The dilemma of adoption and tracing your birth family 54



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So you are around 60-ish years old and you were adopted soon after birth. Having had a wonderful up bringing and love from your late adoptive parents you now find yourself curious and happy to look for your birth family/relatives.

With the wonders of the internet and advise from your local U3A Family History Group you start your search. It’s not that easy. You have some snippets of information that you were given over the years by your adoptive parents. Oh how you wish you had asked more questions.

Being of ‘colonial’ birth and adopted by another ‘colonial’ family it is quite difficult to know where to start. But eventually you seem to be making some progress when suddenly you may have struck gold. You think you have found a sibling or half-sibling who may also have been adopted and is living thousands of miles away in New Zealand.

Before even trying to find contact details you have to answer a big question. Having set out to find your roots you are quite happy and keen to make contact. But in doing so would it bring the other person’s life tumbling down?

Maybe they wouldn’t want to make contact even if they already know their roots. Their own experience of looking for and finding blood relatives and learning family history or secrets may not have been a happy one.

On the other hand they, like you, might be totally open and non judgmental of what has gone before and would be thrilled to be contacted by a blood relative and to compare information and maybe learn more family history.

Many children found themselves adopted in the colonies, be it due to deaths, affairs, divorces etc. These adopted children would often move around the colonies with their new parents before the family returned to the UK or settled in the country of their last posting.

Tracing these family histories is further complicated by the children’s change of surname soon after birth and in the case of a female, further changes of name upon marrying, maybe more than once. Often overseas records are difficult to search and follow when names change.

So back to the start and the search.

Do I try and make contact with this possible relative? Have you experienced this same dilemma? Maybe you have already made contact with your blood family, how did it go? Would you appreciate a call from an unknown sibling? Would it spoil or put pressure on any relationship you might already have with your birth parents or family? Anybody had any experience of this dilemma? What would you do? What should I do?!

Guest Contributor

  1. I have done this and met my birth mother who died about 12 months later. I have since found a full brother and a full sister which my birth mother never told me about. We all had very different upbringings which has made us all very different.

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  3. Hi all first place to start is the court records there is also a adoption register try googling it

  4. Your parents are those that brought you up.

    6 REPLY
    • Not necessarily. Some adopted children had horrific upbringing. They were used as sex slaves and abused and tortured.
      Just because you were reared by someone, that doesn’t make that someone your loving parent.

    • Max
      In the 60’s young unwed mothers didn’t have a choice. They were simply told to sign here and the baby was taken off them at birth. It was neither choice or necessity. It was forced upon these young girls.

    • Yes, I have a couple of friends who went through this, there was no government handouts for unmarried Mums in the 1960’s, and often their parents would not allow them to keep their baby.

    • It was how it was – but it was hard when compared to the choices of today. One of my sisters had to give her baby up then she helped the next sister keep hers – neither good stories as without welfare it was so difficult. Both sisters suffered emotionally – very cruel.

    • There’s never a right or wrong answer to this vexed question. If your natural mother did not look for you when you turned 18, then maybe she has kept her secret of the child she gave away deep in her heart. I don’t think many when receiving a marriage proposal say “By the way, I had a child or children at whatever age and gave them away”. It’s difficult to know how the adopted child’s other family members will react by the sudden intrusion after all these years. .

  5. I would leave no stone unturned until I found them. Regardless of the outcome. And I would be deeply wounded if they didnt want to know me. My ex hubby had an unknown brother knock on his door out of the blue.

  6. We adopted two boys and have found a daughter my husband fathered 50 years ago also have two daughters of our own we are all very close and have a large family now .it is important we all need to know our roots it is only natural

  7. Adoption is a mixed bag and then finding birth parents and relatives can be a trauma and a guilt trip that is hard to overcome – everyone wants the happy ending of course, but if you take the journey of discovery do your homework and prepare as well as you can.

  8. My mother was adopted, & she divorced my father when I was 2. Never seeing him again. Am 60 now, have my own family but would love to know where we came from. It’s heartbreaking.

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