How to look for records of... Adoptions

Records of adoption in the United Kingdom are kept in various places but not at The National Archives. This guide will point you towards some of the organisations where adoption records are held and the online resources which may help you with a search for records.

1. What do I need to know before I start?

Formal adoption, as we now know it, did not exist in England and Wales until 1927. Before then, adoptions were usually informal. In a few cases there was some legal documentation, but no central register.

To have a better chance of finding the records of a person’s adoption it will help if you know:

  • the name of their parents, spouse or next of kin, where applicable
  • the approximate date of the adoption order

2. What records can I see online?

There are no adoption records, registers or indexes available to see online.

3. What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

The National Archives does not hold any adoption records or indexes.

4. What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Consult the General Register Office for information about adoption in England and Wales.

Consult the National Records of Scotland for information about adoption in Scotland.

Consult the General Register Office for Northern Ireland for information about adoption in Office Northern Ireland.

5. What other resources will help me find information?


Visit the Adoption Search Reunion website, which provides information for adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive parents in England and Wales. The information applies to adoptions made before 30 December 2005.


Read Where to find adoption records: a guide for counsellors, adopted people and birth relatives by Georgina Stafford (British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, 2001).