Search & Reunion
We support adoptees and birthparents in their search to find original family members. However, most state laws often do not make it easy for people to find each other after adoption and this is true of California. As a result, searching can often take a long time, ie. years. The good news is that there are tons of new resources being created online for families to connect which provides a way around the government secrecy. Even with these outdated laws, many people have been able to petition the courts in various California counties to receive their identifying information. We wanted to provide a list of resources for you as a starting point for your search. As a reminder, all adoptees are able to receive non-identifying information about their birthfamilies by requesting this information from the agency where their adoption was finalized. Please note there is rarely a straight and narrow road when it comes to searching as each adoption seems to be very unique. Each agency and each judge has different convictions about the secrecy of your information. Despite this, we’ve seen many people be successful with the following information. Please note this information is limited to those born/adopted in California.
To Obtain Non-Identifying Information:
- You are entitled to non-identifying information about your birthfamily. This includes things like age, race, occupation, hobbies, interests, etc. Unfortunately, it will not include any names. You may request your non-identifying information from the adoption agency that handled your case. If you do not know the name of the adoption agency, you will need to contact the California Department of Social Services and they will tell you the name if they have it on file. If they do not have it, they will distribute your non-identifying information directly.
To Obtain Identifying Information:
In many counties, adoptive parents and adoptees may request original birth records in person. We’ve heard of this happening in Alameda, Contra Costa, Glenn, Marin, Orange, Santa Clara, Shasta, Sonoma and Tulare counties. We recommend contacting the Superior Court in the county where the adoption was finalized, regardless of what county you need. The California Department of Social Services is a good place to start as well.
If you were born between 1905-1995, you may be able to receive the surname of your birthmother in the California Birth Index.
Here is what we know about how the California Birth Index is organized:
- Births prior to 1956 usually only the adoptive name will be listed
- Births from 1956 to the early sixties, usually both the birth name and adoptive name will be listed (Tip: Search for records that match adoptee’s birthdate and birthcounty)
- Births from the mid sixties to 1995 usually only the birth name will be listed (Tip: Search using “Baby” as adoptee’s first name and his/her gender because many were simply called “Baby Girl” or “Baby Boy” if they were slated for adoption)
Once you have the surname of your birthmother, you can being a public person search using sites like WhitePages.com or Intelius.com. If you are not having luck there, your birthmother may be going by a different name as a result of marriage. We recommend going to the State of California Archives Library in Sacramento (9th & N Streets) to search California Marriages from 1949-1986. They are listed separately for brides and grooms by year of marriage. The marriage indexes will list whom the bride and groom married, their age when they married, the date of the marriage, the county where they married and the county where they took out their marriage license. Once you have the name of the list of possible names, the library also has Property Tax information. Most property is listed by the husband’s name first and then the wife’s name. You can look up an address and find out who lives there or you can look up a name and get their address as of 1994. If you have your birthfather’s name you can also look up his marriages and his address on the Property Tax microfiche.
There are a few national mutual consent registries we recommend adding your information to. These are not run by the government but rather volunteers. If your information matches another registrant, they will usually connect you both to explore the relationship further. If it works, this is a great way to identify your birthfamily.
It is our general policy to not support anyone or who charges a fee for searching but we also want to make sure we provide all the outlets where your family is likely to connect with you. These are the largest public non-government registries we know of at this time.
Another way to discover your relatives is through a consumer DNA company. We highly recommend this as a way of connecting with relatives who have also completed a DNA test. They are often very welcoming and will be able to give you a lot of information about your birthfamily if you are related closely enough. As of right now, the following consumer DNA companies exist:
Native American Adoptees
Adoptees that have any native american blood are treated with exclusive rights pertaining to their birth families. We are compiling this information and will post it soon.
As you navigate reunion, we recommend referencing the following resources.
- Birthright: The Guide to Search and Reunion for Adoptees, Birthparents, and Adoptive Parents by Jean A. Strauss
- The Adoption Reunion Survival Guide by Julie Jarrell Bailey, Lynn N. Giddens
- A Family Affair: The Impact of Reunion on Spouses & Siblings by Denise Roessle
- Search-Finders of California
Please don’t hesitate to contact us directly if you would like to talk to someone about your search. We have members who can lend support to you as you navigate the process. Consider attending one of our support groups as well. If you would like to recommend additional resources or would like to share your personal experience with us, we’d love that too!