Finding Your Birth Parents Using Google
If you have the maiden name of your birth mother, try a Google search by putting the full name in quotes and see what comes up. We found one recently from this site just by trying that. Unfortunately, the biological mother had recently passed. We would not have found this out unless we searched for the name in quotes, because the obituary came up and listed her full name with the maiden and married name. The silver lining here was that the obit had the names of all the relatives including new found siblings!
Where to Find Birth Records
The birth record of a person provides a great deal of information that for the most part is extremely accurate. This can be useful in genealogy searches because it will be a way to double check and prove suspected connections. It is also helpful in legal matters where you need to know the information is factual.
The first step in finding a birth record is to know the name of the person, place of birth including state and county for the person. Getting a birth record is not free. Each state has a vital records office website where information on pricing can be found. The cost for birth certificates varies from state to state. It is important to call before sending money to double check the prices; they can change without notice.
Once on the vital records office website, instructions will be on the website for a letter of request for a birth certificate. The government needs an "official" request for the information. A letter of the request includes the name of the person, date of birth, place of birth, names of parents, etc. It is best to include as much information as possible. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the records office to return the information. One of the things not needed is a lot of back-story about the reason for the birth record request, just a professional message asking for the birth certificate. Be sure to sign and date the letter. Including a contact number is important because the vital office might need to clarify the information they find with you. Expect to wait several weeks before hearing back from the government office.
Several websites used by genealogists have some of the birth record information but not all. For example, Ancestry.com and Familysearch.com both have extensive birth, death, marriage records. Ancestry.com charges a monthly fee to view records in detail, but Familysearch.com is free. The files have limited information but are a good start for writing the letter to the vital offices. The hard copy of a birth certificate will have much more details about the person than what they have on either side. You can expect to find the parent's legal names with a place of birth, the person's actual date of birth and place, and some birth certificates even have names of the grandparents.
The great thing about getting an "official" birth certificate is that it might have some very surprising information. For one thing, this will be the first document with the person’s name written on a government form, it usually is very accurate. So a person is known by the name of Bob, the certificate might be helpfully in pointing out that no his name is Robert (Bob is usually a nickname.) This might help with a search for land documents, taxes and other legal records because those will have the person's legal name on them. (Usually)
Another source for obtaining a certified copy of a birth certificate is VitalChek.com. VitalChek is an official source for government-issued vital records. They have partnered with more than 400 government agencies nationwide. The turnaround time is about the same for Vitalchek as it is going through the state government directly.
Once you have the birth certificate, it is a good idea to keep it in a safe place like a safe deposit box or a fire safe box at home. Losing an important legal document to fire or flood can be expensive to replace and time-consuming.
Finding Military Records
Military personnel records include information about enlistments or appointments, training, qualifications, duty stations and assignments, performance insurance, emergency data, administrative remarks, awards and medals, disciplinary actions, separation, discharge, or retirement and other personnel actions. This can be helpful when searching for a loved one or family member for genealogy.
There are a ton of great websites to help a person find military family members, or lost loved ones. A few wonderfully informative sites are:
The www.archives.gov (NARA) is the official repository for military records of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. If a service member has been discharged from military service, their records will be at the National Archives and Records Administration in Missouri.
The NARA has an online request form, which can be printed and sent to the address listed on the site. The NARA has two types of request forms, the first is for veterans or family members of deceased veterans this includes direct family connections. The other form is for non-relatives to get information. The site will give you a link to fill out for each form. To assist in simplifying and expediting the search they ask that each request include the name of the veteran while in the service, service number if known, social security number, branch of service, service date, date and place of birth. The request letter needs to be signed, and dated. Requesting information on a deceased veteran needs to include proof of death this includes one of the following; a death certificate, letter from funeral home or published obituary.
The www.defense.gov just lists the addresses for each branch, and phone numbers. Along with a letter of request, it is a good idea to include a self-addressed stamped envelope (S.A.S.E) for the information to be returned.
Military.com is a nice site because you can register and use a search tool called Buddy Finder. The one drawback to this search tool is that anyone can list bogus contact information. Buddy Finder might be a nice tool for a general search but having a copy of the official military records on a person is a much better source of information.
Another option to consider when searching for a military service member is contacting the base where the service personnel was last posted. Perhaps someone there will remember them and be able to share their last known address or at least have an idea of where they were reassigned. It never hurts to pick up a phone and ask someone.
