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The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir

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Bill Griffeth, longtime genealogy buff, takes a DNA test that has an unexpected outcome: "If the results were correct, it meant that the family tree I had spent years documenting was not my own." Bill undertakes a quest to solve the mystery of his origins, which shakes his sense of identity. As he takes us on his journey, we learn about choices made by his ancestors, paren Bill Griffeth, longtime genealogy buff, takes a DNA test that has an unexpected outcome: "If the results were correct, it meant that the family tree I had spent years documenting was not my own." Bill undertakes a quest to solve the mystery of his origins, which shakes his sense of identity. As he takes us on his journey, we learn about choices made by his ancestors, parents, and others, and we see Bill measure and weigh his own difficult choices as he confronts the past.


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Bill Griffeth, longtime genealogy buff, takes a DNA test that has an unexpected outcome: "If the results were correct, it meant that the family tree I had spent years documenting was not my own." Bill undertakes a quest to solve the mystery of his origins, which shakes his sense of identity. As he takes us on his journey, we learn about choices made by his ancestors, paren Bill Griffeth, longtime genealogy buff, takes a DNA test that has an unexpected outcome: "If the results were correct, it meant that the family tree I had spent years documenting was not my own." Bill undertakes a quest to solve the mystery of his origins, which shakes his sense of identity. As he takes us on his journey, we learn about choices made by his ancestors, parents, and others, and we see Bill measure and weigh his own difficult choices as he confronts the past.

30 review for The Stranger in My Genes: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Griffeth, a financial reporter who developed his genealogy interests into a previous book tracing the Griffeth family through 400 years of American Protestantism, including the Salem Witch Trials, Mormonism and Midwest Methodists (and how this strong family line had shaped him), found out via a cousin's press for DNA testing to find more matches that he was not, in fact, a Griffeth. He is briefly outraged that his mother must have been raped, but when the only response he can get from his mother Griffeth, a financial reporter who developed his genealogy interests into a previous book tracing the Griffeth family through 400 years of American Protestantism, including the Salem Witch Trials, Mormonism and Midwest Methodists (and how this strong family line had shaped him), found out via a cousin's press for DNA testing to find more matches that he was not, in fact, a Griffeth. He is briefly outraged that his mother must have been raped, but when the only response he can get from his mother is that she "made a mistake," he construes it as a sordid and adulterous fling for his otherwise shy and pious mother. While sulking and crying and suffering the loss of his paternal lineage, and whining that his mother is "shut down and unresponsive" he goes off looking for his biological father, interpreting the many red flags he finds as the man being charming and somehow worth his mother cheating. The thoroughly unscientific poll of women I mentioned this too had the same reaction I did--in a world with no abortion and unreliable birth control, his mother "made a mistake" by blaming herself for being harassed, coerced or forced into sex with her boss after being ordered to bring papers to him at a deserted construction site, and came to some private arrangement with a loving and supportive husband to raise the child--especially since the rest of the book is Griffeth investigating other cruel family episodes like children adopted out during the depression, a single mother signed over to the county poor farm and the hanging suicide of a great-uncle with Alzheimers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    He may not need resolution, but the reader does.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Easyreader

    This book, brief but repetitive, is all about how emotionally devastating it was to the author to learn that he was not the genetic son of the man who was married to his mother, who had raised him, and who he thought was his father in all respects. That he hadn't known this crushes him. But when he brings himself to ask his mother what had happened and what led to his birth, he walks away after his mother makes a one-sentence apology for her "mistake." Now that characterization of the situation This book, brief but repetitive, is all about how emotionally devastating it was to the author to learn that he was not the genetic son of the man who was married to his mother, who had raised him, and who he thought was his father in all respects. That he hadn't known this crushes him. But when he brings himself to ask his mother what had happened and what led to his birth, he walks away after his mother makes a one-sentence apology for her "mistake." Now that characterization of the situation -- which could apply to all sorts of incidents -- does not clarify whether the extra-marital sexual relationship which led to the author's birth was voluntary or involuntary, short or lengthy, or any other question: the author chooses to interpret the statement in the way which is least painful to him, not to search for the actual facts of the case. I find it hard to believe that the author is an investigative reporter.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary Smith

