Adoption Search Resources

How to Search

Exploring the Issue of Adoption

Organizations That Can Help
Searching for Someone who has Lived in the Spokane Area

Internet Resources


Below are resources to help you search for a birth child or birth parent. Adoption searches are not easy. You must first learn the identity of the person you're looking for, then find the person. You may also want to use the library's web page called "Finding Missing People".

How to Search

Here are some guidebooks that tell you how to conduct a search.

Ultimate Search Book: Worldwide Adoption and Vital Records, by Lori Carangelo, 1998. In the Genealogy Area at the Downtown Library. R GEN 929.1072 CARANGE. An excellent resource packed with hundreds of information sources.

The Librarian's Guide to Public Records. In the Genealogy Area at the Downtown Library. R GEN 026.35 LIBRARI. These records may help you locate someone. Covers 23 categories of records, including credit, litigation, voter registration and social security number records.

Visit the Public Records section of the library's web page called Missing People for information on how to use public records in your search.  Adoption laws vary from state to state and it is important to know what the laws are in the state you are researching.  A good web site to start with is the Adoption Network Law Center. 


Exploring the Issue of Adoption 

Reunited: An Investigative Genealogist Unlocks Some of Life's Greatest Family Mysteries, by Pameal Slaton, 2012.  362.8298 SLATON.  Slanton shares tips and stories of her reunion with her birth mother.

May the Circle be Unbroken: an Intimate Journey into the Heart of Adoption, by Lynn Franklin, 1998. 362.734 FRANKLI. Deals with the practical, emotional and legal issues of adoption and adoption searching.

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child, by Nancy Newton Verrier, 1993. 362.734 VERRIER. Examines the experience of the adopted child, including reunion and its impact.

Adoption Reunions: a Book for Adoptees, Birth Parents and Adoptive Families, by Michelle McColm, 1993. 362.8298 MCCOLM. A practical guide from the search decision through post-reunion issues.

Being Adopted: the Lifelong Search for Self, by David Brodinsky, MarshallSchechter and Robin Henig, 1992. 362.734 BRODZIN. Discusses common developmental pathways in the life of the adopted person. 


Organizations That Can Help 

Children's Home Society of Washington's Adoption Resource Center
2323 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley, WA 99216
(509) 747-4174
The Spokane Adoption Resource Center's provides information, support, therapy and education to birth parents, adopted people and adoptive parents. They have a large adoption-related library. Call ahead to see what they can do for you.

Washington Adoption Rights Movement 
5950 6th Ave S., Suite 107, Seattle, WA 98108
(206) 767-9510,

The Washington Adoption Rights Movement offers support groups and has some search services available for a fee.

Other Organizations

There are many organizations that can help in an adoption search. These groups may register adopted people and birth parents willing to be found, give advice and referrals to help in the adoption search, or focus on the legal issues surrounding the opening of adoption records. Some organizations charge fees or membership dues for their services, others ask for donations. To find them, use RefUSA, a database directory of individuals and businesses. It is available at all library branches and to library card holders who have internet access.


Searching for Someone Who Has Lived in the Spokane Area 

Crisscross Directories and Telephone Books

The Genealogy Area of the Downtown Library has a collection of Polk crisscross directories for Spokane dating back to the 1890's. Polk directories list residents by name, street address,and telephone number, and sometimes give occupation or employer. You can trace a person through the years to see when they were listed in the directories,their address, and sometimes where they worked. Also, the Northwest Room has a collection of old Spokane telephone books dating back to the turn of the century. Lastly, there is a selection of crisscross directories from some California and Idaho cities on microfiche in the Genealogy Area.  Dates range from 1900-1980's.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Downtown Library has back issues of the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper from 1887 to the present on microfilm. If you have the date of a wedding, birth, death, accident, or other newsworthy event, check for an article, legal notice, or announcement around that date. There are subject indexes to the Spokesman-Review covering 1887-1920, and 1988 - present. However, several of these indexes do not include personal names.

Death Indexes and Obituaries

A death index may tell you if someone is dead, when and where they died, their age, and sometimes other information. They are on microfilm and microfiche in the Genealogy Area.

  • Spokane County: 1890-1907 (also Spokane county births 1892-1907)
  • Washington State: 1907-1997
  • Idaho: 1911-1950
  • California: 1940-1985
  • Oregon: 1903-1970
  • Tennessee: 1914-1925
  • Texas: 1903-1940

Once you have a death date for a person, you may want to look for an obituary.  An obituary may tell you if the person you are looking for has died, or may list that person as a surviving family member, or give you the names of relatives. The Patchen Obituary File is an index of obituaries and death notices that were printed in the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper through the years. It covers the early years of Spokane up to 1997 at this printing, with some gaps. These resources are available in the Genealogy Area of the Downtown Library.


Internet Research

The Internet has many useful search tools.  However, there are many information sources that are not available on the Internet.  Not all public records are available in a computer format (not always the Internet), and often require a fee. You may also come across offers of help in your search - for a fee. Be a wise consumer. Here are some starting points.

Child Welfare Information Gateway

Shea's Search Series: the Definitive Guide to Self-Empowered Adoptee Search

Washington Adoption Search and Reunion

Journalist's Toolbox: Public Records

Search Systems Free Public Records - directory of links to free public record databases.  Scroll down to search by state or category.

International Soundex Reunion Registry, the world's largest reunion registry - search for your birth parent or birth child, or add your name to the registry as willing to be contacted.

Where to Write for Vital Records, by the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services.