For the 32 million Americans whose families have been touched by adoption, even the immediate past can be a puzzle. Here's how to start finding your family tree when your roots are a secret.
If you're an adoptee, the search typically begins by contacting the agency where you were adopted to ask for “non-identifying information,” explains Jill Ekstrom, a researcher who's also both an adoptee and a birth mother. This often provides more detail than the agency gives the adoptive parents, and might include the date the adoption was finalized, the number of siblings in the birth parents' families, hereditary health conditions and nationality information. It's likely to also mention interests, physical appearance of the birth parent(s) and details about the adoption circumstances.
Next, you can place a note with the adoption agency stating that you want to be contacted by a birth parent. Whether or not they want contact, birth parents can file current medical information with the adoption agency, so you can also check for that information.