Early adoptions were informal and unrecorded agreements between people that were not recognised or regulated by any formal process. It was not until 1st January 1927 that adoption as a legal process began in England and Wales. Prior to 1927 anyone 'adopted' was probably what we recognise as fostered. Tracing the natural parents of fostered children in early records can be very difficult.
From 1927 onwards legally adopted people can have two birth certificates; an original birth certificate and a secondary certificate which records their adopted name. Original certificates should include a birth name, a date and place of birth, and both parent's full names (if known). The General Register Office (GRO) began compiling adoption birth certificate registers once legalised adoption was introduced in 1927, and indexes to these registers (formerly housed at the Family Records Centre) can now be found at The National Archives. These registers provide the adopted name of the child and the date of adoption, but not the names of the natural parents.
Adopted people can apply for a copy of their original birth certificate via the General Register Office. The GRO also run the Adoption Contact Register for adopted people and relatives who wish to make contact.
St. Catharine's House has registers of adoption from 1927 onwards.
A website of interest for those searching for birth and adopted relatives is Adoption Search Reunion
Adoption records held by the WYAS:
The initial regulation and administration of adoption proceedings generally fell to the Petty Sessions and local magistrates' courts. The majority of the records concerning adoption held by the WYAS is documentation of these court proceedings; please note these records are not adoption files and do not tend to include much personal information about either the child or their natural/adopted parents. As with all court records, documents which include private or personal information may be subject to access conditions and researchers wishing to view material less than 100 years old are advised to contact the relevant office in advance of their visit.
In the second part of the twentieth century regulation and administration of the adoption process increasingly fell to local authority social services or child welfare departments. Files were again redistrubuted with the changed to local authority divisions in 1974. Unfortunately, the WYAS does not hold any significant collections of local authority adoption files and it is assumed many have been lost or destroyed. For additonal information see 
The West Riding Public Assistance Committee Minutes (RC24/1-2) 1930-1943 give details of children taken into care by the Council, together with some mentioning of those sent for adoption.
Adoption records are not only listed in adoption registers but also in court orders as part of Petty Session records.
Adoption Records Held Outside WYAS:
Wakefield MDC has several old West Riding Children's Office files. All contact must be via social workers on 01924 303456
It is understood that records for South Yorkshire are at Sheffield Archives
West Riding Children's Office files for North Yorkshire are now c/o North Yorkshire Social Services. Telephone 01609 780780
|Batley Borough Court: register of adoptions (records not held by WYAS)||1928-1946||P11/122||Batley Court|
|Bradford City Court: registers of adoptions (records not held by WYAS)||1927-1963||P16/6/1-3||Bradford Magistrates|
|Brighouse Borough Petty Sessions: registers of adoptions (records not held by WYAS)||1929-1973||P10/36||Brighouse Magistrates|
|Halifax Borough Court: register of adoptions with index||1927-1943||P21/111||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Keighley Division Petty Sessions: register of adoption of children||1932-1955||P3/1||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Keighley Division Petty Sessions (Court at Bingley): duplicate adoption orders and papers||1928-1969||P2/6/5||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Lower Agbrigg Petty Sessions: registers of adoptions with index (not complete series - 1927-1944, 1955-1968)||1927-1968||P7/100-101||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Lower Agbrigg Petty Sessions: duplicate adoption orders and papers (not complete series - 1933-1935, 1952-1974)||1933-1974||P7/120||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Lower Agbrigg Petty Sessions: complaint book regarding orders re guardianship||1958-1974||P7/121-122||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Ossett Borough Petty Sessions: registers of adoptions||1927-1974||P9/29-30||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Ossett Borough Petty Sessions: duplicate adoption orders and papers||1962-1974||P9/39||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Otley Petty Sessions: registers of adoptions||1927-1972||P5/49-51||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Otley Petty Sessions: duplicate adoption orders (not complete series - dates include 1932, 1953-1969). Note: orders 1970-1974 available at Otley Court House||1932-1969||P5/67||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Otley Petty Sessions: duplicate care orders. Note: orders 1965-1975 available at Otley Court House||1949-1954||P5/70||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Pontefract Borough Court: registers of adopted children (some indexed)||1929-1962||P25/4/1-2||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Wakefield Borough Court: registers of adoptions (indexed)||1927-1974||P8/166-180||WYAS: Wakefield|
|Wakefield Borough Court: duplicate adoption orders and papers||1930-1974||P8/198||WYAS: Wakefield|