    Bill Griffeth chooses to romanticize the man who, by all reasonable inferences, raped his mother. After discovering through a DNA test that he has a different father than his brother, all family members agree that his mother would never have had an affair. And, when he confronts her with the DNA results, she reports "I made a mistake when I was younger" and that "it" happened at a deserted construction site with a former boss. When she refuses to discuss it further and looks at his with "dead ey Bill Griffeth chooses to romanticize the man who, by all reasonable inferences, raped his mother. After discovering through a DNA test that he has a different father than his brother, all family members agree that his mother would never have had an affair. And, when he confronts her with the DNA results, she reports "I made a mistake when I was younger" and that "it" happened at a deserted construction site with a former boss. When she refuses to discuss it further and looks at his with "dead eyes", Griffeth takes that as her admission of an affair, rather than seeing the pain of a woman who had lived with trauma for decades. He briefly considers asking, but just says that his mother would not admit to a rape, to save his feelings, and dismisses the issue. When Griffeth discovers that that his biological father had multiple marriages, he briefly considers that he may have been a seriel philanderer, but then reject that, since he "doesn't know him". But, he repeatedly refers to the "shame", "embarassment" "indiscretion" of his mother, who he does know as a good, moral woman. He then spends the rest of the book with his fantasies of the Father's Days and times on the golf course he could have spent with the man he clearly admires from afar.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tami

    I could totally relate to this memoir - well sort of. I wasn't raised with my birth father either but I did get to meet my father when I was 18 whereas the author never got to meet his birth father and found out in his 50's thru DNA testing that the dad he thought was dad was not his father. The turmoil and heartache of piecing together one's family history is compelling. I loved how thoughtful he was of his mother who kept her secret from everyone. He wanted answers but did not want to cause he I could totally relate to this memoir - well sort of. I wasn't raised with my birth father either but I did get to meet my father when I was 18 whereas the author never got to meet his birth father and found out in his 50's thru DNA testing that the dad he thought was dad was not his father. The turmoil and heartache of piecing together one's family history is compelling. I loved how thoughtful he was of his mother who kept her secret from everyone. He wanted answers but did not want to cause heartache to his 95 yr. old mother Painful times for everyone involved, but all in all truth is healing One particular paragraph summed up my feelings towards family history and that was on page 91 "If genealogy had taught me anything, it was that when our lives are stripped to the bare walls - no job, no money, no possessions - we are left with a fundamental truth that defines us, and it's family. Careers and professional achievements are filed under "What We Do." It's family that makes us. "Who We Are." Family relationships supersede all others. You may not get along with your relatives, and you may not be interested in your ancestry, but you cannot escape their influence. Family gave you your looks and your mannerisms, and helped shape your very identity."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    As a genealogist, I've done DNA testing for myself and I administer kits for multiple family members. I'm fully aware of the potential for unexpected findings, and I haven't taken the warnings lightly. I readily admit that I did breathe a sigh of relief when DNA matches confirmed that I was a part of my genealogical family and that we brought the right child home from the hospital, but I never truly understood how much my identity would change if the results had been different. Bill's story push As a genealogist, I've done DNA testing for myself and I administer kits for multiple family members. I'm fully aware of the potential for unexpected findings, and I haven't taken the warnings lightly. I readily admit that I did breathe a sigh of relief when DNA matches confirmed that I was a part of my genealogical family and that we brought the right child home from the hospital, but I never truly understood how much my identity would change if the results had been different. Bill's story pushed me to reflect on how much my own genealogical findings have influenced the way I think of myself and the importance of my relationship to every person in my family tree.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Could have been a long magazine article. Slow to get started and a lot of melodramatic moments about how shocking it is to find out your father isn't your father. Cliches abound. Could have been a long magazine article. Slow to get started and a lot of melodramatic moments about how shocking it is to find out your father isn't your father. Cliches abound.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    It satisfied my genealogy nerdiness.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Karla Huebner

