Even with all the genealogy websites and DNA data available today, some states are still keeping adoption info completely private. I can understand this for young children, but I've helped people whose birth parents are long dead and the information is still hard to get. It's a bit ridiculous. DNA reveals all though. Some states will release what's called "Non-identifying information." I work with a lot of adopted people and I've seen a lot of non-ID paperwork. Sometimes you get several pages of very detailed information, other times you get a page or two of mostly useless data. This may surprise you, but some of that information you receive may be completely FAKE.
There's a few reasons why you may receive fake information... The person who filled out the paperwork may not have known answers to basic information and actually made things up (Yes, it's true, I've seen this happen). Another reason could be that the birth mother intentionally gave false information to make sure no one ever found out the truth (I've seen that happen as well). Here's some examples of these situations I've seen.
While researching birth parents of a guy named Robert, I was shown his non-id information. The social worker that was helping his birth mother wrote down everything in detail. There were about 10 full pages of info written on various dates during her pregnancy. His mother's name was hidden of course. She was referred to as "the birth mother." This birth mother apparently got pregnant while her husband was overseas in the military. She was asked information about the birth father, her parents, siblings, grandparents, occupation, schooling, etc. The social worker actually noted that the birth mother was caught lying on several occasions. For example, she said her mother was dead. This was later found to be false. The mother had remarried and moved out of state. This social worker was very thorough and interviewed family members and her roommate. Many lies were discovered. As I was reading all this I kept thinking, this is sooooo stupid. We're all adults here and these people died over 30 years ago. Why not just tell us who the birth mother is? I used my DNA knowledge and figured it out anyway, but come on, let's get real! Do we really need to keep things hidden after all these years?
Next, I helped a woman named Shelly. Her non-id info was not nearly as detailed, and it was partially FAKE. The birth father's info said he was 26 years old and German. I knew this was incorrect. Shelly's nationality contained no German. After examining the DNA data, I knew who the father was. He was 22 and English. His name was Charles. He had passed away, but I found her birth mother also, and she was still alive. Shelly contacted her and asked about the father. I had the right guy. Shelly's mother said she knew it was Charles and knew his age. She said she never told anyone that he was German and 26. It was completely false and made up. One thing that is usually correct is the mother's age. Since the mother is giving someone this information in person it would be unlikely a fake age would be given, but you never know.
Another reason for fake information might be to protect the child. I've found out horrible things about birth parents. A birth mother will sometimes make up a story about a father to hide the fact that he was a bad guy. If the child were to ever get the adoption information they still wouldn't know the truth. Keep in mind, there are some really terrible people out there who've put children up for adoption. I've found birth parents (both men and women) who turned out to be serious criminals. Knowing the real story isn't always going to be pleasant.
I can think of one more reason you might get false information, but it's not the fault of the adoption agency. Maybe the mother didn't know for sure who the father was. If multiple men were possible, she may have provided information for the wrong man entirely. I have seen this situation happen. A birth mother was found and told us who the father was, but she was wrong. The DNA told the real story. She later confirmed, the father I found was totally possible.
Be prepared to possibly find out some unexpected things if you try to get information. I've worked with a few people who found out there simply isn't anything available. They discovered they were abandoned and no one knew anything about the birth parents. So, keep these things in mind. If you're lucky enough to get information, you never know what's real. Documents can lie. DNA will reveal the truth.
Next I'll discuss the basics of family relationships.