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Finding Your Family History [Your Adoption Records]

As an adoptee, you know that family goes deeper than genetics. Still, you might have questions about your family history adoption records.  

Some adoptees feel guilty for wanting to know more about their biological family because they feel like it's a betrayal of their adoptive family. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  

Being curious about where you came from is normal, and even healthy. Understanding your family background might even help better understand yourself.  

So, how do you find these family history adoption records? There are a few different ways. Which one you choose will depend on your adoption situation and your state’s laws on accessing adoption records.  This article outlines the importance of the various adoption records you may be trying to access and how you can find yours. 

Accessing Your Family History Adoption Records [Are You Prepared?] 

There are a variety of reasons why you might be beginning the search for your family history adoption records.  

You might be wanting to find out more about your family’s medical and mental health history to see if you’re at risk for any hereditary diseases or disorders. Or, maybe you just want to learn more about your birth parents so that you can understand where you come from. 

Every adoption situation is different, and what you might learn through accessing your family history adoption records could be difficult to process. While what you learn might be helpful and bring you peace of mind, there may be situations that are disappointing and don’t bring you the solace you hoped for.  

When looking into your family history adoption records, be sure to have a strong support system in place that you can lean on as you begin this journey. This support system could be your adoptive family, romantic partner, a mental health professional or even an adoptee support group. 

Laws Regarding Family History and Adoption Records 

Every state has laws for accessing family history adoption records. These laws will vary from state to state. Most states and adoption agencies are able to release adoption records as long as the information is non-identifying, such as medical history. 

As a general rule of thumb, you must be at least 18 years or older before you can gain access to your adoption records. However, in some cases your adoptive parents may be able to get this information on your behalf. 

Many states have a mutual consent registry that allows for those involved in an adoption to consent to their identifying information to be released. In some cases, you may have to meet certain requirements and apply to get access to your family history adoption records through a state adoption registry. 

It's important that you research your state’s laws on accessing adoption records so that you know where to start. 

Accessing Family History Adoption Records 

Many adoptees want to find their family history adoption records so that they can learn whether they are at risk for any diseases or disorders. Some want to know if there are any mental illnesses that run in their biological family so they can be properly medicated. 

Whether you just want to learn more about your biological family, medical history or mental history, this is all information you can uncover through family history adoption records. 

Accessing Medical History in Adoption 

Wanting to learn more about their medical history is one of the most common reasons adoptees seek out their family history adoption information. If you have questions about your health or just want to be proactive, learning more about your birth family’s medical background can be very helpful. 

Most states consider medical history to be non-identifying information. There are a few different ways you can go about accessing this information if you are in a closed adoption.  

  • If your state has open adoption records for adoptees, you could apply to gain access to this information. 

  • Or, if your birth parents have registered with a mutual consent registry in your state, this information may be able to be released to you. 

If you are suffering from a severe health problem, you may be able to petition the court to release your family’s medical history to you.  

Even in a closed adoption, medical history is released to the adoptive family. Your adoptive family may have access to these records. However, this information is limited to what is given at the time of the adoption. So, if your birth parents developed additional health problems, there’s no way to know.  

Accessing Mental Health History in Adoption 

If you’re struggling with your mental health or you want to know the likelihood of you passing along a mental illness if you have children, you might have questions about your mental health history.  

This information might be included in your family history adoption records. The process for obtaining this information will be similar to what you would have to do to find your medical history. Depending on your state’s laws, you can get access to this information in the following ways: 

  • You fill out an application to prove eligibility to receive this information through a state adoption registry, state health department or other organization. 

  • If your birth parents have given their consent through a mutual consent registry  

  • Your adoptive parents have the medical and mental health history given to them at the time of the adoption 

Accessing Family History in Adoption 

If you want to learn more about your birth parents and your biological extended family, your family history adoption records can provide you with the answers you need. You might be wondering: 

  • Who are my birth parents?  

  • Do I have any biological siblings?  

  • What is my biological family like? 

One way you can find your birth parents is by getting access to your original birth certificate.  

In the past, you would have had to file a court order to get access to your birth certificate. In some states, this is still the case. In others, you can get identifying information by establishing eligibility to receive identifying information from your state’s adoption registry, or if your birth parents’ consent to release identifying information is on file. 

With today’s DNA technology, many adoptees are able to learn about their biological family through DNA databases such as AncestryDNA and 23andMe. If you have biological family members in these databases, they will show up as a DNA match. You can learn more about your genetic background, and even reach out to these family members if you so choose. 

To learn more about how to find your family history adoption records, here is a list of resources that can help you get the answers you need. 

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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