I was adopted – how can I get a copy of my birth certificate?

The adoption process and the way records are dealt with has changed a lot over the years, as has the terminology that is used around them. This often causes confusion, and the adoption certificate you now require may not be the same as the original document you had. So, is it possible to get a new birth certificate once you have been adopted?

Isn’t my birth certificate and adoption certificate the same thing?

In short, no. Many people believe that, when you have been adopted, a new birth certificate gets produced but this is not actually the case. This confusion likely stems from the fact that in previous years when an adoption occurred, a short form birth certificate was given to the adoptive parents. A short form birth certificate was a document produced at the time of a birth registration and given to parents free of charge; it served mainly as a commemorative souvenir and could not be used for any official purpose. A short form certificate only contains information about the child and lists no parental details.

short form birth certificate - adoption blog
A UK short form birth certificate

Because adoption was considered to be a taboo topic in the past, the short form birth certificate was issued to prevent the adoption from becoming public knowledge and to avoid people asking questions. It also served to protect the adopted child from finding out they were adopted, as well as to allow the adoptive parents to make the decision as to whether or not they wanted to inform their child of the adoption.

Therefore, for an adopted person, the short form birth certificate refers to their adoption record, not a revised birth record as most would assume! Thankfully, attitudes towards adoption have changed dramatically as time has passed so what once was a very hidden and private process is now looked upon much more openly.

In any case, once the adoption has been granted, an adoption certificate is produced, and this legally replaces the original birth record. The biological birth record then becomes more of an historic document and will have an amendment to state that an adoption has occurred so that from that point on it will not be recognised as suitable for any official purpose, such as obtaining a passport, driving licence or job application.

Why can’t I just use my original short form birth certificate for ID?

Your original birth certificate is no longer valid as it doesn’t reflect your legal identity. Even if your first name stayed the same upon your adoption being granted, your surname will likely differ; in any case, your biological birth record is not classed as your legal document anymore.

It doesn’t matter if you were only a few days or months old at the time of your adoption, or if you were adopted by one parent, alongside a biological parent instead of a couple. If an adoption occurred, an adoption record will have been produced. For any official purpose, it’s always best to produce your adoption certificate as this indicates who you legally are!

So what will my adoption certificate show?

In some ways, the adoption certificate is very similar to the birth certificate. Both will reflect the full date of birth and sex of the child. However, the full name listed on the certificate will be the adopted name; depending on the circumstances, the forename may or may not have changed but there will be no reference on the certificate to the original name given at birth.

The country of birth will always be shown; however, it is dependent on the situation whether or not it is broken down into a district and sub-district. If a child born in the United Kingdom has been adopted, district and sub-district will likely be listed; however, if the child was born overseas, it is more than likely that only the country of birth will be present on the document.

adoption certificate
A long form UK adoption certificate

The certificate will also contain details about the adoptive parents, more specifically their names, occupations and the home address. The final pieces of information recorded relate more to the actual adoption process, namely the date the adoption order was officially granted and the name of the court which granted it, as well as the date the adoption record itself was first produced.

The way birth records and adoption records are stored also differs. Birth records are open records, which means they are legally allowed to be transcribed to an electronic database. As a result, we can use our archive preview system to find the reference numbers associated with your birth record and have it issued within ten working days!

However, adoption records are classed as closed records; as you have more than likely guessed, these records are not allowed to be transcribed to an electronic database so we cannot search for them. Therefore, a manual search is required; we submit the request to the archive, they search their records to find the applicable one and then, so long as all the information on the request matches that on the record, the certificate is issued.

As you can imagine, this process can take quite a while, so when an adoption certificate is ordered on our standard service it can take up to 4 weeks for the certificate to be issued.

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Need a certificate in a hurry?

Our priority service means we can obtain adoption certificates (as well as birth, marriage and death certificates) in just three working days!

Can you obtain my original full birth certificate for me?

In theory, we can! However, it is important to remember that you will need to know your name at birth, as well as the names of your birth parents. For some people, these details can be easily provided, but for others it can be close to impossible if that information is not known. We will always do our best to support you in your search!

We’re Here to Help!

Want to order your adoption certificate? Simply fill out the relevant form on our website to place your order. If you have any further questions regarding adoption certificates, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. You can chat to our team on on our live chat system, chat via WhatsApp, give us a call on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, visit our site at www.vitalcertificates.co.uk or via e-mail at certificates@vitalcertificates.co.uk.

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Melanie Clarke

Melanie is a Digital Marketer and TEFL Specialist at Vital Consular. Before taking up a Marketing role, she spent 3 years building up a rich knowledge of global legalisation processes on the operations team. When she's not working, Melanie enjoys attending music events and pursuing many creative interests including screen printing and merchandise design.

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  1. So does this mean that the adoption certificate is actually the short form birth certificate? Would the adoption record or certificate (actual certificate indicating the adoptive parents names) be available in the general registrar’s records or data base?

    • Hi Marium. A birth and adoption certificate are two separate things and hold different information. An adoption certificate holds no information about the birth, and only about the adoption event. The adoption record is available through the General Register Office, but you can only apply for it if you know the specific details of the certificate. The record is not viewable by the public as it’s a secure record. I hope this helps, if you have further questions lets me know.

      • Hi I’m looking to find my mothers original birth certificate. I know she was adopted so only have the adopted parents on the certificate!!I would like to trace back parentage for medical reasons! Can you help?

        • Hi Karen, thanks for your comment. We may be able to help, but it completely depends on what information you do have available and when your mum was born (the amount of details required to trace a certificate differs dependent on the year!). If you to see if we can help you, just drop our certificates specialists an email at certificates@vitalcertificates.co.uk and we’ll do all we can for you 🙂

          Many thanks, Melanie

  2. I would like a birth certificate form when I was born I was adopted but I don’t know my birth parents names only that I was born Annette Clarke on 14/01961 do you think you can help .

    • Hi Annette, do you happen to know where you were born in terms of area? This would be a great help in narrowing down a record. If you would like to send an email to me at certificates@vitalcertificates.co.uk I can see what I can help with, I hope this helps.


  3. Hi there. I’m adopted. I’m applying for Irish citizenship and they require a ‘long form’ birth certificate which, I assume, means my original birth certificate which is a different name to my ‘short form’ certificate. How do I go about getting hold of my original ‘long form’ certificate and will this affect my application for Irish citizenship…?

  4. Hi Melanie,

    This post mentions that your firm can order original full birth certificates for people who have been adopted. Does this mean the information originally provided to the registrar prior to adoption – i.e. birth mother, father if known, their places of birth, usual address? I thought that Certified copies of an entry (“full” / “long” birth certificates) could only be obtained in their original unredacted form i.e. not ‘compiled’, by the adoptee as part of their birth record info after an interview with a social worker.

    I would be very grateful for any clarification as I have a friend who is adopted and wonder
    what I would receive if I ordered him a Certified Copy of his birth registration from the GRO down the same route I would use to order one for someone who is not adopted.

    Best wishes, Anna

    • Hi Anna,

      Really sorry for the late reply. Yes, provided you have the relevant information, which it sounds like you do, you can request a certified copy of the birth certificate (as it was filed at the time of birth). They’re on public record at the GRO. I hope this helps, and I hope you find what you’re looking for!

      All the best,

  5. (I should add that I have the registration district, year, quarter, volume and page and his mother’s maiden name, and can see his birth name on the GRO index. His adoption was official and the relevant court is known.)

  6. Hi Melanie, I’m in the same boat, looking to get an Irish passport via birth grandparents…
    You say the adoption certificate supercedes the birth certificate…
    Does that mean my claim will be invalid as the citizenship of adopted parents supercedes my blood?!

    • Hi Max, thanks for your question. That’s not the case, no. The adoption certificate supersedes a birth certificate in terms of ID and paperwork. If you’re making a claim based on your heritage, you don’t lose any rights if you’re later adopted. I hope this helps!

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