Author Topic: RootsChat Topics: Adoption  (Read 22240 times)

Offline Little Nell

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RootsChat Topics: Adoption
« on: Saturday 01 September 07 20:39 BST (UK) »
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General Information

In England and Wales, prior to 1st January 1927, there was no formal legal process for the adoption of children.  Before this it is less likely that there will be records to help you trace birth parents.

Before 1927, many children were either fostered or adopted  under an unwritten agreement between the parents and the fosterer/adopter, but there may also have been some sort of deed drawn up.  The records of such may not have survived.  Frequently the children concerned were family in some way.  If a charity was involved e.g. Barnados, there may be records, but it is not guaranteed.  Barnados sent many children overseas around the turn of the century, many of whom were adopted in their new homes.

From 1927 onwards, there exists a register of adoptions, held by the General Register Office.  Applications for birth certificates from the Adopted Children’s Register can be made. N.B.  Such birth certificates show the dates of birth and adoption and the names of the adopting parents.  The child’s original name, surname and the names of the natural parents are not shown.  Adoptive parents are aware of the child’s original name(s) and the name of the mother (sometimes the father).  However, the natural parents are usually unaware of the identity of the adoptive parents.

The Children Act of 1975 made it possible for an adopted person over the age of 18 to apply for their original birth certificate.  If the adopted person was adopted before the act came into force (12 November 1975), then an interview is arranged with a trained social worker before the birth certificate is issued.  If the adopted person was adopted after that date, then there is a choice of whether to talk to a social worker and where this takes place.  Access to the adoption records was restricted to the adopted person.  Access to adoption papers can be granted to others, such as an adopted person’s children, but an application to court has to be made (legal advice on the procedure should be sought).  From December 2005, birth relatives can also apply for access to an adopted person’s adoption registration, but it must be done via an intermediary.

The survival of adoption records is not uniform.  The British Association for Adoption and Fostering publish many books and leaflets about adoption records:

Saffron House,
6-10 Kirby Street,
Phone: 020 7421 2600
The General Register Office has advice on applying for Adoption certificates here:

In Scotland, formal adoptions began in 1930.  Prior to this, as in England and Wales most were arranged privately or thorugh a charitable organisation.  No records for such adoptions are held by the National Archives of Scotland.

It is recommended that anyone seeking access to their adoption records seeks counselling.  The Scottish Adoption Association provides counselling.  They also hold the records of adoptions arranged by themselves, Edinburgh and Lothian Social Work Department, The Church of Scotland, and The Scottish Episcopal Church.
Scottish Adoption Association
2 Commercial Street, Edinburgh EH6 6JA
Telephone: 0131 553 5060

Records of adoptions are kept by the presiding court for between 5 and 25 years depending upon the court.  Eventually they are transferred to the National Archives of Scotland (Legal Search Room).  The records are confidential for 100 years and may only be examined under certain conditions.  See here:

Information on obtaining adoption certificates in Scotland is given here:

In the Republic of Ireland, adoption records began in 1953 but there is no central location for them.  It is advised that contact be made with the original adopting agency – if possible.

The General Register Office (Northern Ireland) has an Adopted Children’s Register which includes records of all adoptions made since 1931.

All census information: Crown Copyright