How to Find an Adopted Sibling: 8 Steps You Can Take Today
If you have a biological sibling who’s not in your life, you probably think about them a lot. You may even fantasize about connecting with them.
You probably have a lot of questions about your biological brother or sister.
- Does he look like me at all?
- Does she have any of my habits?
- Do we share any medical traits?
- Will she be happy to see me?
- Are our personalities alike at all?
- Is he thinking about me? Does he even know I exist?
Whether you were adopted, your brother or sister was adopted, or some other set of circumstances conspired to separate you from your sibling, we’re here to give you hope that you can connect to them!
How to Find an Adopted Sibling Quicklinks
Whether you learned about your biological sister or brother through an Ancestry unexpected DNA match, from your parents, or from a secret spilled during Thanksgiving dinner, you’ve been obsessed with her or him ever since.
This article will show you how to take those ideas and turn them into action! Finding an adopted sibling is very possible in today’s world of information, DNA testing, social media, and professional genealogy companies!
Common Scenarios for Finding Biological Siblings
Life is messy, and there are many different situations that cause biological siblings to grow up not knowing one another. Here are just a few of the reasons you may not have your biological sibling in your life.
Younger Sibling Was Put Up for Adoption
Sometimes, parents have an “accidental” last child that they feel they cannot properly support. Their resources—whether emotional, financial, or other—are already stretched to the limit taking care of their existing children; when they realize they are having another child, they feel they simply can’t cope.
In this type of situation, parents sometimes place the newborn child for adoption to give him or her the best chance at a good life.
Plus, the parents feel that this choice gives their existing children a better quality of life by spreading the parental affection, finances, and other resources less thinly.
Older Sibling Was Put Up for Adoption
If your older sibling was put up for adoption, chances are that it occurred when your mother was single and quite young.
When a young, single woman accidentally becomes pregnant, she often feels that she is unprepared for motherhood and cannot offer her child the life she would like to.
For someone in this situation, adoption may seem like the best option, especially if abortion is out of the question. The mother places her child for adoption with a family who can offer her or him the life that she (the mother) wishes she could provide.
In many cases, the same woman will go on to have a successful and stable life and start a family. If you are part of that family, and you learn that you have a biological sibling from your mother’s “previous life,” that news may come as quite a shock.
Just remember, your mother is only human, and was doing the best she could at a vulnerable point in her life.
I Was Put Up for Adoption
Maybe it wasn’t your sibling who was placed for adoption by your biological parents: maybe you were raised by adoptive parents and are now ready to meet your biological family.
Jenny Wallentine, cofounder of Origins, with her older birth brother, Duane. The two share a love of fishing.
Whatever the details of your own situation, you’ve been dreaming of your lost biological sibling for a long time, but you’re not sure what to do to find him or her. The desire to find an adopted sibling is a very common one. And, in most situations, very achievable.
My Sibling Went Through Foster Care
The foster care system can be rough on sibling relationships. As in, it can completely wrench your sibling out of your life.
If your sibling or half sibling was put into foster care and you remained in the family home, you may have lost track of them
If you have a brother or sister lost to you because they disappeared into the gaping maw of the foster care system, follow the steps below to find them.
I Went Through Foster Care
If you were placed in foster care as a young child, you know firsthand how easy it is to lose contact with your birth family.
You probably have brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, cousins, and other biological family members that you don’t even know.
If you’ve emerged on the other side as a functioning adult, congratulate yourself. And, if you’re ready, get to work reclaiming your life.
Part of that reclamation might involve tracking down your birth siblings and connecting with them.
Common Motivations for Finding a Biological Sibling
There are several reasons why someone may want to find an adopted sibling. Do any of these reasons sound familiar?
- To fill gaps of their intertwined story. Even if the adoption was not originally planned for or agreed upon by all parties involved, getting answers about each other is meaningful and healing.
- To fill an emotional void. Family is very important, so being able to connect with a biological family member that was missing from your life for such a long time can be a tremendous experience. It can fill a void that has long been empty.
