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 (1976).

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


Adoption is a provincial matter. Each province maintains their own adoption records. See Adoption Records/By Province on this site to obtain the current situation in your province with respect to open adoption records.


Some provincial governments maintain adoption registries. Check your individual province information in Adoption Records/By Province on this website.


Most social service agencies that facilitated the adoption, such as Children’s Aid Societies will provide a narrative from the adoption file known as “Non-Identifying Information”. No identifying information will be included, but often clues to family eg. “the mother had three sisters, ages 6, 8, and 12” or other kinds of information that is not specifically identifying, but that can assist in a search, may be obtained.


Many nonprofit groups provide registries as a volunteer service. Registering with as many registries as possible 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:

  • Origins Search and Reunion Registry
  • Canadian Adoptees Registry
  • International Soundex Reunion Registry
  • Long Lost Family

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

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

    Office of the Indian Registrar

    Ottawa ON  K1A 0H4
    ATTN: Adoption Unit

    Fore more information see Indigenous 60s Scoop on this website. More information is also available at:


Parent Finders is a non-profit organization providing expertise and resources for adoption search
in Canada.
Parent Finders.


Independent volunteer searchers, sometimes referred to as “search angels”, can often be accessed by joining volunteer adoption organizations such as Origins Canada and Parent Finders, or joining in on adoption groups on Facebook.

DNA Testing

DNA testing is becoming more prominent as a tool for searching.

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 directories created in many cities across Canada and often listed 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

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.


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

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


Copyright Origins Canada Inc. 2010