3 useful websites for tracing adoption records in the UK and Ireland


24 June 2019
woman-731395-19624.jpg Some adoptees decide to try to trace their biological families
Find 3 useful websites for tracing adoption records in the UK and Ireland.

Adoptee and lecturer in ethics, psychology and genealogy, Dr Penny Walters, provides advice in the August 2019 issue of Family Tree on how to search for adoption records and biological relatives. She also explores the reasons why babies and children have been ‘given up’ for adoption through history and the emotional issues surrounding the search for birth families today, along with practical tips on using genetic genealogy to compile a biological family tree.

Early ‘adoption’

’Before adoption was legalised, women who felt they couldn’t keep their baby would secretly give their baby to a relative, maybe the grandmother, or an aunt or sister who couldn’t have children, or to a relative with lots of children,’ says Penny. ’Although the baby may have been kept in the family, the mother would have to watch from the outside and have no say in the matter. Alternatively they might abandon the baby.


’In the UK, from 1839, ‘bastardy cases’ were initiated by the mother, who had to produce corroborative evidence to convict the putative father. Bastardy Bonds/Agreements determined which adult male was to support a child. Bastardy cases were reported in local newspapers, and gave the names of both the mother and father. In the British Isles, it was made legal to adopt from 1926: the Adopted Children’s Register was established in England and Wales on 1 January 1927; in Scotland in 1930; in Northern Ireland in 1931; and in the Republic of Ireland in 1953.


’If you choose to investigate your birth parents, then there can be a lot of bureaucratic paperwork. There are a number of records held in the UK, by the General Register Office, including: Adopted Children Register, Adoption Contact Register, Abandoned Children Register and Thomas Coram Register. You fill in the form on the Government website, but you need to be 18 or over to do this. Everyone adopted before 12 November 1975 has to attend a ‘counselling session’ with an approved adoption advisor before obtaining their birth certificate.’

Useful websites

Here are three websites Penny suggests:


•    Adopted Contact Register   

•    The Adoption Authority of Ireland

•    Scottish Adoption


In addition, search for The Natural Parents Network (NPN) on Facebook. It is run by people who have lost children to adoption.


Read Penny’s full article in the August issue of Family Tree, on sale from 2 July 2019.


You may also find these articles of interest:

• How to find your UK ancestors using adoption records

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