The CABI: Another Piece of the Puzzle

“Lies require commitment.”
― Veronica Roth, Divergent

Unfortunately, this post may only be of interest to adoptees born in California.  Read on!

I had always assumed that my birth mother left blank the space on my original birth certificate (OBC), or filled it in “unknown.”  Of course, I do not have access to my OBC. In order for me to get access, I must file a petition with the Superior Court of California showing “good and compelling cause” to have the records unsealed.  I’ve thought about doing adopteeit.  I’ve drafted a petition.  I’ve never filed it.

I am one of the “lucky” ones.  My puzzle was solved through DNA. Frankly, I don’t need my OBC.  And if you were born in California, you may not need it, either. Of course, we should all be able to access our OBCs once we are adults–I’m not saying we’re not entitled.  Of course we are.  I’m just talking about different ways to piece together your puzzle.

Do you know about the California Birth Index?  I’m not talking about the record of your OBC, which is maintained by the California Department of Public Health–because you’re not entitled to that if you were adopted.  I’m talking about the California Birth Index (CABI), which is a completely separate database compiled by the California Office of Health Information and Research (which is described as a “program” established under the California Department of Public Health). The CABI does not contain the same information as a birth certificate. The CABI contains birth records of all registered births in California between 1905 and 1995. The information generally available through the CABI is: date of birth, full name, county of birth, gender, and the mother’s maiden name.

puzzleThis is where it gets interesting for California adoptees.  No, the skies aren’t going to open up with all the answers you’ve been looking for, but you may be able to find another piece to your puzzle.  Like your birth father’s last name.

Unmarried women will often have two listings for the original birth–the baby of an unwed mother is listed with the last name of each parent.  Both listings show date of birth, mother’s maiden name and county of birth. In the case of married couples or unmarried couples where the father identifies himself at the time of birth there will be only one original record–under the name of the father. And in cases where the mother refuses to identify the father (or she doesn’t know), there will also only be only one birth record–under the name of the mother. Surprisingly, the the California Office of Health Information and Research, through the CABI, has made every effort to provide as many options as possible for a child to use later on. Go figure.

I didn’t know about the CABI until fairly recently.  Had I known about it sooner, I would have known my birth father’s last name before I found him through the use of DNA.  I would not have had his first name, but it is possible that I could have tracked him down with the other clues I had–like where he grew up, his age, etc.  Another piece of the puzzle.

When I accessed the CABI a few weeks ago, here is what I found when I entered my information (I entered my DOB, birth mother’s surname, and county of birth):

CABI Michaels Summer

Two entries!  One that lists my last name as Michaels (b-mom’s surname) and one that lists my last name as Summer (b-dad’s surname).  This blew me away!  Apparently, Margaret knew the identity of my birth father all along! If she hadn’t known, or refused to divulge the information, my birth record under the CABI would have only shown a single record with the last name “Michaels.”  That’s what I expected to find . . . what a surprise! Hmmmmm.  All the more interesting that Jackson cannot remember Margaret, or the circumstances that brought them together to create me.

This is cool, too: if your birth mother named you before putting you up for adoption, it will be listed here, as well. If you were not given a first name and were just called “Baby Girl” or “Baby Boy” (like I was), the record will show a blank for the first and middle names (as above).

I also found it interesting that the CABI does not list the child again under the adopted name. You’re not born again when you are adopted, so that makes perfect sense to me. The CABI just doesn’t care about your sealed records, your adoption, or your silly “amended” birth certificate.  How refreshing, actually!

The CABI is available from several websites, including, Family Tree Legends, Vital Search, and, of course, here: I like to access the information through–I find their search engine to be the most useful.

36 thoughts on “The CABI: Another Piece of the Puzzle

  1. My experience finding my son in the CA birth index: I looked for all boys born on that day in that city. I ended up with a list of about 12 boys. The secret to which of those were adopted was the registration of birth date. Eleven of the boys had their births registered about a week to 10 days after their birth. My son’s amended certificate had the registration date the same as his birthdate – because it was actually registered almost a year later and they just back-dated to his birthday. A very nice clue. This was for 1965 births.

    • Thank you, Donna! That is another angle–it’s so frustrating that we’re all left to guess and we can’t even expect consistency in the way these things were recorded. I’m curious to know–have you reunited or had any contact with your son?

    • Donna, how did you get the additional information about the other names on the list? The only thing the CABI shows is name, DOB, place and mothers maiden name.

  2. Some adoptees are listed all three times in the California birth index. The only way to be certain of matching an Adoptee who doesn’t know their original last name with the correct name is by utilizing the California microfiche. This allows the numbers to be matched up. There are days when multiple people were born and adopted. Also the subscription database, has the California birth index. His site is valuable for Texas primarily, but useful for others.

