Adoption is a subject that a lot of people involved find hard to talk about and a subject that is an incredibly sensitive and personal to the individual. One thing about tracing family history is that it opens up events in people’s lives that have happened a long time ago. Not all family stories of adoption are similar and not all are happy endings. Some people are not even still alive to tell us why they gave up their child for adoption and others just want to find the missing baby or mother that they haven’t had in their lives. Adoption happened, as it still happens today and every story for someones adoption is a different one to be told. There are many people out there that want help in finding their birth families and there are others who simply don’t. Either way, it’s important that those people are respected for those decisions.
When you look back it’s only since 1927 that formal adoptions took place and before then, it was done privately through arrangements between people who were involved. During the 1950’s the world was a completely different place to how it is today and there was still the huge stigma of unmarried mothers having children out of wedlock. Many women were forcefully made to give up their babies if they had no husband or family to support them. Many of these babies were adopted.
On the 1st January 1927 Adoption was introduced legally in this country after the Adoption Children Act of 1926. In 1976 the Adoption Act altered its legislation so that individuals adopted after 11 November 1975 could have the right to access their birth records after reaching the age of 18. Those adopted before could search for their records providing they saw a counsellor beforehand.
If you’re searching pre- 1927 for a ancestor who might of been adopted then try looking at the charity Barnardos. Barnardos holds its own archive of records for children whom were in their care and some adoption records going back to 1870. After 1927 the adoption records are held at the General Register Office (GRO) for England and Wales, however these records are only accessible to the people involved. A breakdown of the records held at the GRO are the following:
- The Adoption Children Register
- Adoption Contact Register
- Abandoned Children Register
- Thomas Coram Register
An adult (over 18) can apply for access to the information relating to their own birth entry.