- To experience truth and forgiveness. For some adoptees, (or those who have a sibling who is missing from their life due to adoption) being separated from a biological brother or biological sister can trigger negative feelings and emotions. Reuniting with lost family can help bring understanding, empathy, healing and forgiveness for all.
- To uncover medical history. Medical history that only the biological relatives share can help you gather important information about your personal health.
Whatever your unique reason(s) may be, it is important to know that you have resources to help you in your search for an adopted sibling. Today is the best time in history for finding loved ones. The tools available are better than they ever have been before!
The following tips will aid you in your journey. If you hit a brick wall, reach out to Origins Genealogy for help locating your biological sibling!
Step 1: Use Adoption Paperwork for Clues
If you were the adopted sibling, leveraging the clues found in your adoption paperwork can help focus your search.
Review adoption paperwork for any clues about where an adoptee was originally placed or what agency handled the placement process. Adoption paperwork will give you information about birthplace, birthdates, birth parents, and more that can help you in your search.
If you don’t have your adoption paperwork…
Request Adoption Paperwork from the County of Adoption
Adoption records are confidential in nature and can’t be obtained without proper validation and permissions. In the majority of states, these records are sealed at the completion of an adoption.
If you are the sibling of an adoptee, check the state of birth of the adoption for what legal rights you may have. You may be able to get some non-identifying information from the agency who arranged your sibling’s adoption. For the detective work we do at Origins Genealogy, even non-identifying information can help us narrow in on your biological brother or sister.
If you are the adoptee, you can probably get access to your adoption records. Though the records may not reveal biological siblings (depending on where you fall in the birth order), they will reveal the identity of your biological parents. Knowing your biological parents is a key step in finding biological siblings.
(Whether you choose to connect with your birth parents and build a relationship with them is a personal choice, and Origins can also assist with that.)
Access Your Original Birth Certificate and Other Records
If you are the adult adoptee, you really need to get your hands on your original birth certificate and other sealed adoption records.
This could be easy or…not so easy, depending on your state of birth.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Access to Adoption Records (AAR),” state adoption records are protected to varying degrees on a state-by-state basis, but “in nearly all States…all files related to the adoption process [are] confidential and withheld from public access.”
What this means is that you may have a difficult time accessing your original birth certificate (OBC) and other records, depending on your state.
Non-Identifying Information Vs Identifying Info
When you begin researching access to state adoption records, you’ll encounter different rules for identifying as opposed to non-identifying information. It’s important to know the difference between the two. It’s also important to note that both informational categories can sometimes be included in public records.
Non-identifying information includes demographic info and “the health, behavioral health, developmental, educational, and social histories of the child and the child’s parents and other birth relatives” (“Access to Adoption Records”). Such information can include the following:
- The adopted child’s birthdate and birthplace
- The ages of the birth father and mother
- Physical characteristics of the birth father and mother, such as eye color or hair color
- The birth parents’ medical history, religion, or ethnicity
- The birth parents’ occupations and educational backgrounds
- The reason the birth parents placed the child for adoption (extenuating financial circumstances, pressure from family members, etc)
- Biological siblings from the either or both birth parents
Identifying info is—surprise!—information that could help identify the “birth parents, the adult adoptee, or other birth relatives” (AAR).
While the boundary between identifying and non-identifying information blurs a bit—occupation, physical characteristics, birth date and birth place could be used to help identify birth parents—identifying info includes the following:
- Names of the birth parents
- The birth name of the adopted child (which may be different from the name your adopted parents subsequently assigned you)
- Addresses where either birth parent has lived
- Companies where either birth parent has worked
- Social security numbers of the birth parents
- Contact information of the birth parents, such as email addresses or phone numbers
- Certain types of medical information
Accessing Adoption Records and OBC By State
Some states are much more tightfisted than others when it comes to releasing an adoptee’s OBC and records of the adoption.
