Legal adoption was introduced in the United Kingdom in the first half of the twentieth century. Earlier records of private arrangements can be very difficult to trace.
What information is available?
Please note that only the adoptee is allowed to apply to see their original birth records and to go on the Adoption Contact Register. Unfortunately for family historians, this might mean that you will not be able to trace your genetic line, if you discover that a parent or grandparent was adopted.
If you were adopted through a court in England or Wales, you are entitled to find out information relating to your birth and, if it still exists, have access to your adoption file. For more information see the General Register Office (GRO) adoption section.
If you were adopted in Northern Ireland, see the General Register Office of Northern Ireland (GRONI) adoption section.
For information on how to access your birth records in Scotland see the General Register Office Scotland (GROS) adoption section and the National Archives of Scotland (NAS) adoption records.
If you were adopted before 12 November 1975, you must attend a disclosure interview with an approved adoptions worker (in Scotland this is not a requirement).
On your original birth certificate you should find out exactly when and where you were born, the name you were given at birth, your mother’s name, your father’s name (if it was given) and the name and possibly relationship to you of the person who registered your birth.