information and to download an application form (D440), go to: https://www.gov.uk/copy-decree-absolute-final-order.
It will cost upwards of £60 so before doing so it might be worth looking again at marriage record indexes to find a remarriage first, as this would give you their name and address at that time, bypassing the divorce.
Local newspapers (online and physical)
Once you know about an event it might be worth looking at the local newspaper for announcements of birth, marriage or deaths in the classified section, wedding photographs or an obituary. Local libraries hold copies of newspapers in their area.
Once you have a name or an event most of us would be tempted to use an internet search engine to search more using the terms you have.
Be careful however as, depending on how much information you have or how active your family member is, you may find potentially upsetting or emotionally provocative results much faster than you would by any of the measures mentioned previously – for instance you could theoretically find a photo or even a video of them online.
In general it’s worth taking the time to conduct an internet search with the same discipline and attention to detail as you would with a search of birth, death or marriage registers, and to ensure you only do so when you’re feeling calm, safe and comfortable.
Social networking sites
Websites such as Facebook can be another useful tool for searching and can provide a rich amount of information about the person’s life and situation – including changes in address etc.
However, the same rules apply here as to using internet search engines as a whole with the added concern that messages you send, for example, might be visible to other people.
In fact, the speed of social networking is so fast that the concerns we raised about using search engines are even more relevant here. It can be so fast that it’s possible that you are unprepared for all the consequences of an approach in this way.
Although there is a chance of it all working out fine people may be extremely unhappy about being approached in this way, and the risk of unintentionally informing extended family and friends through an accidental public post or response is higher.
Therefore, it’s crucial that if you’re considering contacting a birth relative in this way you need to do so in a considered fashion. As we outline elsewhere on this site using a professional intermediary is likely to be a better option.
If you are proceeding on a social media site you need to pay attention to your privacy settings. Although all social media platforms are different you need to ensure that:
- Your contact details are not available on your profile.
- Only friends can see your profile
- Only friends can see your posts.
- You’ve restricted whether people can tag you in posts or post on your profile.
- People can’t find you using just your name or contact information
- You restrict friends to people you trust and/or know
- Restrict who you can receive messages from to people you know
- Ensure your location is not made available to people viewing your profile
- Ensure you know how to take your site down in advance just in case you feel it’s necessary later.
In most cases the social media sites themselves produce guides as to how to maintain your privacy, so consider visiting their homepages to investigate further. These are commonly held in an area of the site called the “help centre”.
In the modern world direct-to-consumer genetic testing and home DNA testing kits have become ever more commonplace, to the degree where this is something that might come up, at least theoretically, during your search.
These consumer tests are often aimed at connecting birth families and distant cousins and will give you a breakdown of your ancestry and ethnicity.
More importantly for our purposes, however, they also match existing people on the database to find people who share the same genetic makeup; with the higher the percentage of DNA shared indicating the strength of the relation.
Because of the sheer number of people whose DNA has been registered the person you may be searching for doesn’t need to be on the database to find a possible match, as you may be able to work your way through a family tree to find them.
DNA testing can be attractive for adopted people as it’s quick, relatively easy and currently free of many of the legislative hurdles and gatekeepers involved in traditional search and reunion methods.
DNA testing does, however, raise a lot of ethical questions and personal dilemmas:
- In some cases, some adopted people or donor conceived people might not have known they were adopted or donor conceived, but find out through a DNA test, which can lead to feelings of betrayal.
- Due to the relative youth of DNA testing, some birth relatives may not be aware that this is an avenue that could be used to try and find them and may put them in a difficult and stressful situation – particularly if your adoption is not known to other birth family members. It’s important to consider that not everyone wants to be found.
- Alternatively, it might also result in people finding out about health conditions or susceptibility to a hereditary disease that they were completely unaware of.
- As already mentioned, the database may not contain your birth parent’s DNA but you may find an alternative relative – such as a second cousin, for instance – prior to the birth relative you’re looking for. This can compromise the individual you’re looking for by revealing the existence of the adoption to extended family before they’re aware and take control of the situation out of both of your hands.
- In cases where the birth father was unaware that he fathered a child who was adopted and finds this difficult to accept, DNA testing may be helpful to confirm their biological relationship.
For all these reasons we would recommend that you consider carefully the potential implications and outcomes of using DNA testing as a means of locating your birth relatives
Internet directory sites
There are a number of internet directory sites that list details about individuals, such as www.192.com (for a full list of these visit our resources section).
You can use these to search for a name and then narrow the search through region or age range. This can sometimes be a good way to find an address, particularly if the name you’re looking for is uncommon or you have details such as the initials. Be aware these services usually charge for anything other than the information needed to identify the individual (only the first three letters of the postcode may be given as an address, for instance).
Former neighbours and addresses
You could also try writing to the address where your birth relative lived or the neighbours who lived either side. Please remember though that you should do this discreetly so that you don’t compromise yours and your birth relatives’ privacy and confidentiality. Prepare a cover story (like trying to find an old friend of your mother) or, preferably, speak to your adoption advisor about using an intermediary service.