How to Find Birth Parents
Without a name it's obviously going to be next to impossible to find your birth parents.* I suggest asking the adopted parent for the name (if they are cooperative). If you have the birth father's name, it's going to be easier to locate him rather than the birth mother. In the majority of cases, the birth mother gets married and changes her name. I had a case recently where we had the birth mother's maiden name and date of birth. I then conducted a nationwide search for all the people with that first name and birth date. There were only two people in the database with that name and birth date and one was deceased. So, it's not impossible to find your birth mother with limited information. However, the people finder databases I use are not available to the general public.
However, the ones that are available to the public, such as Peoplefinders.com or Beenverified, mayhave enough information for you to search for those names and be able to narrow your search.
Sometimes it can be useful if you have an old address for your birth parent. These addresses can remain in a database for up to 25 years.
If you have absolutely no information on your birth parents, tryAncestry.com. They have a good database for birth records. However, most of their records list the name of the adopted mother and not the biological mother.
Every birth parent finder case is different, so it would be impossible to provide a step-by-step tutorial for finding your birth parents. However, here is a sample of the steps that I took for finding a client's birth family:
I received an email from a gentleman in Georgia who was desperately trying to find his birth father or the relatives of his birth father. The client provided me with what he believed to be the first name, middle initial and last name of his birth father. The client also said that his birth father lived in San Bernardino County, California in the 1950's. That is usually more information than I normally receive from a client, so I figured this search would be fairly simple, but it was actually more complicated than I thought.
The first part of my investigation was to run the name in a public records database. I subscribe to several, so I ran the name in all of them. As it turns out, this name was fairly common, so I had to go to the next step. I ran the name in Ancestry.com's database. I was able to find a possible match, but it had the middle name listed as the first name. The data came from a 1958 San Bernardino County Voter Registration index. This index had the name and an old address. It also had the name of another person with the same address.
I then ran the other person's name (which was probably the birth father's mother) in a public records database, and nothing came up. I spent significant time searching through online databases, property records and even death indexes, but I came up empty. I further contacted several people with the same or similar name to my client's birth father and none of them were the right one. This can be frustrating, but you cannot give up.
My client emailed me additional information in which he found out his birth father had a brother that at one time lived in Ridgecrest, California. My client provided me the name, which was also very common. Again, I searched the all public records databases for this name and came up empty.
So I check Classmates.com for that name. I researched the names of high schools in Ridgecrest, Ca. I found one, Burroughs High School. So I went on the Classmates.com website and looked up that high school. Lo and behold, I found him there! He had a photo of "then" and "now," but no other information. Remember, this person is the possible brother of my client's father. At this point, I'm not even sure I have the right person.
So now what do I do? I called Burroughs High School and spoke with their records department. They provided me the name and phone number of the contact person who organized the class of 1951 reunion that was last held in 1976. I figure at this point, the phone number is very old and I would have to locate this person to obtain information on someone I wasn't even sure is the right person I was looking for. But I never gave up.
As it turns out, the phone number was still good. She even knew the classmate! She also said his brother had the same name of the birth father I was looking for! Too good to be true?
I left my number with this woman for her to give to her former classmate. He called me and confirmed that his brother was the person we were looking for. Unfortunately, the birth father died over 30 years ago. However, the brother was so glad to hear that his nephew was looking for his birth family. I gave my client's phone number to his birth uncle and now they have been reunited.
This is a good example of not giving up in your search. There are good resources out there to help you. Sometimes even the telephone can be your best friend, as it was in this case.
What if you do not know your birth parents names, but only the name of the hospital you were born? I suggest contacting the hospital's records department. You may get lucky and find a compassionate person there who is willing to look up your birth record. It never hurts to try.
If you have a medical condition and you want to find out your family medical history and your birth records are sealed, the only way you can get your birth records is through the court process. Hiring an attorney is expensive, but it can be an effective way of obtaining this important information.
I suggest that you have a good relationship with your adopted mother (or father) and every once in a while ask them questions about your birth parents and write down the information. This will come in handy when it's time to locate your birth parents.
* This article was written before millions of people started taking DNA tests. Now, DNA sites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe have helped many people find their birth families. Please take a DNA test if you have no information on your birth family. The low cost is worth it.