This guide was last updated in 2012
A row of young orphans at the Alexandra Orphanage on Haverstock Hill, north London © Getty Images
Actor Lesley Sharp had been raised by her adopted parents but wished to learn more about her birth family. If you too have an adoption in your family tree, read how to tackle the most common obstacles with Sara Khan's expert guide.
Lesley Sharp had already made contact with her birth mother about 20 years ago through an adoption agency called NORCAP. She met her birth mother, Elsie Makinson, and was in touch with her for the rest of Elsie’s life.
During the programme, Lesley decided to investigate the life of her birth father, Norman Patient, and his family as she knew that Norman was no longer alive. The star then met the other children of Norman, her half-siblings, for the first time in this very emotional journey.
She was able to learn more about her biological father through this meeting and continued to trace the Patient branch of her family tree to her great great grandfather, Charles Patient. Lesley was surprised to discover that Charles himself adopted two Barnardo’s children and then learned more about the lives of these adopted children.
Adoption has been practised for thousands of years, but only became an official procedure in England and Wales in 1927 and it is from this date that it is possible to find official documentation. Prior to that, adoption was arranged privately and there is no guarantee of finding documentation for an adopted ancestor.