Step-by-Step Adoptee Search Advice from

While there is no full proof method for finding your birth family, Guide Kimberly Powell has done a nice job of breaking down the initial steps for searching. In the article “Adoption Search -Steps for Locating Adoptees, Birth Parents, and Adoption Records“, Powell offers seven steps to take once you decide to search.


The suggested search steps include:

  1. Write down everything you know, or ever heard about your adoption, birth family, and nationality. Nothing is unimportant! Think of what your relatives have said about your adoption.
  2. Interview your adoptive parents for information. Again, write it all down. Even the tiniest detail may be important.
  3. Gather documents. The article suggests that you ask your birth parents, which is of course a tough step for many adoptees, as they choose not to include the adoptive parents in their search. The article also suggests that you obtain your original adoption decree, amended birth certificate, and petition for adoption. Some states will allow you access to these items (all allow the amended birth certificate). However, in some states the adoption decree can only be requested by the adoptive parents.
  4. Request non-identifying information. I have two posts on this that should be helpful.Letter for Adoptees To Use When Requesting Non-Identifying Information
    Adoptee Search Tip: How Non-Identifying Information Identifies
  5. Register in every reunion registryyou can find. Make sure to look for state registries.  Another AdoptionFind post offers more on these registries and how to find them.Searching Reunion & Mutual Consent Registries
  6. Join a support group. The information shared in these groups, mailing lists and forums is abundant and worthy of your time.
  7. The final suggestion in’s article is to think about using a Certified Intermediary (CI).  The only problem with this is that not all states offer this search assistance. Google on your state to see if they do.

Be sure to read the full article at, as it offers many links to additional information on Search Angels, the I.S.S.R national registry, and to a people search guide.  Although, none of these steps guarantees that you will find your birth parents names (as suggested at the start of the article), the information gathered with these steps may lead to your ultimately finding your family.

Personal note: I did not know my birth mother’s name until after I found my biological Uncle. He told me her name, so that it was not her full name that was crucial. It was my birth surname that aided in the search.

I found my birth name in the NYC Birth Register books. These are housed at the NY Public Library.  Check your city library to see if they have similar books, which break down births by date, and in my case, city Burroughs.  You can then look for the correct gender, and know that one of those kids is you! 

Your surname is the holy grail!

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