    This book is in the process of being passed around my DNA Interest Group, and eventually my turn came. As someone fairly involved in family history, and sufficiently experienced with DNA testing that I've given some talks on the subject, I was looking forward to reading the book. Initially, it held some promise: it's by a devoted genealogist whose tests revealed that his dad was not his biological father. Well, that had to produce strong emotions--and it did. The author assumed the test had to be This book is in the process of being passed around my DNA Interest Group, and eventually my turn came. As someone fairly involved in family history, and sufficiently experienced with DNA testing that I've given some talks on the subject, I was looking forward to reading the book. Initially, it held some promise: it's by a devoted genealogist whose tests revealed that his dad was not his biological father. Well, that had to produce strong emotions--and it did. The author assumed the test had to be mistaken, and it took some retesting to convince him. He then had to solve the mystery. OK, this all makes a reasonable premise for a compelling story. Unfortunately, the author disappoints us. My initial feeling, as I began to be disappointed, was that by this time I should know better than to expect memoirs by journalists to be good books. Journalists are good at churning out copy, and investigative journalists are good at interviewing people and digging up information, but generally speaking their memoirs (at least, memoirs not about their careers) are lamentably weak efforts about remarkable experiences that deserve better. I think that this is the natural result of their training: they learn to write simple common-denominator, generally rather short, news items about events external to themselves. When it comes to writing books that deal with their own deepest emotions and experiences, their journalistic experience is of very little use for anything but digging up some facts. They don't know how to write about themselves and their families in anything but the most trite prose. (The better writers among journalists can write long pieces for a broad audience without sounding cliche, but most journalists are not good enough writers to do that.) I would also posit that, perhaps, many journalists are not by nature introspective people, which adds to their inability to write very well about themselves. In the case of this particular memoir by a television financial journalist, his shock at discovering his unexpected parentage does not even make the reader sympathetic (which it really ought to), but causes numerous readers to comment that he spends much of a very short book whining. I was sympathetic to a point--I knew how disorienting it was when paper evidence suggested that one of my great-grandfathers might be of colonial American descent when everyone else in that generation was an immigrant (DNA eventually proved he was really the son of German immigrants, which was easier for my family to adjust to). But I wasn't impressed that the author spent so much time rejecting the evidence and then didn't really dig very deeply. As other readers have commented, it's jarring when, once his proper and religious mother admits to having made "a mistake," he assumes that she had a wild fling with her employer rather than that, as the evidence suggests, she failed to fight the man off. Sure, I can understand not wanting to press his mother further on a difficult subject, but ultimately this is a memoir that leaves the reader rather unimpressed by and unsympathetic to the narrator, and leaves the reader wishing the author had done more digging to more fully understand who both of his biological parents were.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Russell Atkinson

