For some adopted kids, the identity of their birth parents is a mystery they have to solve. It used to be nearly impossible to find information on international adoptions. Since the 1990s, though, searching for birth parents in Germany or other foreign countries has become more common, and more resources are available. Finding German birth records probably won't be easy, but it's no longer impossible.
Searching for your birth parents, let alone finding them, is an intense and sometimes overwhelming experience. Talk to or read up on adoptees who've done it so you have some idea what you'll be going through.
If you're comfortable talking to your adoptive parents about your search, they're obviously a good source of information. Anything they know or were told about your birth parents or the location of your birth can help your search.
Contact the U.S. agency involved in your adoption and ask for whatever added information it can provide. If it can put you in touch with the agency that handled the German end of things, that's a big step forward. Next, contact the German agency and see if it's willing and able to provide you with German adoption records or any other information. This may take time, so be patient.
If you find the city where you were born, contact local government to request a copy of your birth certificate. Birth records are kept at the local Standesamt – vital records office. The U.S. Embassy in Germany has advice on its website for contacting standesamts and obtaining a copy of your certificate. That may give you a family name to look for.
Another possibility is to contact U.S. Immigration Services for information about your entry into the United States.
Search For Your Parents
There are many online registries where birth parents and adopted children can submit information. You can enter your name in one, or more than one, but this produces results only if your birth parents are registered, too. Note that some sites charge a fee for this service.
If you want to take a more active approach, contact professionals in Germany willing to search for your birth parents. This will cost money, so be careful to check references and investigate the background of anyone you hire.
If your research has turned up a name, you can try looking yourself. Every legal resident of Germany has to record their address with the Meldebehörde, or registration office. However the office doesn't usually release the information. Another possibility is to use the German telephone-book white pages, which you can find online.
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- Lawyers.com: Resources for Finding a Birth Parent or Child
- Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State: Intercountry Adoption: Adoptees
- Indiana State Library: Family Search Vital Records
- Center for Adoption Policy: Overview of German Adoption Law
- International Social Service - USA: Tracings
- Ask for support from your family and friends, as a search for your birth parents may become an emotional process.
- Seek advice from the adoption agency or an adoption lawyer to find out more about intercountry adoption laws.
- Think about whether a cultural tour or vacation in Germany might be a positive experience for you.
- Prepare yourself for a potentially time-consuming and emotional search process.
- Approach any potential birth parent match results with caution and consider asking for documents or other evidence of the relationship's authenticity.
Over the course of his career, Fraser Sherman has reported on local governments, written about how to start a business and published four books of film reference. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs.