Regular readers of this column will need no reminding that one of our key services that brings together families separated by public care or adoption is the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland. Briefly, for those coming to our work for the first time, our Contact Register allows the opportunity for those who want to meet a relative to put down their name and contact details with us.
Should the other party also be registered with us, then we have a match (or a link as we call it). The beauty of the Contact Register is that it provides a place for the mutual expression of a willingness to meet, without the risk that unexpected door-stepping can carry. We calculate that about one in ten registrations prove successful. Thus many are not and we have over 11,000 names and addresses on the Contact Register. Some people have been registered for decades, but others have been on the Register for just weeks.
We get 200 registrations every year. For the fortunate ones, after a match, we carefully go about arranging exactly how people want to be in touch. Some will use us as go-betweens for letters and, increasingly, emails, others will wish to be in direct contact right away.
This column is about our first link of 2019.
There are many motivations for registering – curiosity, the need to find out how the other person has fared, medical reasons – however, in amongst these, a purpose for the registration that brought about this year’s first link was, yes, an interest in applying for an Irish passport so as to keep the connection with Europe in the light of Brexit.
Gerald* was born in London in November 1969 to his Irish birth mother. Somewhat out of the usual instances we see, Gerald’s original birth certificate showed the names of both his birth mother and his birth father.
He is now a scientist living in Belgium and he grew up knowing some details about his parentage and roots. According to Gerald, being adopted and particularly the circumstances of his adoption and details of his biological parents, were ‘always on my mind’. He remained both ‘intrigued to know more but apprehensive’.
His registration form came in on 31 December and when we logged it with the Contact Register on 3 January, we discovered that his birth mother was also on the Register. Sally* had put her name down with us 29 years previously in 1990. At the time of her pregnancy in 1969, as for many young unmarried women, pressure from family had resulted in the adoption of her baby.
As might be guessed, Sally was no longer at the address she’d given when she registered with us. Many who use the Contact Register do so as something of a one-off, a bid to put down a marker buoy should their relative (son, daughter, mother, father) one day do the same. Although the relative is rarely forgotten, their Contact Register registration can be.
This does not mean an indifference, sometimes people will undertake other forms of seeking contact such as internet or social media searching, sometimes birth parents believe that putting down their name and contact details is the only thing that they are entitled to do. Whatever the circumstances, people often fail to let us know that they have moved address or changed their name.
But, as outlined in previous columns, we have a dedicated band of searchers who are skilled in mapping family histories, plotting the twists and turns of family trees and finding ways through the myriad of data bases and records that exist on people. Not just the birth, marriages and deaths, but old phone books, valuation rolls and parish registers are meat and drink to our searchers. We very rarely draw a complete blank in our efforts to find someone.
Sally’s address on her near-30-year-old registration form was in the Republic of Ireland and we have a skilled searcher there too. The call to find Gerald’s birth family went out in the first week of January.
Perhaps by the time you read this, he and them will have good news.
*names and identifying details have been altered.
Dr Gary Clapton on behalf of Birthlink