    The author was talked into getting a DNA test by his cousin as they were both genealogy buffs looking to explore family history. The results came back showing his father, the man who raised him, was not his biological father, or so it seemed. His first reaction was denial. Then as he studied more about inheritance and DNA he understood that it might be true and there could be several explanations for it. I know of at least three. I enjoyed this book for several reasons. The least important one is The author was talked into getting a DNA test by his cousin as they were both genealogy buffs looking to explore family history. The results came back showing his father, the man who raised him, was not his biological father, or so it seemed. His first reaction was denial. Then as he studied more about inheritance and DNA he understood that it might be true and there could be several explanations for it. I know of at least three. I enjoyed this book for several reasons. The least important one is that the author has the same name as my favorite uncle. I'm also a genealogy buff and have had my DNA done, with a surprise in store for me there. The author takes a long time getting to the meat of the story, but the book is generally well-written. The aspect that I found most compelling, if somewhat difficult for me to grasp, is how emotionally he took this revelation. It consumed him for years and tore him apart. Whom should he tell? Was it a lab error? Should he ask his 95-year-old mother about it? It seemed to me that it should not have been so surprising. If you don't want to know that kind of information, don't take a DNA test. There are multiple bold face warnings about this kind of thing on the testing company websites and instructions. The other aspect that truly surprised me was how little he and his other relatives understood about DNA. The father gives a boy his Y Chromosome. Why is that so hard to understand? The author's oversimplification of much of the DNA science was a disservice, too. This is really junior high science class stuff, but apparently it baffles and frightens a lot of people. The book gave me a sense of how deeply some people feel about their identity, or at least what they think of as their identity. I have one warning. I listened to the audiobook that was produced by Silicon Valley Reads. It was an odd, rather amateurish production and the reader, while not bad, exactly, had an odd cadence that I found disconcerting, almost like he was reading to very small children. I suggest reading this one.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    An interesting account of how life was turned upside down with the results of a seemingly innocuous DNA test. Whilst the subject matter was fascinating and thought provoking - how would I respond if I found out that my family wasn't, strictly speaking, my family? Would I want to find my genetic kin? - the whole book felt self-published and in dire need of an editor. I also found it frustrating that there didn't seem to be a conclusion; there was no clear closure and he settled for an unsatisfyin An interesting account of how life was turned upside down with the results of a seemingly innocuous DNA test. Whilst the subject matter was fascinating and thought provoking - how would I respond if I found out that my family wasn't, strictly speaking, my family? Would I want to find my genetic kin? - the whole book felt self-published and in dire need of an editor. I also found it frustrating that there didn't seem to be a conclusion; there was no clear closure and he settled for an unsatisfying combination of finding out some information but, ultimately, letting sleeping dogs (dads?) lie. I understand why he would have done that in real life but it didn't make for an interesting read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rosanne Macek

    At the urging of his cousin, the author takes a DNA test and uncovers a family secret that shocks him and turns his life upside down. He doesn't believe the results and takes the test two more times only to have to face the truth. The father he has known and loved all his life, who is now deceased, was not his biological father. He embarks on a painful journey of self discovery to make sense of his life and family history. One of the reading selections for Silicon Valley Reads 2019. At the urging of his cousin, the author takes a DNA test and uncovers a family secret that shocks him and turns his life upside down. He doesn't believe the results and takes the test two more times only to have to face the truth. The father he has known and loved all his life, who is now deceased, was not his biological father. He embarks on a painful journey of self discovery to make sense of his life and family history. One of the reading selections for Silicon Valley Reads 2019.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janelle V. Dvorak

    As a long-term family history junkie, I was really excited to read this book. The advent of DNA testing has brought about some joyous reunions and some devastating revelations, and this book deals with one of the most devastating, the "non-parental event". In layman's terms, a "non-parental event" occurs when one finds to one's total surprise that one or both of one's parents are not one's biological parents via DNA testing. This happens more often that one might think, and I was interested in t As a long-term family history junkie, I was really excited to read this book. The advent of DNA testing has brought about some joyous reunions and some devastating revelations, and this book deals with one of the most devastating, the "non-parental event". In layman's terms, a "non-parental event" occurs when one finds to one's total surprise that one or both of one's parents are not one's biological parents via DNA testing. This happens more often that one might think, and I was interested in the author's reactions, having been the culprit who confirmed my own family's "non-parental event". His reactions were quite dissimilar to my own, although he was dealing with having a different biological father than he thought, and mine was a grandfather. After thirty years of genealogy, I put a much lower value on the sanctity of bloodlines than the author. It was a very dramatic story, fairly well told.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Impellezzeri