If you’re lucky enough to have been born in Nebraska, Oregon, Kansas, Vermont, or Missouri, for example, you can demand a copy of your OBC along with other documentation related to your adoption.
Louisiana, Kentucky, Florida, and the District of Columbia, among others, will only release the OBC upon order of the court.
Then there are states that allow for the adult adoptee to request their OBC and identifying info about their birth family…with conditions.
For example, Delaware will release the OBC “unless the birth parent has filed an affidavit denying release of identifying information.”
Arkansas, in turn, allows adoptees to request their OBC and birth family identifying info, but also allows a birth parent to have his or her name redacted from said documentation.
Stay Tuned for a State-By-State Report
Origins Genealogy is working on a comprehensive report: whether you can (and how to) obtain your original birth certificate and your birth family’s identifying info by state. Coming soon!
Step 2: Use Search Adoption Registries
If there was no adoption agency involved, such as occurs with an independent or private adoption, your next best step to locate your adopted sibling is to search adoption registries such as:
Adoption registries exist today to assist adoptees with birth-family reunions and connections. Your biological siblings may be looking for you too!
Step 3: Contact the Adoption Agency
You may be wondering what to do if your parents worked with an adoption agency. Don’t worry! It might surprise you, but reaching out and making contact can help in many ways. It can be difficult to come by information about your past, but if you were adopted through an agency and still have contact with them, or any of the family members involved in that adoption process, then there is a chance for reunion.
Depending upon what policies are set by both parties involved, you may be allowed access to information your birth mother disclosed with her adoption counselor that they have on file.
Step 4: Talk to Other Relatives
If a child’s birth parent placed their child up for adoption, biological siblings still have a legal right of relationship with that biological relative and can seek out contact with them through court action under kinship care laws in many US states.
Other relatives—such as grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, etc—who knew about the adoption can later be invaluable in guiding you to find your adopted sibling. Just start a conversation with them. Let them know of your goal to find your biological brother and sister, and chances are, they’ll have information that can help.
Step 5: Search Public Records
Search public databases to look for birth records matching your biological sibling. If you know where and when he or she was born, you can narrow the field significantly.
If you can’t find any matches with public records, move your search online. Helpful online databases include:
- International Soundex Reunion Registry (ISRR)
- Adoption Reunion Registry
- Family Connections DNA Program
Step 6: Use Social Media
If you want to find your adopted sibling, the Internet is a great place for that. Google search queries for “find birth parents” have increased by 30% in recent years and now account for 1 out of 10 searches on any given day! Three out of four adoptees use social media to search for lost birth families.
The search for a missing relative can be emotionally fraught and frustrating, but it doesn’t have to leave you feeling lost. With so many new social media platforms coming onto the market every day we’re more connected than ever before.
You can join groups dedicated to adoption reunions. You can perform searches by name, age, or location on social media sites, looking for profiles that match your biological brother or sister. Or, you can post about your search and ask others to share, in hopes that your adopted sibling will eventually find you.
Tips for Using Social Media to Find a Sibling That was Adopted
Connecting with others on social media sites is easier than ever through real-time searches that span the globe. The following tips will help you in your search to find an adopted sibling:
- Prepare mentally and emotionally. Make sure you are ready for the information, both good and bad, that you may uncover.
- Involve your parents (adoptive or biological, depending on your situation) in the search. They love you and want you to be happy.
- Take a pause before acting. If you find your biological sister or biological brother on Facebook, you may want to consider a different avenue for that first interaction or communication.
- Establish reasonable expectations. Social media may bring you connections or might not. Be prepared for success and setbacks. And also, be prepared that the siblings you find may not be receptive. Similarly to how some birth moms don’t want to meet their children, some folks don’t want to meet their biological siblings.
How Facebook Can Help You Search for an Adopted Sibling
Facebook is a popular platform for finding connections to a lost biological brother or biological sister. Facebook can connect you to a lost sibling, and keep you connected if you both desire.
