This is probably the hardest part of your journey, deciding where to start. You've known you were adopted. Maybe you feel guilty for wanting to seek out your biological parents. You have every right to know who they are. Your adoptive parents should be supportive in your search. Anything less is selfishness on their part. Before anything else, you need your medical history. Imagine having a hereditary disease that you pass on to your children without even knowing. I've always known I was adopted. My mother said "You should find your mother, do you want me to help you?" Now that is what a parent should do. In my case, we were 30 years too late in finding her. She would be 91 now if she were living so I expect the chances of finding my father are even more slim.
- Get your birth record.
- Take a DNA test
- Get help from Professionals or Search Angels
- Work with others searching
- Fight for Adoption Reform
Get your birth record
Chances are good that it is not your Original Birth Certificate or "OBC". If you were born in Alaska or Kansas, it has never been sealed. Any other state, it has been sealed and may be obtainable by you under certain circumstances. Legislation is changing, unfortunately it is very slow. Be prepared for a long fight for information. Even your post adoption record has a lot of information on it. Sometimes this has been altered by the adoption agencies so that you will not easily find the information you seek. Most of it should be fairly accurate.
If you are a legal adult, you should be able to request a copy of your original birth certificate. You will want to write to the Vital Statistics office at your state capital. In most states be prepared to be DENIED! It's not fair but that is the way it is for most adoptees. That is why we need everyone's help to change this archaic and discriminatory legal system. I was born before 1964 in Ohio before they sealed records so I was able to get my information easily. I found out that my mother was 36 when I was born, she was born in Kansas City, MO. She already had two children. Wow, I have two older siblings. She didn't give me a first name but I did have a last name. It also gave her maiden name.
Not only was I adopted, my birth mother was adopted. After being denied her original birth certificate, I got the wonderful idea to hire an adoption attorney to help me get a court order to open it. I probably should have been more concerned when he told me that "mine was an unusual request". Now that I think about it, I was very naive to think that he would actually help me. My thinking was that he had a great opportunity to help so mamy adoptees but in hindsight I can see that the entire adoption community would have been wanting to string him up for ruining their billion dollar adoption industry. How much is an adoption worth? Certainly a lot more than unsealing an adoption record. So let's get your information.
Become a super sleuth
If you can get your OBC, start searching. I immediately signed up for an account with www.Ancestry.com I also used information from www.FamilySearch.org These institutions have wonderful access to birth, marriage, death, military, census, and city directories. All this information you can use to locate and construct a timeline for your relatives. DO NOT USE FAMILY TREES. At least not ones that do not have sources cited. You want to see the actual records to base your research on. www.FindAGrave.com and www.Legacy.com for obituaries and burial records are a great source of information also. www.Facebook.com is probably your fastest resource for finding people NOW!
The world of DNA
When I hit the proverbial brick wall, I turned to DNA. I analyzed all their features, compared them to each other and made my choice. I took all three tests. I wanted results and figure not all people are going to take all the tests and I want all the matches I can get. For less than $500.00 I am in all three databases. Prices have come down since then by the way. In addition, I uploaded my test results to www.gedmatch.com that gives me access to people that only take one of the three tests and other labs where they are performing DNA on human remains at archealogical sites. Can you tell I am super excited?
Get ready to meet some great family
While you might not find immediate family members, you will find cousins that can help you manipulate the data. There are a lot of great folks out there doing tremendous work for adoptees. What you want to do is to find people that are biologically related to you and then try to see how you fit in to their family tree. There are some folks that will not share information with you. Others who just want to take what you have and not give back. Still others who will spend hours upon hours trying to triangulate your DNA segments with theirs and other relatives to find the connection. You are also going to meet other adoptees like yourself that you are related to. These people occupy a special place in my heart because I know what they are going through to get information and find their place in the world where they belong.
Those who search for you
There are two kinds of researchers, those that charge a fee and those that don't, called "Search Angels". Research takes a lot of time. Usually hours upon hours over months and even years. If you don't have the time to spend searching, you might want to contact someone to assist you. There is even a learning curve that you should expect to experience in learning how to use the tools and techniques to analyze all of this amazing data.
The world of genetic genealogy is new and exciting. It is a growing field and more development is yet to come. That said, there are great researchers out there that are experts in this field. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them and their time is very limited. Many more know a lot about the new technologies and how to work and analyze data and the field is coninually growing. These professionals have varying levels of certifications, education, and training. If you are considering paying for research, you want to check our your researcher, find out exactly what you are getting for your fee, whether or not they have a contract for services, and what they will or will not do with your information.
These folks usually work in certain areas of the country and have access to a wealth of information and can help you find some results. Most search angels do not ask for a fee. They do this from their available time that they have. Right before Christmas last year, I met John. He was a retired Detective who had been the recipient of the microfiche of birth records for Kansas City, MO. He told me that he would look through it for my mother and if he found anything he would let me know and asked if I would send him $20. for his time. Absolutely, $20. was a small price to pay for such priceless information. He called the next day and was sorry to say that he had not found her in the information. He said she must not have been born within the city limits. It would have been the best gift I could have ever received. Always find out if there is a fee up front.
Fight for Adoption Reform
Down the road you will become well versed in the roadblocks adoptees face. You will probably become somewhat bitter at how a society so advanced as ours can treat children this way. How they can strip the heritage and ancestry away from them and not think twice about the childs mental and emotional wellbeing. It all comes down to money. People do horrible things for money. But you can help turn this around by getting involved, signing petitions, and educating everyone who will listen about the ways adoptees are mistreated in this country.