    a great read on geanology and hidden mistakes from the past

  15. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    The book gets to keep 2 stars because a little of the family history is actually pretty interesting, there are a number of photos, and the author keeps it simple with a non-technical explanation of DNA that is adequate for the purpose it serves in this book. That accounts for about 2 chapters of the whole book. If this had been properly edited, it would have made a fine blog post. As I started reading this book, I thought that it was most likely going to be a 4-star book. But as I continued read The book gets to keep 2 stars because a little of the family history is actually pretty interesting, there are a number of photos, and the author keeps it simple with a non-technical explanation of DNA that is adequate for the purpose it serves in this book. That accounts for about 2 chapters of the whole book. If this had been properly edited, it would have made a fine blog post. As I started reading this book, I thought that it was most likely going to be a 4-star book. But as I continued reading, the author annoyed me more and more. I don't like to rate books on whether or not the author is personable but, in this case, the author is also the main character in the book and the main character acts like a total &%$*# self-centered bone head. When Griffeth and his cousin, Doug, have DNA tests that are not a match the author is re-tested and asks his brother, Chuck, to send in a sample, too. On page 26 he charts only three scenarios, first that the lab was mistaken, second that Chuck and Doug are the same and he has a different father and third that he and his brother were fathered by the same man and Doug has a different father. In this third scenario, he would lay the blame on their grandmother. He doesn't chart the results from Doug's siblings so we have no why of knowing from his chart if Doug's mother was the one who "strayed." But Griffeth soon admits that he always knew that he was different (better) than his siblings. Over and over again the author points out how superior he is to the rest of his family. He repeatedly draws contrasts between the intellectual and the hicks. He even includes a photo so he can point out that he is wearing wing-tips with his brother in cowboy boots! Who needs a DNA test, just check out their shoes. Nearly the entire relationship between his mother and biological father was fabricated out of the author's own imagination. From a genealogy DNA test (not even an acceptable paternity test) his mother changes from a quiet, conservative housewife into a flaming femme fatale. He weaves an entire affair from mere hints about one-time contact with a man that his mother can't even identify in a photo. The possibility that babies might have been switched at the hospital never comes up. The author raises the possibility of rape but it doesn't fit the scenario that is has already developed and he dismisses it altogether when he finds out that his biological father hails from Kansas because, he tells us, it isn't possible for someone born in Kansas to commit rape. While I fumed, my husband logically suggested (with at least as much logic as the author was using) that the 1200 or so rapes reported every year in Kansas must be committed by people who were driving there from Nebraska and that maybe Kansas should set up roadblocks. (view spoiler)[Near the end of the book, he describes his pilgrimage to visit places his father has been. On page 174, he says "I was coming around to the notion that the best thing for me to do would be to stop sugarcoating my situation in euphemisms and see it for what it was." But all he does is try to assign blame for his "complicated paternity." He whines about his mother not realizing that she was pregnant by someone other than her husband, "If only she had put two and two together." He fantasizes about the wonderful relationship he has convinced himself that he would have had with his biological father. (hide spoiler)]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    As a genealogist, I found this book particularly fascinating. However, I think this story has broad appeal and isn't just for family history enthusiasts. Bill Griffeth is a CNBC reporter and a genealogist. He's the author of an earlier book about his family's Protestant roots. Being a Griffeth is very important to him. And then he finds out he's not. A Y-DNA test reveals that Bill is genetically distant from his siblings in a way that means their father is not his father. He's devastated, but al As a genealogist, I found this book particularly fascinating. However, I think this story has broad appeal and isn't just for family history enthusiasts. Bill Griffeth is a CNBC reporter and a genealogist. He's the author of an earlier book about his family's Protestant roots. Being a Griffeth is very important to him. And then he finds out he's not. A Y-DNA test reveals that Bill is genetically distant from his siblings in a way that means their father is not his father. He's devastated, but also curious. This book details Bill's journey of discovery, as he sorts through the test results, confronts his elderly mother, and attempts to track down his biological father. I had some qualms about what Bill decided to do in regards to his biological father's family. It's made for good discussion with my genealogist friends. Ultimately, though, it was Bill's decision, and he defended it well. This is a situation no one expects to find themselves in, and there's hardly a road map for dealing with such an occurrence. I hope that the act of writing about it was cathartic for Bill in some way, and I'm glad he decided to share his journey.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Janice

