Adoption Reunion Registries

What they are and how to use them

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Adoption Reunion Registries are listings of those seeking to reconnect with members of their biological families from whom they have been separated due to adoption.

Some registries charge fees to participate, register, and to conclude a match. Some, including some state-run registries, also have fees that can be quite substantial for any search activities.

Offline registries (most have Web pages to provide a contact point) will generally provide a form to be completed and mailed. Online registries use several different formats, depending on how the information is stored. Online registries that post listings are generally organized by the adopted person’s date of birth or state of birth. Some are in the form of guest books or message boards and are simply ordered by the date on which entries are posted.

Types of Registries

There are international registries, country-specific registries, state-specific registries, registries for specific groups (twins, Native Americans, etc.), and registries for adoptions through specific agencies or maternity homes. Registries generally fall into three categories:

  • active, where your listing starts a search (for a fee) and your information is generally stored offline;
  • passive (also known as mutual consent), where information is generally stored offline and the registry owner/operator notifies both parties once a match is made from listings submitted, most for a fee;
  • voluntary, where you post your information and search other listings for a match. Some have fees to register and to release the contact information for the match.

Most online registries are voluntary registries.

Who Can Register?

Registries may accept listings from

  • adult adoptees,
  • adoptive parents,
  • birth parents,
  • birth siblings,
  • other relatives, or
  • searchers on behalf of any of these.

Search Note: Be sure to read the registration requirements since all registries do not accept entries from all these parties.

I am not aware of any reputable registry that will accept a listing from or searching for a minor adoptee.

Choosing a Registry

You do not need to limit your postings to one registry only. If you know specifics about the adoption, look for targeted registries, but don’t overlook the more general ones. Remember that the person you are searching for may not have the same information you do.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a registry:

  • Cost. Carefully check the information provided about fees to register, fees to search the registry, fees if you find a possible match, etc. All information about fees should be clearly stated and easy to find. Free registries abound, and the word “free” should be prominently placed.
  • Target audience. If you know the name of the agency or maternity home and there’s a registry for their adoptions, or if there’s a registry targeted to your ethnic, cultural, or religious group, you may want to post your information there in addition to other more general registries for your state and/or country of birth.
  • Exposure: The more well-known registries will generally have a wider audience than those that are hard to find. In addition to our list of registries here at the site, you can locate registries using search engines.

Using a Registry

Posting your information
Look at how much information is posted for other entries on a registry, and decide how much you want to use. Some are comfortable posting everything they know. Others prefer not to disclose some names or other details. Remember: if it’s on the Web, it’s public.

Search Note: You may want hold something back as an identifier for reunion match if possible. How many people will know the adoptee had a certain condition or birthmark at birth? Just two, right? However, disclosing the information on a registry may be the one item that leads to a match for those without many additional details.

Searching through listings
Remember, everyone may not have the same information. A birth parent may not have an exact date of adoption, an adoptee may not have the correct place of birth, and birth siblings may have even less information. If you have access to online registry listings, try these ideas:

  • Search dates a bit forward and backward.
  • If the registry has an “Unknown” category, search this as well. “Unknown” usually means that the searcher has little specific date information.
  • If the gender is different, but everything else looks like a match, try it. Especially in older adoptions, many birth mothers were sedated during the entire birth process. Some may not have been told their child’s gender or may have been given the wrong information.
  • Check back on a regular basis to see if new listings have been added.

Search Notes:
Write it all down! Write down the names of registries and the Web address (URL) so you can update your information, check for new listings, or notify the registry owner when you make a match!

Remember that not everyone uses a computer. Just because you don’t find a match through an online registry does not mean someone isn’t looking for you, too.

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