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How to Find My Unknown Father

author image Shannon Marks
Shannon Marks started her journalism career in 1994. She was a reporter at the "Beachcomber" in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and contributed to "Philadelphia Weekly." Marks also served as a research editor, reporter and contributing writer at lifestyle, travel and entertainment magazines in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Temple University.
How to Find My Unknown Father
Only 63 percent of American children grow up with both biological parents.

It’s not unusual for children in the United States to grow up with only one parent. In fact, a 2007 report by the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that about 26 percent of American children were living with one biological parent. In the years 2000 and 2001, an estimated 127,000 children were adopted in the United States, according to the Administration for Children and Families. Before you start your search, make a list of everything you know about your birth and the identity of your biological dad.

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Step 1

If you were adopted, request your adoption records. Even if you grew up with your biological mother, if your stepdad adopted you, the state will have copies of these records. The website explains that open records states must release adoption documents when you fill out an application. In 2010, only six states qualified as open records states (Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon). Many other states will release adoption records with some restrictions. Because an adoption has required the consent of both parents in recent decades, your father’s name is likely to be on these documents.

Step 2

Request a copy of your birth certificate if you do not already have one. It might say that your father is unknown, but it will confirm the city where you were born, which is likely the area your father lived at the time of your birth. Go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Where to Write for Vital Records” website (see Resources) to find the office in your state to contact.

Step 3

Request your medical records from the hospital in which you were born. Your mother may have provided your father's name when her doctor took a medical history. Every hospital will have a different procedure for releasing these records. Call the hospital where you were born, which will be on your birth certificate, to find out its protocol.

Step 4

Put your name on reunion websites in case your father or his family members have ever tried tracking you down. Download an application at the International Soundex Reunion Registry. The ISRR organizes reunions between estranged family members at no cost. Sign up with Adoption Database Registry. For a fee of $10, the ADR will ensure your records are always up to date, even after you move or get a new phone number.

Step 5

Hire a private investigator. A PI will do the footwork you may not be able to do due to work or family restrictions. Be sure the PI is licensed and bonded and that you have a contract clearly outlining the fees.

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