    I have been delving into my own genealogy off and on for nearly 50 years, and I am finally writing a family history book. I have also done some DNA testing. So, I eagerly anticipated that this memoir would be a very interesting read. Fortunately I have not had to deal with the sort of discovery that the author found. I can understand his anguish, after spending years researching a family tree that turned out to not be his own. But the story just seemed like it would have made a very interesting I have been delving into my own genealogy off and on for nearly 50 years, and I am finally writing a family history book. I have also done some DNA testing. So, I eagerly anticipated that this memoir would be a very interesting read. Fortunately I have not had to deal with the sort of discovery that the author found. I can understand his anguish, after spending years researching a family tree that turned out to not be his own. But the story just seemed like it would have made a very interesting magazine article. The book was short, at only 188 pages, and yet it felt like the details were stretched out and dragged on and on to turn it into a book length story. I have some questions, and perhaps I would have been more satisfied if there had been some more answers. Though I suppose that is exactly how Bill felt. I do think the title and cover photo are just perfect. I don't think I have ever seen the author on TV, but I own and thoroughly enjoyed four books written by his friend and literary hero, author Lawrence Goldstone, mentioned in the Acknowledgements.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    After a lifetime of researching his own genealogy, Bill Griffeth is startled to discover—through DNA testing--that the man he called “father” all his life was not actually his biological father. “The Stranger in My Genes” follows his path of discovery and the mental turmoil he faced. Each chapter retells the decisions he faced regarding sharing this knowledge with his family, learning about his biological relatives, tracing his biological lineage and coming to terms with who he actually is. The After a lifetime of researching his own genealogy, Bill Griffeth is startled to discover—through DNA testing--that the man he called “father” all his life was not actually his biological father. “The Stranger in My Genes” follows his path of discovery and the mental turmoil he faced. Each chapter retells the decisions he faced regarding sharing this knowledge with his family, learning about his biological relatives, tracing his biological lineage and coming to terms with who he actually is. The book reads like a memoir with a bit of psychological sleuthing thrown in. Down-to-earth, genuine, heart-warming, this book is a quick read and compelling one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    Short easy read on a topic that interests me in general as a genealogy and DNA researcher with my own (now solved) family mystery and because I share DNA with the author's Griffeth cousin. One small quibble is that the book confuses mtDNA with X-chromosomes (brothers with the same mother are expected to share identical mtDNA, not necessarily X-chromosomes, and mtDNA results for the author and his brother were almost certainly what he was comparing not X-chromosome data as stated). I therefore do Short easy read on a topic that interests me in general as a genealogy and DNA researcher with my own (now solved) family mystery and because I share DNA with the author's Griffeth cousin. One small quibble is that the book confuses mtDNA with X-chromosomes (brothers with the same mother are expected to share identical mtDNA, not necessarily X-chromosomes, and mtDNA results for the author and his brother were almost certainly what he was comparing not X-chromosome data as stated). I therefore don't recommend it for the science aspect but that represents a very small part of the memoir.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlene Dean

    This one got three stars because the author spent too much time whining about the loss of his identity. Anyone who undergoes genetic testing for ancestry purposes must be willing to risk finding out uncomfortable truths about themselves and their ancestors. Was it a shock? Sure, but why spend more than a few pages going on about it. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Producervan in Cornville, AZ from New Orleans & L.A.

