My DNA Journey – Adoption Disclosure Services

Something I see people ask a lot in the different groups I belong to is how do I get information about my adoption?

For anyone who doesn’t know, Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that continues to have closed adoption records. What this means is that if you were adopted or gave your child up for adoption in Nova Scotia you are not allowed to obtain identifying information without consent of all parties involved. Birth parents or adoptees over the age of 19 can apply for more information, but there are no guarantees. A case worker will contact the other party involved to see if they want to make contact. If there is no consent then, where they are able to, the case worker will provide non-identifying details including available medical information.

It’s sad really. While in someways I understand the need for birth parent/adoptee privacy, who are we to judge peoples individual circumstances,  in many cases there are other family members even siblings or half-siblings that are robbed of the opportunity to know and/or meet the adoptee. Giving one person the power to make that choice for an entire family is unfair. It robs everyone of their choice, especially when person dies without revealing that information to anyone.

The Adoption Information Act in Nova Scotia was last updated in 1996. The world has changed a lot since then. Technology has opened doors that the legislation has tried to keep closed. I believe it’s time for the legislation to reflect our current reality. I have great respect for the case worker’s who are trying to help people with things they way they are. There is also a Passive Adoption Register you can add your name to.

Should any of my fellow Nova Scotians read this, you can get more information here:

My mother had limited non-identifying information sent to her years ago. Knowing what I know now, it really wasn’t that helpful. Thankfully there was nothing too serious and the only thing that would be concerning also exists on my fathers side so we were already being careful about that.

We waited about 7 months for the information that Adoption Disclosure Services had. My mother had inquired before but not recently, so when she called this time and they said yes it was surprising. Both biological parents were dead so there was no issue. I have to say I firmly believe that once the birth parent(s) is dead the information should be automatically released to the child or children involved. How many people don’t know that they can get this information following the death of those involved? How many people are out there today who would have answers if they knew?

There should be some sort of registry to maintain current biological parent and adoptee status. In our computerized world, that’s not a difficult thing to imagine.

The case worker we had was excellent. Receiving this type of information after 70 years has the potential to be a very emotional or stressful situation. Everyone would react differently. I think the fact that my mother had a very loving family her entire life made it easier to see. When looking at everything the one thing that was really obvious was how lucky my Nan and Gramps were to get her and for her to get them. It was clearly meant to be.

When we met with her she stayed until we breezed through the documents, I knew it would take hours and multiple readings to fully grasp everything. Even she was surprised by how much she was able to get for us. When I saw the package I immediately understood why it took so long to gather. It’s better to get as much as possible before setting up that meeting and that just takes time. We had pregnancy intake documents, letters, legal documents, interviews and all sorts of stuff. It was an interesting read, still is.

Very quickly I decided the birth mother was not the type of person I would have wanted to meet.  Evidence of that was written in her own hand and really, she died without saying a word to anyone or even leaving something in a letter or will. What kind of person does that? I feel sad that her family never had the opportunity to know my mother. They missed out.

The birth father is a bit of a different situation, but at least we were able to figure it all out. I also feel sad for his family, they too never given the chance to know her.

My favourite part of the documents was interviews with my grandparents. Oh My!  They are both Newfoundlanders to the core and reading the interviews that was so obvious. My Nan was clearly a sassy strong woman who loved children and was very happy in her life with my Gramps. He was a hard working navy man who also clearly loved children.

They lived on Agricola Street in Halifax when Agricola only had three numbers in the address! So many interesting little details about them. The most important ones though showed how much they loved the little girl that is my mother.

Another part of the documents I found amusing were the case worker comments. Now our case worker warned us that this was a different time so things were said that wouldn’t be said today so we were prepared.

A few of my favourites were:

“…child has improved 100%. Her little cheeks and legs are bursting with fat and it is evident she is receiving the best attention and care.”

“She is by far the prettiest child this worker has seen in this social work.”

I re-read the documents every once a while and every time I do I find another little tidbit of information. I find them immensely interesting. It’s a history I never knew but am now committing to learning. It’s who my mother is and 50% of who I am.

If you’re thinking that you want to get your documents, put in the request. It might take a long time and it might not be what you want to see, but you will likely get some of the answers you seek.

I wish anyone who does this the same success we’ve had. Don’t give up.

When we were finishing up with the case worker she recommended that we do every DNA test we could and we have. In my next post I will tell you about my 23 and Me experience, GED Match, and FTDNA.


For more information about DNA tests check out –

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