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The Hunt for Birth Parents

One of the most difficult and emotional processes when studying and researching your genealogy is the hunt for birth parents if you have been adopted. Because of privacy laws, which vary from state to state and time period to time period, your may or may not be able to locate exact names and locations from the adoption agency or even from your adoptive parents. Also, many times birth parents do not want to be found. The process can be long, so be prepared for quite a search.

The best starting point when trying to locate your birth family is your adoptive parents. Be sensitive when approaching them for information-make it very clear that you wish to know your genealogy has nothing to do with them or the love they showed you as parents. By finding your birth parents, you are in no way replacing your real family. Your mother and father may not to be able to give you any more than a first name for your birth mother or even any more than the name of the agency or adoption center that handled the paperwork. It will be especially tricky to find information from them if you were from an agency overseas. However, some adoptions are more open then others and your parents may have had some contact with the birth mother, even if they do not know her name. Even providing you with her age or some physical features may help you on your search.

Next, research the laws surrounding adoption in your state and country. You may want to invest in a professional to help you understand these laws, but be careful to always abide by them. There are many agencies, which you can find on the Internet or in your phone book, that can help you in this area, and their legal advice can be invaluable. On the Internet, you can also sign up for services such as adoption reunions. Perhaps your birth mother is looking for you too.

Finally, approach the agency that handled your adoption. They may or may not be able to help you, but it can’t hurt to ask. You might be able to send a letter, through them, to your birth mother, asking for her to contact you to help you research your birth family tree. The adoption agency may also be able to tell you about your mother’s medical records, if nothing else, so that you can be aware of your family’s health history.

Don’t give up. You may never locate your birth mother, but even finding out her name and age can help your draw up a family tree. Your birth father will probably be even harder to find. If you’re stumped, consider researching your adoptive family instead, because it is their name you carry and their love that raised you.

Child Detectives: How to get your Kids on the Hunt

Child Detectives: How to get your Kids on the Hunt for Ancestors

There can be no better activity to do with your child than tracing your genealogy-after all, the connection from one generation to the next is what your research is about! Kids as young as 5 can start learning about their family history and many even surprise you with the help they provide or the new ideas they have. By working on the project together, you can teach your children about their ancestors and create a keepsake that can be passed on to them when they are older.

Begin with what you already know. The easiest way to get started is my filling out what researchers call family information sheets. These can be printed from the Internet and usually include full name, birth date, death date, parents, hometown, spouse, children, and other vital information. First, have your child help you fill one out about yourself, your spouse, and him or herself and any siblings. Make it a game-what does your child know? For example, can your child give you his or her sister’s birth date? Tell your child funny stories pertaining to the information, such as details about your wedding or what your hometown was like when you were growing up. Of course, not every child will be interested in hearing about this, so don’t make yours listen if he or she would rather be doing something else. However, many children will surprise you with their interest. Be prepared for lots of questions. Get your parents or other older family members involved as well if possible. Oral history is vital to genealogy, not so much for research purposes, but to ensure that your family history stays alive with each generation.

When your child gets a little older, you can take him or her to the library with you to do some research. Kids like finding out about their family crests and surname meanings, and learning to use a library is an important skill that kids should learn at a young age. As they mature, kids can accompany you on other field trips as well, such as to family plots in the cemetery, to the records department at your local courthouse, or to virtual destinations on the Internet to help you find your ancestors. By learning research skills, your child will develop an interest in genealogy that might last a lifetime. When your research is done, have your child help you put together a family tree or other family history project that can be passed on to them when they have a family of their own.