    • Thank you, Connie! Yes, I have heard of several others who are listed by their adoptive names in the Index, as well, but I am not (neither is my adopted brother). Consistency would have been a good idea! Thank you for the information!

  3. Hi nice article. I’ve used the CA Birth Index since it was only available on micro fiche. I’m always surprised when no one knows about it. FWIW, my adopted son IS in the index three times–under his unmarried birth mother’s name, his birth father’s name and his adopted name. He was born in 1971 and adopted in 1974.

    • Thanks, Nancy! That is good to know–I am not listed in the index under my adopted name . . . and neither is my adopted brother. Weird. Like I said to another commenter, things were done so haphazardly, it make it so frustrating for us all.

  4. Interesting. When I search for myself, my birth name was not listed. I was listed under my adopted name and adopted mothers name. Same with my sister that was adopted.
    Did I miss a step?

    • Hi Kelley. Do you know your birthmother’s surname? Or, you can also do a search with no names for births on the date of your birth and narrow it down that way. There is a possibility, I suppose, that you may not be listed by your original name in the Birth Index . . . things were done so haphazard back then. Let me know if I can help.

    • I searched for my birth family for about 30 years. I did the Ancestry DNA which was helpful in finding out my ethnicity but no help finding family. I had no names or clues to go on. I registered on GS ‘s Adoption search and they used the California Birth Index. Found my 3 sisters and a brother! Then the names on Ancestry made sense! Try it out, it’s free!

      Jane M.

  5. Missouri’s birth index only shows the amended name. I have thought about getting one (they cost 52 dollars per index.) for my Dad’s birth year but I don’t know if I could stand to see more lies saying he was born, -adopted name- instead of his true name for more than first 5 years of his life.
    Missouri has another bill HB1599, in the House of Representatives that will go before the Children and Families Committee today Feb. 9, 2016. It is the best kind of adoptee access bills. No veto’s, no nothin’ but access like everyone else has.
    I think it’s fantastic that at least some California adoptees have that opportunity with the birth index. So fab. that it has your b-dad’s name. Cool. So many don’t realize how not having the information is so distressing and when and if you do finally receive information and names it’s more life giving than cooling, soaking rain after months of distressing heat and drought.
    Sorry your b-parents don’t remember nuttin’. I wish they could/would so they could tell you fully what, and why and when and where. i hope someday your questions are fully answered and you and your beginning of life is fully acknowledged. Sometimes, as a b-mom, I can kind of see where remembering nuttin’ is the only form of survival. I didn’t have that ‘ability’ to forget. I didn’t want to either. Then. To make it stop hurting sometimes i’d like to now though just on days like today has been.

    • Right you are! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Yes, the secrets and lies (and forgetting) are a sort of coping mechanism, I’m sure, but it’s sad that over 50 years later some of the birth parents are hanging on to the secrets and lies still! Thank you for understanding. And I’m glad Missouri is moving in the right direction with unsealing the records. If only California would get with the program!

    • Hi Lauren! If you were born in CA, maybe I can help. Do you know where you were born (what county)? We can search the CABI (I’ll help if you like) and find the girls that were born on the date of your birth and narrow it down that way. If your adoptive parents kept copies of the legal papers from when they adopted you, that might reveal your birth mother’s name, as well. But I’m happy to help with the CABI if you like! You can email me at

  6. I just wanted to thank you for this blog. I was able to find the last name of the individual on my birth record too!! If anyone trys to use this….I just want to offer the following advice. I was looking for my name (full name) on I could not locate my name. Then it dawned on me, that if my original birth certificate didn’t have my last name then it would not be found. So I started with just my first and middle name, birth year and month, and mother’s maiden name. Then I did first name, middle initial, birth year and month and mother’s maiden name. This is how I found my records. Yay! Thank you so much for your post!!

    • You are welcome! I’m so glad you were able to find the pieces to your puzzle. And thanks for the additional info on searching through Ancestry. Ancestry is such a valuable site for adoptees, but you have to have some basic information in place in order to make sense of it. Good luck!

  7. Hi there,

    I’ve been unable to obtain the correct form needed to unseal my original birth certificate. The Santa Barbara County Court office has been completely unhelpful. I asked them to mail me the form and they all claim to not know what to do. Any advice you can give me would be helpful.

