Adoption Research

Kory L. Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA

The process of identifying a birth parent, or learning what became of a child placed for adoption is a difficult and challenging process primarily due to privacy laws, and the path is fraught with emotional highs and lows. Much of the research is similar to the work we do as professional genealogists, as well as the work of private detectives. ProGenealogists's researchers are often asked to assist in such a search and our hearts go out to individuals embarking upon finding their living birth parents parents in adoption research.

Adoption research is fraught with legal hurdles and problems with records access. These hurdles are just as impossible for professional genealogists to conquer. Thus, the staff at ProGenealogists is not appropriately equipped to assist people seeking to break through the legal hurdles and privacy laws that society, government, and the courts have placed between adopted adults and their birth parents. Generally, only lawyers will be able to help with contemporary adoptions. However, once you have identified the people involved in the adoption (such as a name and approximate birth date and place), we can assist you in locating them, and we can also help you trace your birth ancestry.

Tips and Advice for Your Adoption Quest

We can provide the following tips and advice for those embarking on adoption research:

  • First, be sure to enlist the involvement of the adopted parents if they are still living. Help them know this search does not reflect on them as parents, nor should it threaten the bonds between your and your adoptive parents. Rather, it is rooted in your desire to know of his or her genetic heritage, or perhaps it is also associated with medical reasons.
  • Next, register with various adoption reunion lists. (See the list of adoption rights groups below.) Also find out if your state is one of the 21 that offers a "mutual consent registry" for adoption reunions.
  • Talk to an adoption social services worker in the state where the adoption took place. He or she can advise what rights exist for the various parties involved in the adoption.
  • Be sure to get legal counsel regarding the rights of various persons involved in the adoption triangle. Each state has different laws that were in effect at different times.
  • Always obey the law in your pursuit, but don't be afraid to enlist a "family services" judge for help in applying, enforcing, or interpreting the law.
  • Work with adoption rights groups. They can often provide free or inexpensive help for the search process.
  • Consider hiring an adoption searcher. Professional, certified adoption searchers can be found through Independent Search Consultants under the contact us link.
  • Be cautious if hiring a private detective (listed in the Yellow Pages under “Investigators”) since many have very little experience, if any, in dealing with adoption searches.

We Endorse the Activities of the Following Adoption Groups

For more information about adoption related issues, see the Encyclopedia of Adoption at especially the checklist at their “Reunite” section. Another great resource is found on GenealogyToday from

Remember, once you have identified specific living persons, we would be happy to help you find them, or find their relatives, both living and dead. For more information on our services of this nature, see “Locating Missing Heirs and Living People."


Kory L. Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA, "Adoption Research," (Online:  ProGenealogists, Inc., 2009), <>.

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