Home Advice & How-ToFamily How to Find Your Birth Parents Even in a Closed Adoption
Home Advice & How-ToFamily How to Find Your Birth Parents Even in a Closed Adoption

How to Find Your Birth Parents Even in a Closed Adoption

by Pamela Fay

If you’re reading this article, you’re in good company: 65 percent of adopted U.S. adults want to know how to find their birth parents.  And perhaps you’re also among the 75 percent who are curious why they were put up for adoption in the first place. We’re living in the digital age; it seems possible to solve any puzzle online. Shouldn’t you be able to find your parents?

Where do you start, though, when you have minimal information and limited funds? It’s not quite as simple as a Google search.  But with modern technology, it doesn’t have to be that difficult either.

Take for example Lynne Moody, who was just 18 years old, pursuing her Hollywood dreams, when she became unexpectedly pregnant.  Knowing that she was ill-equipped to care for a baby, she gave her child up for adoption. Her career blossomed over the decades, and she appeared in several hit television series, including “Roots,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Knots Landing” and “General Hospital.”

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For more than 50 years, Lynne wondered about the child she never knew.  “Is she alive, happy, hungry, safe…healthy?” Moody was thrilled, yet understandably nervous when her daughter, Lisa, found her through a genealogy website.  In Moody’s words, the reunion was “an answer to my prayers after many decades of hope, guilt and pain.” The two have spent the past year and a half getting to know one another and slowly making up for lost time.

What You Should Know

Moody’s story has a made-for-Hollywood ending.  In your search, however, you must be prepared for both good and not-so-good outcomes.  In fact, your biological parents may not want to be found. If this happens, you’ll need to respect their wishes and move on with your life.  The more information you can gather before making the decision to initiate contact, the more control you’ll have over the situation.

How to Find Your Birth Parents in a Closed Adoption

Although open adoptions are commonplace today, many older adoptees and Americans adopted from foreign countries must overcome the obstacle of sealed adoption records.  This is also the case if you were conceived through sperm or egg donation. When you don’t have a clear starting place, genomic testing is a good option. Two of the largest databases are AncestryDNA and 23andMe.


AncestryDNA and similar sites let you conduct a search using a saliva sample.  You simply open an account and purchase a DNA kit online. You’ll receive a prepaid envelope and a test tube. You fill the tube with your saliva and return your sample to the company through US mail.

Ancestry relies on a large online database that may include relatives who have done similar testing in the past. If this occurs, you’ll not only discover your ethnic background, you’ll discover your relatives as well.


Another DNA testing company, 23andMe, offers similar services to AncestryDNA.  23andMe has more than 5 million records in its database.  This pales in comparison to AncestryDNA’s 7 million.  However, if you are also interested in finding your birth parents because of health concerns, 23andMe is the only genomic testing company to offer DNA-based health reports without involving your doctor.  Your report can tell you, for example, whether you carry the genetic variant for celiac disease or the genetic predisposition for dimples.  It is, however, limited by the FDA on the depth of medical analysis it provides.

By design, 23andMe is not intended to help find birth parents.  However, you can opt in to the DNA Relatives feature that matches you with other users.  Although the matches are usually distant, even the name of a fifth cousin can, with a little additional research, lead to your biological parents.

You Have a Name. Now What?

Where can you go for additional research?  Or what if you already have a name or two but not much else to go on?  You’ll need to dig a little deeper. This is where a people search tool like Spokeo is most helpful.

Spokeo has been helping people find each other since 2006.  Using a first and last name or other information, Spokeo lets you confidentially search more than 14 billion publicly available records and over 100 social media networks.  From the basic search, you can discover locations, age and relatives. Once you’ve gathered additional names, you can continue searching using Spokeo’s basic search functionality.

Spokeo also offers advanced services via monthly subscription, which includes up to 100 searches.  These reports may include phone numbers, email address, marital status, level of education and more.  A subscription allows you to drill down even further on a report for more information without having to make an additional purchase.

Even if you start your search using one of the genealogy websites, Spokeo can provide additional information.  For example, you can see who your parent lives with, determine where they work or review a criminal background check.  This information may ultimately help you decide whether or not you want to connect.

Given the amount of data available online, even if the adoption records are closed, it’s easier than ever to find your biological parents.  Take stock of the information you already have and get started today. As Lynne and Lisa’s story proves, it’s never too late to find your birth parents.  A happy reunion could be in your near future.