    • Hi Mike! Sorry that I am just getting to these comments. Some of the Counties in CA have specific forms for the petition to inspect (unseal) adoption records and original birth certificate, but from what I can find, Santa Barbara does not (neither does my adoption county of San Bernardino). Here is a link to the form that Ventura County uses, which you can use as a baseline for creating your own Petition. So, in your case (Santa Barbara County), you’ll need to prepare your own petition on pleading paper, but cover the same things. The instructions with this form are helpful. Good luck! Did you have any luck with the CABI?

  8. I came across your blog and it instantly caught my attention as I had no idea of my birth mothers surname and my adoptive parents have never said much . I found out recently that my adoption was a agency relinquishment adoption in SF CA and the first thing I read on your site was about the CA Birth Index and I love that you had the link so I clicked on the SF Genealogy and put in my DOB and female and SF County and it took awhile and then it showed 24 baby girls and only one without a name ! the one without a name was also the only one with 2 lines . One line with mother maiden name and no fathers name and the second had same mothers maiden name and this line had a fathers name . I couldnt believe it ! That has to be me ! I am thinking it will be worth it to pay the $100,00 to CHS for my non identifying info since it will show the age and city of the birth parents and I can use that info to locate them
    Thank you so much for sharing your time , emotions , knowledge ~ your story I instantly was able to relate to it and it made the first step to my puzzle possible THANK YOU!

    • It’s amazing, isn’t it??? So happy that the CABI helped you find your answers. With the internet and the information out there (like the CABI), we can raise the middle finger to the sealed records! Good luck with your search–keep me updated if you can!

  9. Laureen, thank you for this post. I was not told that I was adopted until I was 21; and I have only recently learned my birth name. I was stuck on how to do any further tracking, until reading your post and finding out about the CABI. To my shock, I was able to find out my birth mother’s surname; and since my birth surname is entirely different… that has to be my birth father’s surname. That also means that my mother *knew* who my birth father was. I think Massachusetts has the right idea – they have unsealed all adoption records prior to 1974. Again: thank you so much for your post, it has helped!

    • Theresa–so glad the CABI helped with your search. I had always thought that my b-mom didn’t know who the b-father was, but the CABI proved that she did! The truth is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

  10. I believe my last name was Pruett. There’s one female without a first name, most likely me. However I want to look up on the cabi all female births for my dob. Best free site is?

  11. Pingback: Returning . . . | Adoption: My Truth

  12. Hello..
    Thank you for your post. I tried cabi and several you listed. Nothing comes up for me. I have no names to go on other than adopted name. Please help, where else can I possibly look to find out my birth mom and dad’s name?
    Thank you so much, DeJae

    • Hi DeJae – were you born in CA? What is your date of birth? I will do some sleuthing and see what I can find, but the CABI is not always complete or accurate. Let me try to help!

  13. A huge thank you for this blog and information! I had no idea that CABI existed and have no information on my adoption. Unfortunately all the non-identifying info I had burned in a house fire 15+ years ago and I never replaced it. Your willingness to share and help is wonderful – thank you. I have my results and compared what i’ve learned against CABI results for my birth date. I found four almost identical entries – same Mother’s name, different last names for baby, same first name for baby, same country. None of the baby last names are my adoptive name (no record based on my adopted name). Any idea why there would be four entries?
    Thank you.

    • Whoa – not sure. I wonder if your mother listed several “possible” fathers? That seems odd, though, and more likely if she didn’t know, she wouldn’t list one at all.

  14. Very Interesting! I was adopted in CA, but i live in PA. Starting November, adoption records will be unsealed. However, only for those born in PA! All states should have the same legislation, how absurd!!

  15. I am an adoptee who just did a DNA-ancestry kit and I found my half sister through it. I did a bunch of sleuthing and found my birth father’s name. I had a name to go on of my birth mother but unconfirmed and I used your blog to find my birth record in the California database. Voila it shows my dad’s last name and confirms my mother’s last name. I can’t believe I “cracked the code” 😁 My father died in 2007 but my mother is alive in and still lives in the city I grew up in. Taking it all in small steps but this is huge for me!
    I have always thought it is super unfair that we cannot have access to our birth records and history especially in this day and age. I have tried to find our information several times throughout my life without any real luck except when I was going to hire a PI to find out for me. But I felt angry at having to pay a thousand dollars to get information I feel entitled to. Alas, the adoptee dilemma. Thanks for you blog! Was helpful ❤️

    • Ariel, I’m so glad the CABI gave you the information you sought! It blew me away, too, that the information was there all the time. Good luck in your journey.

  16. Just found your blog – fantastic information. Luckily I found CABI back in 2000 and it confirmed the information that was read to me from OBC. On mine, I had 4 entries – one with bm’s maiden name, bm’s married name (she was divorced), bf’s name and then my adopted name and adopted mother’s maiden name.

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