Adoption or care or missing persons research

Tracing adoption or care records can be a lengthy and often frustrating task but there are specific sources of information available and specialist staff to help you along the way.

Access to adoption or care records

Residents of Surrey should contact Surrey Social Services. Records of adoptions and/or care contain sensitive personal information and for this reason the information is only accessible to the individual concerned.

Adoption enquiries should be made to the Adoption and Permanency Service, Quadrant Court, 35 Guildford Road, Woking GU22 7QQ.

Care enquiries should be made to the Information Access Officer, Children's Information Governance (CIG) Team, Quadrant Court, 35 Guildford Road, Woking GU22 7QQ.

Those persons tracing their adoption or care records, who now live outside Surrey should contact their own local authority Social Services Department in the first instance. All local authority Social Services Departments provide counselling for people regarding adoption. Your local Department will be able to provide you with details of the services they offer and if necessary will get in touch with Surrey Social Services on your behalf.

Please bear in mind that current standards of record keeping did not exist in the past – many records were destroyed as soon as they passed out of administrative use, particularly if they were felt to be sensitive or confidential. This means that survival of records pre-1960 is very patchy in Surrey.

Sources and organisations providing a starting point for research

There are agencies and support groups who specialise in tracing adoptions. They can provide counselling if needed and can act as intermediaries when public access to records is restricted.

For access to birth records and access to the Adoption Contact Register, contact Adoption Section, Room C202, General Register Office, Trafalgar Road, Southport PR8 2HH. Telephone +44 (0)151 471 4830. It will provide details of any counselling necessary. More details of adoption records and forms to download can be found on Adoption records (GOV.UK).

The Adoption Contact Register, set up in 1991, provides a safe and confidential way for birth parents and other relatives to assure an adopted person that contact would be welcome. The Register is in two parts. Part I is for adopted people and Part II is for natural relatives. The adopted person will need to know their original name before adoption and their natural mother's name. If these details are not known, the adopted person will have to apply for access to their birth records. The Registrar General will send to an adopted person on the Register the name of any relatives who have also registered, together with the address supplied by the relative. No information about the adopted person can be given to a birth parent or other relative.

Ariel Bruce ASA is an Adoption Support Agency and independent qualified social worker who traces missing family members, as well as undertaking tracing and intermediary services for people affected by adoption. Ariel Bruce, 6 Regent Square, London, WC1H 8HZ. Telephone: +44 (0) 207 209 8966. Mobile: 07970 046 140. Email:

CoramBAAF (successor organisation to the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering) supplies advice and information on adoption and care issues, and its publication "Where to find Adoption Records" compiled by Georgina Stafford, contains helpful information. Contact details are CoramBAAF, Coram Campus, 41 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1A2. Telephone +44 (0)20 7520 0300. Email

Family Action now holds the Norcap Contact Register and also provides services previously provided by Adoption Services for Adults (ASFA). These services include searching and tracing, intermediary services, birth record counselling and access to information from adoption files and are delivered by Family Action's adoption support agency, PAC-UK.

For unlocated or missing persons, enquirers can contact the National Insurance Contributions and Employers Office, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1AN (telephone: 0300 200 3500). This department maintains National Insurance records and can forward letters to people who are trying to be located by an enquirer.

Electoral Registers are a useful source when trying to locate persons, but would only give basic details such as a name and address. You can view electoral registers (except the current year) for the current administrative county of Surrey at Surrey History Centre. Surrey History Centre also offers a research service should you be unable to undertake the research yourself (although we are unable to search registers under 10 years old on your behalf).

After Adoption is an independent adoption support organisation with national coverage. It has useful help lines, links and adoption information. There are two helplines:

  • ActionLine on 0800 0 568 578 is a free, confidential helpline for anyone whose life has been affected by adoption - adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive families.
  • TALK adoption on 0808 808 1234 is a specialist helpline for young people who want to talk about adoption.

The Salvation Army can help reunite families through its Family Tracing Service, 101 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BN. (Telephone: 0845 634 4747 or visit the Salvation Army website to complete an online request for a family tracing service application form).

The Adoption Search Reunion website is useful for those starting their search for birth or adopted relatives.

The Former Children's Homes website is a useful resource for information about children's cottage homes, former orphanages and other institutions for children.

Peter Higginbotham has launched the Children's Homes website providing information on children's homes in the British Isles, Canada, Australia and Jamaica.

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