Adoptee Search Tip: How Non-Identifying Information Identifies

Today, I want to explain the importance of obtaining a letter of non-identifying information from the agency that placed you. Of course, adoptees in search, must first figure out who handled their adoption. This could be  a lawyer, state agency, private agency, or religious organization.


Do whatever it takes to find out which agency, lawyer, or placement provider handled your case. Ask every relative, dig through family files, the family bible, safe deposit boxes.  You might even consider volunteering to clean out your adoptive parents attic!

Once you know the agency that handled your transition, it is time to track down the current address, and contact information for that organization.  Once you have that, I recommend starting with a phone call, to ask about their policy for giving adoptees access to their  “non-identifying” information.

In most cases, agencies will provide you with a letter that includes some information on your birthfamily.  Often, you will have to make the request in writing, and there could be a fee.

You may wonder why you’d want a letter than lacks identifying information. Well, considering that you are starting at zero, this letter is a great starting point. You have no clue what your birthmother was interested in, if she was in school, what her job was, where she lived or whether or not your birth grandparents were aware of your birth.  All of this, and more is often included in a letter of non-identifying information.

When I was searching, I received my letter from the Children’s Aid Society in New York City.  My letter included the number of siblings my birthmother had, as well as the occupations of my uncles at the time of my birth.  It also revealed that she was from a “small town in Canada” and that her “father worked in a hardware/grocery store”.

Additional information revealed that my birthmother was a shy, timid girl, with blonde hair and brown eyes, and that she had no way to care for me, and gave me up so that I would have a “good family”.

While the information may seem vague, the clue that led me to my birthfamily was in that bare-bones information.  Also, tucked in my letter, was the only photo I have of me as a young infant. On the back of that photo, was a surname, one that I had heard all of my life.  My adoptive parents were told my birthname was Richards.  The photo confirmed this (as did a trip to the Birth Register books  at the NY Public Library).

I reread my letter a thousand times (0ver a 7 year period), checking and rechecking for clues, and just when I thought it was useless, my search angel asked me to read it again. I read it aloud to her, and she stopped me at the part that read, “One of your mother’s brothers was a wireless operator.”

My search angel asked me, “What’s a wireless operator?” I did not know, and she suggested that I contact the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  in Washington, DC.  A very nice man at the FCC explained that a wireless operator in Canada would have required a license, and that I should contact the Canadian Communications Commission.

I called the CCC once, and hung up when a woman answered in French.  Later, I wrote a letter explaining that I had a medical issue, and that I was looking for a Richards male who was a wireless operator in eastern Canada during the year that I was born. I picked eastern Canada because I was born in New York.

I received a written reply in June of 1991.   There were only three Richards men who had wireless operator licenses the year I was born.  The man who wrote the reply, happened to know one of the Richards men. He wrote that  M. Richards still worked for the government, and provided me with his telephone number. M. Richards turned out to be my Uncle.

Every non-identifying letter is different. Some are  detailed, some vague, and some arrive with  secrets revealed, and even surprise photos.  There are social workers, lawyers and judges who recognize the significance of knowing your genetic history, and some will beef up non-identifying info with clues.

Get the request in as soon as possible, and make sure you check with the agency  for procedures.  Once you get your letter, look at occupations (especially those that require a license) and at schools.  Was your birthmother at an art school, nursing school, secretarial school?  How many siblings did she have? These are all revealing clues, that can narrow your search.

Of course, if you get your non-identifying information, and have no idea where to start, I am happy to give you a little advice. Feel free to email me at vbrunskill at

Happy hunting!

All rights reserved: Copyright 2012 Vickilynn Brunskill


2 thoughts on “Adoptee Search Tip: How Non-Identifying Information Identifies

  1. Pingback: Letter for Adoptees To Use When Requesting Non-Identifying Information | adoptionfind

  2. Pingback: An ‘F’ Word to Feel Good About in the New Year | adoptionfind

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s