Adoption – finding out about your birth parents

Obtaining an original birth certificate

If you are adopted and aged 20 or over, the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 allows you to apply for a copy of your original birth certificate. Birth Certificates and Adoption page at the Department of Internal Affairs website outlines the process and has links to the required forms.

Your certificate will be sent to the branch of the Adoption Information and Services Unit which is nearest your home. This certificate will give the date and place of your birth, sex, and original first names if they were put on the register. It may show basic birth parent details.

If the details of one or both of your birth parents appear on the original birth certificate you will be sent a list of counsellors. You must tell the Registrar-General who you have chosen from this list and your birth certificate will be sent to the relevant counsellor. This person will contact you and arrange for you to collect the certificate. You can discuss with him/her ways of searching for your birth parents and making a sensitive approach.

Tracing your birth mother or father

Birth mother

Your adoptive family may know more details. Ask them first.

Your birth mother’s first and family names will be on your original certificate. If she had an uncommon surname look on the NZ White pages. Also try the electoral rolls which are held on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2, Tūranga.

If you don’t find her, it may be because your birth mother married after the adoption and has a new surname. You can obtain a copy of her marriage registration details from Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Ask for an electronic print-out. This will include information on the officiating minister and witnesses and may lead you to people who know about your birth mother and her family.

Another suggestion is to look for your birth mother’s birth registration details by looking through the index to births on microfiche on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2, Tūranga. Her age will have been given on your original birth certificate so it is easy to work out when she would have been born. Her registration details will tell you who her parents (your birth grandparents) were. They may be still alive and able to be contacted to give you help.

Birth father

Your birth father will not be mentioned unless he is on the original birth certificate. The Adoption Unit may have information about him but may not give you this if it would identify him. You will need to ask your birth mother or birth relatives for information about your birth father.

No birth parents given on your birth certificate?

If there are no details of your birth parents on the birth certificate, a veto has been placed by them. You will receive the certificate directly at the address you have provided on the form, together with a list of counsellors. You may want to discuss the situation with one of them. A veto lasts for ten years but can be lifted at any time. Sometimes birth parents provide a letter of explanation as to why they placed a veto and you may ask if Child, Youth and Family holds any information about your adoption by contacting Adoption Services.

Even if you find a veto has been placed you can still continue your search. A veto only stops identifying information being released. This seldom happens now because there are few vetoes.

Organisations which can help

Adoption Services
at the Department of Child, Youth and Family, offers support and information for adopted adults who are searching for birth parents, both pre- and post-reunion.
  • They can request a New Zealand-wide search for marriage and death information 1991-
  • They can do a similar search in Australia
  • Work from names on an original birth certificate to obtain current addresses
Search CINCH for adoption support organisations

If you need any more help ask at any desk at our libraries.

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