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.
Mother and baby and Magdalene Laundry institutions in Northern Ireland
A research report about historical mother and baby and Magdalene Laundry institutions in Northern Ireland has been published. The report was undertaken by Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University and is available on the Department of Health website:
For anyone connected with a mother and baby institution, who has a query about adoption, including how to trace their birth mother or birth relatives or an adopted person, contact your local Health and Social Care Trust. They will help you with your enquires. Health and Social Care Trust contact details are available at:
Adoption agency case records are distinct from court records. They are also distinct from birth and adoption registration records and from records held, for example, by mother and baby institutions. However, as part of the adoption tracing process, it is usual practice for Health and Social Care Trusts and voluntary adoption agencies to seek information held, for example by courts or by mother and baby institutions. It is not possible for Trusts or voluntary adoption agencies to access records held outside the jurisdiction of the UK.
For any enquiries with adoption tracing in the Republic of Ireland see:
People adopted in Northern Ireland have the right to get a copy of their original birth certificate when they reach the age of 18.
Health and Social Care Trusts and voluntary adoption agencies can provide advice to individuals on how to make an application to the General Register Office (GRO) for a copy of their original birth certificate and for inclusion in the Adoption Contact Register (maintained by GRO). The Adoption Contact Register allows adopted adults and birth relatives to be put in touch with each other where that is what they both want. Counselling is offered throughout this process.
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.
- Health and Social Care Trusts
- Application form for access to birth records by a person adopted before 18 December 1987
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.
- General Register Office for Northern Ireland
- Application form for access to birth records by a person adopted on or after 18 December 1987
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.
- Application form for entry onto Part 1 of the Adoption Contact Register if you are over 18 years of age and have been adopted in Northern Ireland
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.
- Application form for entry onto Part 2 of the Adoption Contact Register if you are over 18 years of age and a member of the birth family of a person who was adopted in Northern Ireland
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.
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.