Adoption records after 1927
This guide was last updated in 2012
The Adoption of Children Act, 1926, made adoption in England and Wales a legal process from 1 January 1927.
Petty Sessions Courts would have magistrates approving adoptions and a clerk would keep a file recording the process. These surviving records would be held by the local archive and may not be open to the general public.
Adoptions were subsequently entered into an official register known as the Adopted Children Register. This is held by the GRO but is not accessible to the general public. You will need to have the adopted child’s adoptive name and date of birth to obtain the adoption certificate.
However, the certificate will not give the child’s birth name so it is not possible to cross reference – even though the child’s original birth entry will note the adoption – and you will need to have those details to be able order the original birth certificate unless you are seeking details of your own adoption, in which case the GRO can provide you with both certificates. Further details can be found at www.gov.uk/adoption-records.
The Adoption Act of 1976 was another piece of legislation affecting the adoption process. Prior to this it had been assumed that adoption was final and there would be no reunion between the respective parties.
The Act altered this and gave individuals adopted after 11 November 1975 the right to access their birth records after reaching the age of 18. Those adopted before that date could also seek their birth records provided that they saw a counsellor beforehand.
The Adoption Contacts Register is designed as a database for parents to contact their adopted children and vice versa. Both parties have to be registered in order to find each other.
Advice on tracing Scottish adoption records can be found on the National Archives of Scotland website and for Northern Ireland, records are kept at the General Record Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI).