How to find your birth parents in the UK (for free)

how to find your birth parents free UK

If you’re wondering how to find your birth parents in the UK (for free) then you’ll know it isn’t easy. Especially in lockdown.

This year I managed to find my birth family online. I found my mother first and after that, I found two sisters on one side of the family. Very quickly I tracked down my birth father and his three daughters. I’m currently pulling together details of my two uncles, to share with my sisters.

Along the way I’ve picked up some tips on how to find your birth parents online for free, or certainly spending less than £20.

Finding your birth family can be traumatic

Searching for your birth parents after an adoption can be tough emotionally. You need to be clear about what you want from the search, and how you’ll feel if things don’t go to plan. You might not be able to find your birth parents; they might not want to hear from you. They might be dead. Think carefully before starting a search – are you prepared for what you’ll find?

For me, I’d had a difficult disagreement with a relative, and was struggling to feel like I had solid roots. I took some time before I felt ready to get in touch with my my birth mother only to realise she’d passed away the year before. Finding and speaking with my sisters has been a blessing, but I wish I’d started the search earlier.

If you’re ready to get started, here’s how to find your birth parents in the UK:

Step 1: Get your original birth certificate

Anyone can pay to receive a copy of their full birth certificate, but if you’re adopted, it’s free. You need to complete the form at this link to request your birth information before adoption and send it, along with proof of your identify.

The form will ask for your date of birth, adopted name and (if you know it) the date of your adoption and your pre-adoption name. If you were adopted before 1975, you must see an adoption advisor before the certificate is sent to you. If you were adopted later, the meeting is optional.

A couple of weeks later you should get your original birth certificate, which means you’ll know your full name, your parents’ names, the date and place of birth and (if you were born after 1969) the place of birth of your parents.

finding my birth family

Step 2: The subject access request (free)

If you don’t know much about your adoption or have questions about your childhood, you can submit a subject access request to your local authority children’s services team. This means you should receive a copy of your social services file within 40 days, which will give you background on your life before and during your adoption. It might tell you about any siblings, your birth family’s situation and location, and any other significant events in your early life.

Having this information helped me understand a lot more about the background to my adoption and certain timelines that had become confused over the years. There’s a great step by step guide to this process here. Filing an SAR should be free unless you ask for extra copies of printed information.

Step 3: How to find birth parents on Facebook (free)

The good thing about being 40+ is that my birth parents are of a generation that tends not to pay close attention to privacy settings on Facebook. Very few older people seem to hide things like profiles, photos and friend lists.

If you want to know how to find your birth parents in the UK my first tip is to start on social media. Armed with a birth parent’s name, age and their place of birth, there’s a decent chance you’ll be able to find one or more people on Facebook, who *could* be your birth parent.

But a word of caution: there are a lot of people who might have the same name, your birth mother may have changed her name if she married after you were born, and lots of people don’t stay in the same place they were born. So just because you find Janet James, doesn’t mean it’s THE Janet James.

Step 4: Check marriage records (free)

In many cases, women change names during their lives and that can make finding your birth mother online a real challenge. Luckily, you can search UK marriage (and birth and death) records online for free. Using the details from my birth certificate, I could find that my parents were married to each other, AND my father married twice more, and my mother once. I could see that my father had stayed living in the same area he was in when I was born, while my mother had moved to Kent.

All of this information can be found for free on BDM online, which is a fabulous project where thousands of volunteers have manually put information from paper records into an online record of births, deaths and marriages. It doesn’t cover every area or every year, but it’s a really usable and substantial resource. Just pop in a region, your parent’s surname and a period of time, and you can see all matching records.

finding birth mother tips

Step 5: Check birth records (free)

If you’re searching for your birth parents, it can be useful to find ANY extended family because the chances are that if you find an uncle or aunt, that’s a route to finding your birth parent. Or finding out more about a birth parent before getting in touch.

Using the information on my birth certificate, I found my mother’s birth certificate and discovered she was born in Liverpool and I could see her father’s surname and her mother’s maiden name. From there, it was just a case of looking for any children born in the 15 years before/after my mother in the same district, and with the same mother/father details.

This helped me to identify two of my mother’s brothers. Since my mother has passed away, I hope they are going to be able to tell me more about her history, and her early life.

Step 6: Search the Electoral Roll (paid)

By this point in time, I think you should have a good idea of who your birth parents are – their names, where they live/d, who they’re married to. Once you have this information, if you still can’t find your birth parents on social media, it’s time to spend just a little bit of money.

Once I knew my parents’ names, spouses and likely locations, I signed up for an account on This site will let you search the electoral roll and Companies House records over the past 20 years. Some tips on using

  • You can search by name and location, and the more specific you can be, the fewer results you’ll find. With a free search you’ll see a list of matching profiles with the first part of the individual’s postcode. If you register for the site then you can look up the phone number for each entry using the free directory enquiries service. If you’re feeling brave, you might want to call people.
  • If you’re not up for a phone call (and I definitely wasn’t) then you’ll need to pay to see the addresses associated with the search results. You’ll need one credit for each address record you look at, and credits start at £18 for six, or £35 for 30.  Using a credit will give you an electoral record in most cases, along with the full address and names of all adults living at that address in a given time period.
  • Be careful to screenshot records on 192 because every time you view a record, the site bills you for another record, meaning it’s easy to use up lots of money without noticing.

Back to social media (free)

My advice is to use to identify one or two people who you are pretty sure could be your birth parents. Make a note of people living at the same address – check social media for THEIR profiles. Often you’ll find adult kids who are active on social media even if their parents aren’t.

Doing this meant I could discount lots of people who looked likely on but were clearly too young, too old or entirely the wrong race once I looked them up on social media. I also found my father’s wife, and his children and ultimately was able to feel pretty confident that one of the results was my actual birth parent. So I went back and used one credit to see his home address and phone number.

finding birth family in UK

Top Tips: how to find birth parents in the UK for free:

  • If you find that a birth parent isn’t on the most recent electoral roll, there is a chance they may have passed away. You can check death records on the BDM site already mentioned, or you can look up local newspaper obituaries online. I emailed the local council’s cemetery department and they were able to confirm that someone of her name and age had indeed been cremated, and they gave me her date of passing.
  • has a more complete set of records than you’ll find at the free directory, and it offers a free, two-week trial. Just make a note in your diary to cancel if you don’t want to end up paying for access to the site when the trial runs out.
  • Google isn’t always a big help finding birth parents and first families because you’ll turn up too many results. But once you’ve done the first set of searches and come up with a few likely names for your birth parents, searching local newspapers via Google can be handy. I managed to identify two of my sisters through local newspaper stories by Googling their names and the county they grew up in. It helped me understand what their situation was BEFORE I got in touch.
  • When contacting someone who you think might be related to you, be careful and remember you might not be correct, or you might be contacting someone who has no idea you exist! I stuck with mentioning I was looking for a person called Sarah Smith who lived in Winchester in the early 1980s as part of a family history project, and did I have the right person? Chances are that if the person you’re contacting IS one of your birth parents, they will know exactly who you are.

I hope that these tips are helpful if you want to know how to find your birth parents in the UK, for free. Let me know if you have any questions or tips you want to share, in the comments! 

17 thoughts on “How to find your birth parents in the UK (for free)”

  1. Hi , I’m searching for my parents, I have original birth certificate , and found them on BDM , but it doenst add much other than month /year etc.

    ‘Here you say it allowed you to get/find your parents birth certificate

    “Using the information on my birth certificate, I found my mother’s birth certificate and discovered she was born in Liverpool and I could see her father’s surname and her mother’s maiden name. ”

    Doesnt expalin how you got that or where from ? BDM does not have that info so Im a bit confused as to how you do that ?



    1. Hi Matthew – good luck with your search!

      You’re right, I used my birth certificate for my mother’s name, then BMD to find my mother’s birth record – from there I could see her date and place of birth, and her mother’s maiden name.

      When you look at the BMD record, you’ll see that each entry has a year, quarter, district, volume and page number associated. This information is the “GRO reference”. You can order any birth, marriage, death or divorce record from the GRO website if you have the GRO reference. The service costs £11 and it takes about a week to get a certificate. Just Google “order birth certificate GRO” (do go through the government website, not a commercial service that charges an arm and a leg!)

      Hope that helps 🙂

  2. I found my birth mother in a very convoluted way – there was a huge amount of luck involved but it worked for me.

    Once I got my original birth certificate I joined a Facebook group local to the area of the address that was on my birth certificate. By a huge stroke of luck I discovered that the man who had lived at the address back in 1972 when I was born still lived there so I wrote to him.

    To cut what could essentially be a very long novel (!) he gave me information that proved my birth mother had been using a false name at the time of my birth. Discovering her real name, coupled with the info in my adoption file meant that I found her within an hour of getting my file.

    Don’t rule anything out when looking for your birth parents – don’t discount something if it doesn’t quite make sense at first.

  3. I am trying to locate my father in Brighton I need some help I got special needs I’ve been looking for him for 8 years now I made a relationship with my Uncle but he doesn’t respond anymore and he won’t take me to him because the complications because of his dad that doesn’t like my mum I need some help with this

    1. If you have contact with your uncle, is that your father’s brother? If so, he is certainly the best person to help you contact your father. Can you find a social media profile and see if there is anyone that is friends with your father or uncle who might be worth messaging to ask for help? Maybe someone else in the family will explain that your uncle’s issues with your father are nothing to do with you. Good luck!

  4. Hi there
    Thanks so much for all that info,it was clearly done and very easy to understand and follow. I have a question hope u can help….My biological father was born in England and I presume he lived there.I live in South Africa how would I find him then?

    1. You can still access most of these resources either online or by completing the online form from anywhere else in the world, so you would do it exactly the same way as if you were in the UK. Good luck!

  5. Daniel Phillips

    Hi, I’m trying to find my biological father. He’s in Brighton. I believe but it is took me a long time to try and find him need some help but this is service about freak, as I canid1878 t afford anything. Could you help me

    1. Hi Daniel

      The resources listed in this post are all free to start with. My suggestion would be to start with the births, deaths and marriages record – it may be that your father was married, had other children, or has died (unfortunately) and if so you can find information there. This is totally free, and will give you the first part of any matching people’s postcodes and potentially also give you information about spouses and siblings (if you look at your own father, see what other birth or marriage records he’s listed on potentially 20 years before you were born and 20 after).

      Once you have the postcode if you can’t afford £20 for then you can do a free search to find the first part of their postcode, then go and physically look at the electoral roll in the library in Brighton – you should be able to narrow down anyone with your father’s name living in that particular part of the city, with their addresses and the names of other people living at the same address. From there, I’d start looking for social media accounts of anyone living at your potential father’s address, to get an idea of whether you’re looking at someone who is approximately the right age. This should hopefully narrow down your options to a couple of people, good luck!

  6. My mother told me before she died I was not her son
    And Iv asked my sister and she won’t tell me enything
    I was born in Taunton Somerset
    In 1961
    Name John Kennedy
    Hope you can help me please

    1. Hi John

      Assuming that you aren’t your mother’s son the most likely scenario is that you’re adopted, in which case you will have a birth certificate that was issued when you were adopted, which states your mother is your mother. But there will be another birth certificate on record showing your original birth parents – you can apply for a copy of this using the process in this article for your original birth certificate, which will have the names and occupations of your birth parents, and an address.

      From there you can use records like the electoral roll to try and track them down. Hope that helps!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *