Searching in Canada

“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage — to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.”- Alex Haley,  Author, “Roots”

This page contains some basic information and resources for adoption-reunion searches in Canada.

Searching in Canada is hindered by the policies which keep adoption records closed against access by  parents and adoptees. See Adoption Records/By Province on this site for province by province information regarding the situation in your province.

REGISTRIES – Provincial Governments

Some provincial governments maintain adoption registries. Some of these registries can take years before they make a “match” even if both parties have registered. Others will perform active searches on a discriminatory basis, e.g. for adoptees only but not for natural parents, siblings or grandparents.


Many nonprofit groups also have registries as a volunteer service. Registering with them should be a priority for searchers.  It is very important to keep your information up to date on any registry you are using.  These are the main registries:

These are all nonprofit volunteer organizations. If you find your family through one of them, please consider donating to the organization to help it stay active and helping reunite other separated families.


If you are born in Canada, adopted and taken to the United States, contact the U.S. Dept. of Immigration and obtain a copy of your Entry Visa.  This form should show your full name at birth.  This is required for all persons taking up permanent resident status in the U.S.

States with open records (for adoptees only).

  • Maine
  • Tennessee
  • Kansas
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Soon to join their ranks are Illinois, possibly New Jersey,  and Rhode Island.


To determine whether an adoptee is entitled to “Registered Indian Status,” you must make an official enquiry to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

Send a copy of the adoption order along with a written request to the following address:

Allan Tallman
Office of the Indian Registrar

Ottawa ON  K1A 0H4
ATTN: Adoption Unit

More information:


There are many volunteer searchers across Canada, both independent and belonging to volunteer organizations such as Origins Canada and Parent Finders. If you wish to contact a search-angel, join these organizations and it’s possible that someone can help you.
< Phone books and Henderson Directories

  • Public libraries often have older editions on-hand.  Older phone books may produce leads such as names of close relatives who can be traced and called.  Henderson Directories  (City Directories) were produced for many cities across Canada and often listed all the adult residents of a dwelling and their occupations.

Search Engines and Member Directories:

Newspaper and Obituary Indices:

Genealogy Sites:

Newspaper articles, obituaries, public notices, genealogy pages – any of these might come up in the search results.

If you are an adoptee, your natural parent’s place of birth may be on your birth registration. Searching may come up with a family with the same name in the same city. This is a good lead and should be followed-up. Searching phone books and city directories in the local public library of that area is often a good start, to find out who extended family members are of the person you are seeking, and where they may currently live. Canada-411 is another good resource.

Lien Searches

Social Insurance Numbers:

The first digit of a SIN usually identifies the province in which it was registered, as listed below. However, the government has found it necessary in the past to supply certain regions with SIN numbers assigned to other regions.

1: Atlantic Provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador (this may also cover overseas residents).
2–3: Québec
4–5: Ontario (#4 includes overseas forces)
6: Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta), Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
7: Pacific Region (British Columbia and Yukon)
8: In use, geography unclear
9: Temporary resident
0: Not used (Canada Revenue may assign fictitious SIN numbers beginning with zero to taxpayers who do not have SINs)

Divorce Records:

Divorce records are public.  You must know the County in which the decree was granted.  Use the background history to narrow down the time frame.

Contact the Court office where you are searching for local directions.


Cemetery Aids can be very useful.  The Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid is a database of over 3 million interments in Ontario.  This database consists of surnames, cemetery name and location and can be accessed at

Another cemetery finding aid of the British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid at

DNA Testing:

DNA testing is the most accurate way of proving a blood relative.  Go to

See “How Adoption Records Grew Secret” by Elizabeth Samuels for more information on the secrecy of closed adoptions.


Copyright Origins Canada Inc. 2010