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Searching for missing biological relatives can be the most exhausting and yet, rewarding experience in the world. Plagued by the unknown fear that the party you're in search of may not want to be found, many searchers fall just short of completing their mission.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN There are several things to consider before beginning your search. It's best to address all your fears and reservations before making any decisions, to be certain that you've thought the process through. A search can involve anywhere from a few phone calls to years of research and court visits. Before beginning, be honest with yourself about what you're getting into and what you'll need in order to complete the task.

SEARCHING FOR MISSING SIBLINGS, PARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN Brothers and sisters, grandchildren and step-parents often get lost through marriage, the process of mental illness and the general breakdown of the biological family. This is one of the simplest searches to perform however, considering that you already know the name and (usually) birth date of the intended. Begin with what information you do know. Where was their last place of residence? Do you know their Social Security Number? Has their name changed through marriage or divorce? Taking what information you do know as fact, you can perform simple searches by contacting:

1. The Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV is a powerful resource and its records are open to the public. If you have a date of birth and know the State your party is living in, one simple phone call can provide a current address and phone number.

2. County Courthouse. If your lost one has married or divorced, the county in which they are/were living will have a public record of it. Don't underestimate the amount of information available (for a small copying fee) at local and state level courthouses.

3. Phone Company. By using the Internet or any phone company records list, you can peruse by State for names matching that of your party. If your target has an uncommon name, an instant match can be returned in just minutes.

4. Contacting friends and relatives. Most people don't just disappear off the face of the earth. Talk to former neighbors, friends, coworkers and other family relatives. Odds are, someone still keeps in contact with the person you're in search of.

5. Private Investigator or Information Broker. Because you have a name and quite possibly a birthdate or social security number of the missing party, hiring a private detective to locate the missing details will be inexpensive and hassle free.

THE ADOPTION TRIANGLE Much more difficult is the task of locating biological children or parents separated by adoption. Not only have court records already been sealed, but many details about adoptions performed prior to the 1980's are inaccurate and not readily available for public viewing. This search is not impossible however, and with a lot of digging and perseverance, you can find those lost in the adoption triangle.


1. The most important step you can take is to call the Adoption Agency (where the child was placed for adoption) and request forms to update your information. By doing this, the Agency agrees to contact you immediately, should your biological child request non-identifying information, health information or your details. This step should not be overlooked!

2. Contact the state in which your child was adopted and ask to update your information, as well. Many Social Service Agencies provide the proper forms for free. At the same time, you can inquire into whether or not your child has contacted them, looking for information about you.

3. Check the papers. If you know the State your child was adopted in, peruse the daily papers. Many times, happy adoptive couples placed adoption and birth notices on or around the date of your child's birth. If one looks familiar, you can take the identifying information you find (including name and address) and cross-reference it through the adoption agency or courthouse.

4. Don't forget the Internet. There are more than one million adopted children searching the Internet for their biological parents. This is a great resource for Birthparents. Be sure to check online adoption registries and don't be afraid to list your details and state your own case!

FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN Before doing anything, talk with your adoptive parents. There's a good chance that they can provide you with information you will find useful. Get copies of your amended birth certificate, adoption decree and intent of adoption and keep records of everything! After you've gathered as many details as you can, try

1. Contacting the Adoption Agency. Put in a request for your non-identifying information. Often, there is a small fee attached to this request, but it will garner enough information to get you on more solid footing. Many times, there is a small amount of identifying information also contained in records. While you're there, be sure in inquire as to whether or not your birthmother has updated her information or been looking for you. Many searchers meet their match with this one phone call.

2. Contact the courts. As an adoptee, you can request that your original (non-amended) birth certificate be revealed to you. Several states grant this request without question, while others aren't as cooperative. Contact the State in which you were born and find out what steps need to be taken for you to make this request, and how the State handles each request.

3. Go back to the Courts. Each State allows adoptees to request identifying information, as well. If a medical condition is considering life altering, your records will be given to you. If not, you can still petition the courts and present your case to the judge.

4. Go Online. List your details on the Internet and join support groups in your State. Often, two heads are better than one and with a little direction and guidance, searching isn't so exhausting.