There are Facebook groups dedicated to reuniting birth parents, adopted children, and adopted siblings. Becoming active in such groups can be one potential avenue to finding your biological brother or sister.
There are also dedicated Facebook adoptee search groups that are devoted to finding people that can help you in your search.
Step 7: Take a DNA Sibling Test
A DNA sibling test is an efficient way to determine if two people are biologically related. The process compares the genetic material (DNA) of one person with another’s and uses certain criteria in determining whether or not they’re blood related as siblings.
Even if the sibling you are trying to find hasn’t taken a DNA test, a close relative of theirs may have. The AncestryDNA database has over 18 million people that can be used for family mapping.
When your DNA results are ready, you can attach them to your family tree and begin the family matching process. Once you get your list of DNA matches, you can message close matches, explaining that you are searching for an adopted sibling and see where that can lead you.
Tracing your family can help you find living family members that can aid your search for your adopted brother or adopted sister.
Step 8: Hire a Professional Genetic Genealogy Company
Finding a biological sibling is made simpler with a professional genealogy company that offers discovery and support avenues that you just couldn’t access on your own.
Make up for lost time by engaging professionals in the sibling search and reduce the emotional toll it can take on you personally.
Origins Genealogy offers unparalleled adopted sibling search assistance with researchers around the globe that are trained in both genetic and traditional forms of genealogical research.
Origins also specializes in locating biological fathers and mothers, should you need to search for either (or both) of your parents.
The Benefits of Working with Origins Genealogy to Search for Your Adopted Sibling
Consider the life-changing benefits hiring a professional genetic genealogy company offers you!
- Expert genetic genealogists for every project. Origins is a full-service genetic genealogy firm that uses the genealogy proof standard. We meticulously screen, hand-pick, and train all our genealogy professionals.
- Unparalleled skills for accurate family mapping. Our researchers have in-depth genealogical knowledge, accreditations, degrees, a decade+ of experience, and highly specialized skills.
- Glowing client reviews. Peruse our index of client testimonials to learn more about our five-star rating and perfect track record.
- Quick project turnaround. (2-4 weeks on average).
- High quality control standards to ensure result accuracy. Have confidence that the connections we find are true connections to avoid any complications when searching for an adopted brother or adopted sister.
- Liaison options between Origins and your adopted sibling. Nervous for that first meeting? Let Origins make that initial contact for you. As a neutral party, we can help provide a smooth transition between all parties involved. Not only can we show conclusive proof of the sibling relationship, we can assure your brother or sister of your good intentions.
Do you have a biological sister or biological brother out there somewhere that shares so much of yourself? If you’ve been looking for them without success, it may be time to start your search again. We can help!
Origins Genealogy can save you countless hours of time. Our professional genetic genealogists know how to interpret your DNA test results, make sense of DNA matches, and combine your test results with other forms of genealogical research.
Contact Origins Genealogy today at (801) 500-0900 to learn how we can aid you in your journey!
Adopted Sibling Finding Service FAQ
The best way to find out if you have another biological sibling is to do a DNA sibling test which compares your genetic material (DNA) to that of another. Sibling tests are commonly used to determine paternity, or if the two people share the same biological father.
For free information about your siblings, look through official papers such as birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses. You can also search for free genealogy websites with access to millions of records, or utilize your social media accounts to do so.
The easiest way to find out if you’re secretly adopted is to ask your family. If your parents aren’t willing to talk about it, you look into birth records. But the most conclusive approach to find out if you’re privately adopted is to take a DNA test, preferably with your parents’ approval.
Adoption records are generally confidential and cannot be acquired without prior authorization and authentication. So, you might not be able to view adoption records online. However, what can suggest is:
If you are an adoptee’s sibling, find out what legal rights you may have in the state where the adoption took place. The adoption agency that handled your sibling’s adoption may be able to provide you with some non-identifying information.
