Tracing and contacting birth relatives and adopted adults

If you were adopted in Northern Ireland, you can apply for your original birth certificate when you reach the age of 18. You can also place yourself on a register to allow birth relatives to contact you if you wish.

Birth Records

People adopted in Northern Ireland have the right to get a copy of their original birth certificate when they reach the age of 18.

Anyone adopted before the 18 December 1987 in Northern Ireland and who does not know their birth name, must have a meeting with a social worker within the adoption team in a Health and Social Care Trust or a voluntary adoption agency.

To arrange this, complete an application form giving your details and the location where you would prefer to meet with the social worker.

The social worker may give you an application form to help you get the name of the adoption agency who arranged your adoption (if one was involved) and an application form to receive a copy of your birth entry which will give details of your natural mother.

People adopted on, or after, 18 December 1987 can choose whether to speak to someone or not. However, this gives the person an opportunity to talk things over as well as get some facts before they begin the process.  

To get a copy of your birth entry which will give details of your natural mother, complete the application form and send it to the General Register Office for Northern Ireland.

Fees for access to birth records

A pre adoption birth certificate costs £15 and any additional copies ordered at the same time will be £8 each. .

A search fee of £7 will apply if you do not state your adoption entry number on the application form. The number appears on any certificate you have which has been issued from the Adopted Children Register.

What to do if you want to be contacted

The General Register Office in Northern Ireland operates an Adoption Contact Register for people adopted in Northern Ireland. This enables adopted adults and birth relatives to be put in touch with each other where that is what they both want.

Adoption Contact Register

The names and addresses of adopted people are held on Part 1 of the register and the names and addresses of birth mothers and relatives are held on Part 2 of the register.

Part 1 - Adopted people

If you are over 18 years of age and have been adopted in NI, you may apply for entry onto Part 1 of the Adoption Contact Register. Complete the application form providing your details. All information will be treated in strict confidence.

Should your mother or any other birth relative apply for entry onto Part 2 of the Contact Register, you will be advised of their name and address. Your name and address will not be given to your mother or any other relative.

Fees for application for entry onto Part 1 of the Register: £9.50

Part 2 - Birth relatives of an adopted person

If you are over 18 years of age and a member of the birth family of a person who was adopted in NI, you may apply for entry onto Part 2 of the Adoption Contact Register.

Complete the application form and forward to the General Register Office, enclosing copies of relevant birth/marriage certificates to show your link with the adopted person.  All information given will be treated in strict confidence.

Should a member of your birth family who was adopted apply for entry onto Part 1 of the Adoption Contact Register, he or she will be given details of your name and address. You will not receive any of the adopted person's details.

It is up to the adopted person to make contact with you.

Fees for application for entry onto Part 2 of the Register: £27.50

Help with tracing - contact details

Anyone wishing to trace a birth relative should contact their local Health and Social Care Trust or one of the Registered Adoption Agencies (Family Care Adoption Society or Adoption Routes) or a specialist adoption support agency such as Adopt NI.  Further information and the single points of contact for Health and Social Care Trusts and Registered Adoption Agencies are available at the link below.

Contact details for Adopt NI are available at the link below. 

Time to think

You should be aware of the impact tracing relatives can have. Adopted adults may not know they were adopted and their birth relatives, such as younger brothers and sisters, may not know about them.

They may need time to think about how to respond. Even if they decide they do not want contact - perhaps because it is not the right time for them - they may change their mind later on.

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