Have You Been Told Your Adoption Info Is “Missing?”

A discussion on the Adoption Database list led to an interesting question. How many adoption searchers have been told their information is “missing?”

It’s such an old excuse it’s become cliché in the adoption community: being told the information is “lost,” often through fire or flood. Of course, fires and floods do happen – but if it were true every time a searcher was told so, there wouldn’t be an adoption agency standing in this country.

A new twist, perhaps because we’ve gotten wise to the “fire/flood” excuse, is the “so sorry, we can’t help you” routine. Upon inquiring to states’ adoption services, searchers are told their information is mysteriously unavailable.

ADers asked for a public forum to air their concerns on this issue – so let’s hear from you. Have you been told your information is lost, missing, or just plain gone? Have you gotten the runaround from the bureaucracy? Let’s get more insight as to what is really going on.


  1. Oh, yes! It took me 19 years to unravel the story of my adoption because I was told that.

    First, I called Washington County, Maryland, where I was surrendered and they told me that the state had tried to centralize the records held by the county social service offices and that there was a fire where they had them stored. Now the really funny thing is that someone in Baltimore later told me that Washington County was indexing their records. These women were absolute miracle workers, I guess, because they were able to index ashes. (LOL)

    Then I talked to Wicomico County, where I was placed with my parents and they had lost their copies, too. However, after receiving a letter from my attorney, the missing file mysteriously reappeared!

    It’s pretty clear that that is a standard excuse to put you off.

  2. I have a different perspective on this subject. If one is told that their records were destroyed by fire, flood or whatever — investige the story. If there really was such a disaster, it would have been mentioned in at least the local news media.

    I, for one was told that story. I was adopted through Columbiana County Welfare Dept. in Ohio. When I initially called, I was told about a fire that destroyed many records. The social worker wanted to be upfront with me, and prepare me, in case my records were lost. She said that some records were able to be salvaged, but many were lost.

    She called back a short time later, and informed me that my records were still there!

    Of interest, when I did locate my birthmom, she was able to confirm the story of the fire. The courthouse had been set on fire by an arsonist.

    It was decades later, that I learned the arsonist was a birth relative of mine! He was an upset teenager at the time: mad about some legal trouble he had gotten himself into. So he set fire to the courthouse.

    So when told about adoption records having been destroyed by fire or such, it just may be true!

  3. Fivev55 – I think yours is the first real fire story I’ve ever heard! Like I said, I’m sure it does happen but not as often as we’re told. Good idea to check the local news media to verify.

  4. Yes, my birth mother’s labor and delivery records were waterlogged in a bad fire. I told a social worker at Catholic Charities to send copies to me anyway. They were never waterlogged and except for the information that was removed by CC workers I could read everything just fine.

    People searching should never listen to the bad fire story because chances are it is not true. It is an old lie made up by social workers.

  5. http://Dawidge says

    I’d be extremely suspicious of this kind of report. In most states, birth records are maintained in multiple locations just to protect against this sort of thing… typically one copy at the state level and one at the county/parish level. I cannot speak to the adoption records themselves, but my experience in land title research has shown these records are almost always in the most protected locations possible. That won’t help people from Orleans or St Bernard Parishes in Louisiana, where the water got into EVERYTHING in the records, most of which were in basement repositories. People searching for Plaquemines Parish records, however, should know that the records were SAVED by fire. The records rescued during the courthouse fire were relocated to Belle Chasse at the time Katrina hit.

  6. [In the interests of full disclosure, I’m going to point out that “dawidge” is my husband David.]

    Another trick to be wary of is the “computer problems” excuse. If anybody tells you they can’t find your info because of a computer problem, take it from this tech guru – don’t believe it!

    First of all, most of the records aren’t even on computers. Secondly, it’s the modern-day version of the “flood/fire” routine.

    I know someone who was told her info was unavailable because all the CDs with the databases on them had become corrupt. Excuse me? Every CD corrupt at the same time? In twenty years in IT, I’ve never seen that happen. More likely such excuses mean “we don’t feel like looking,” or the more sinister “we sense there’s something not-right about this case and we don’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.”

    Trust your instincts. If you think you’re being lied to, you probably are.