If you are the adoptee, you should be able to obtain your adoption records. Though the records may not show biological siblings (depending on your birth order), they will reveal your biological parents’ identities. Finding biological siblings begins with knowing your biological parents.
Yes, adopted siblings are real siblings—no matter if they are from birth, adoption, step parenting, kinship care, foster care, guardianship or mutual agreement. You should avoid differentiating between biological and non-biological siblings as this can lead to low self-esteem and emotional issues. Simply put: if you’ve grown up thinking of someone as a brother or sister, there’s no reason to change that thinking, even if you’ve discovered that biologically you’re unrelated.
When an adopted child reaches the age of 18, they are legally an adult and can make their own decisions, just like a biologically-related child. This does not change the parent-child bond, which is as strong or weak as the adoptive parent and adopted child have made it during the course of the relationship.
can be done in a lot of ways, from accessing public records through searching on free and paid genealogy websites. However, what we highly suggest is, if you have the means and want faster and accurate results, hire a professional genealogist who can help you from DNA testing up to reuniting with your biological parents.
A closed adoption is simply an adoption in which the birth parents and adoptive parents’ personal information are not made public. For example, California is a “closed adoption” state, because all identifying information is considered confidential, and documents holding this information are often sealed by state law.
Open adoptions are far more common nowadays than closed adoptions. There could be a variety of reasons for this, such as studies saying that when adoption is open, everyone progresses in a better manner. This is true for the adoptive family, the birth parent, and the adoptee.
Each state in the US has its own rules how to obtain adoption records. Some states are very lenient, while some states are strict. Adoptees or any representative can ask directly the birth parents or adoptive parents, or petition the court for the information to be released.
For example, in California, under the California Family Code 9200, you can obtain your adoption records by filing a petition in the clerk’s office. If your reason is compelling enough, then the court can grant you access to the information.
After adoption, the original birth certificate will be replaced with an adoption certificate. The Adoption Order issued by the court, where the adoption proceeding took place, should be available to your adoptive parents.
Yes, adoption agencies, depending on which state they are in, keep records for a period of five years up to more than 100 years. They are expected to keep records in a safe environment.
If you’re seeking for an adopted sibling, keep in mind that adoption agencies may not be able to maintain all of their records, and some may have relocated or changed personnel over time. You could also look into your state’s legislation regarding how to obtain such information from the agency.
Adoption records, unfortunately, are not available to the general public. While each state has its own set of statutes governing how easy or difficult it is to access adoption information, they are all kept secret to protect adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents.
Open adoption—a type of adoption where both adoptive and birth families disclose identifying information and maintain communication throughout the adoption process— is present in the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island (for those 25 and older). You can also check each state’s county courts for an updated list.
Yes, a sibling DNA test is 99% accurate, especially if AncestryDNA and 23andMe DNA testing kits are used and administered correctly.
The usual turnaround time for most DNA testing companies such is 3-5 business days after the samples are received by their laboratories. If you have a hard time interpreting the DNA test results, you can ask a professional genealogist to help you.
A DNA sibling test will determine whether two or more people are biologically connected as siblings by comparing one person’s genetic material (DNA) to that of another. The test can be generally done with two or more brothers and sisters.
The history and background of the birth family (e.g., the adoptee’s birth date and birth place, the parents’ age, physical attributes, educational attainment, religion, and medical history), as well as the cause for the adoption, can be found in adoption records.
After adoption, both the biological parents lose their legal rights to their birth child, including visitation, decision-making, or petition for custody.
As adoptive parents, you have the right to change your adopted child’s name Of course, you’ll need to change their middle and last names, but whether you change their first name is entirely up to you.
For families who have an open adoption framework, the adopted child may grow up having contact with his or her biological parents and thus know they were adopted from the very beginning.
For children from a closed adoption, the best age to tell a child if they are adopted is 6-8 years old. According to Dr. Steve Nickman, it’s observed that 6 year old kids are usually well-established in their families and do not perceive learning about adoption as a threat to their sense of security.