    Fantastic. Highly recommend!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Furr

    If I told you what this book was about, it might sound boring. But in fact it was a great read, I could hardly put it down. Beats the pants off most fiction I've read lately. An account by the likable CNBC host Bill Griffeth about pursuing a surprising family secret. Griffeth was talked into doing a DNA test by a cousin. After getting an unexpected result he retested. Ultimately it was inescapable -- Griffeth, in his mid-50s, learned that his late father was not in fact his biological father. Th If I told you what this book was about, it might sound boring. But in fact it was a great read, I could hardly put it down. Beats the pants off most fiction I've read lately. An account by the likable CNBC host Bill Griffeth about pursuing a surprising family secret. Griffeth was talked into doing a DNA test by a cousin. After getting an unexpected result he retested. Ultimately it was inescapable -- Griffeth, in his mid-50s, learned that his late father was not in fact his biological father. That's not too much of a spoiler since it comes early and sets up the whole narrative. It's a situation made all the more delicate by the fact that his straight-arrow widowed mother was still very much alive and in her 90s. Now she had some 'splaining to do. I think this kind of stuff is very interesting. My sister and I have done DNA testing and learned we have a mystery, an undisclosed relative ... not involving my immediate nuclear family but close enough to be interesting. My family has a skeleton in the closet, which remains a mystery because no other close relatives have done DNA testing, which means we don't have enough information to triangulate the relationship specifically enough to know where this person came from. Now in Griffeth's case, he found out he's a bastard child and clearly had a lot of trouble dealing with the new reality. Long before doing any DNA test Griffeth had become a genealogy buff and family historian, the sort of guy who loves to draw family trees, haunt old graveyards, and tell tales of that ancestor executed in the Salem witch trials. So along the way he addresses other family secrets as a sequence of reveals that's pretty entertaining itself. Confront the mother? Is the father still alive? Does he discover, in his mid-50s, that he has siblings he never knew about? Does he contact his new relatives? Are they CNBC viewers?? I won't give away these spoilers but of course that's all a part of the suspense in the narrative.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jan Cole

    Despite the corny title, this book was surprisingly interesting and very well written. For those of you who don't know (and I didn't know either) Bill Griffeth is a financial analyst on CNN. His hobby is genealogy. The youngest of 5 children by a large margin, he spent lots of time looking over historical records, census, hiking through overgrown cemeteries and contacting distant relatives to research his ancestors. For example, his last name is an unusual variation on the more common Griffith. Despite the corny title, this book was surprisingly interesting and very well written. For those of you who don't know (and I didn't know either) Bill Griffeth is a financial analyst on CNN. His hobby is genealogy. The youngest of 5 children by a large margin, he spent lots of time looking over historical records, census, hiking through overgrown cemeteries and contacting distant relatives to research his ancestors. For example, his last name is an unusual variation on the more common Griffith. He determined when the family changed the spelling and why. When a cousin asked him to take a DNA test, he was initially uninterested, but after the cousin insisted, he submitted a sample. He received an email from his cousin, who was the account administrator, a couple of months later, with the startling news that either a huge mistake had happened in the lab, or Griffeth's father wasn't his biological father. Griffeth, stunned by the news, assumed that there must have been a mistake. His mother, a pious, devoted wife of his father couldn't have possibly strayed. Or could she? Because she was 94 years old he didn't want to create unnecessary drama, so he took another test, and then another from another company. All results were the same. If his dad, Claude Griffeth wasn't his father, who was? Griffeth alternates between childhood stories of his parents and grandparents, and his current search for his biological father's identity. He was surprised at how anxious he became. He suffered a profound loss of identity and his once close relationship with his mother suffered. A Stranger in my Genes is a quick read. I especially liked how things unfolded gradually and there was no neat ending. I recommend this for people who are into genetic genealogy. I interlibrary loaned this book through the Duncan Public Library.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Thurston Hunger

    Maybe 2.5 stars. A quick read, Griffeth's TV background likely leads to short chapters and simple sentences. The story itself while concealing a "secret" or two is not complicated, Griffeth shuffles the chronology to thicken this already thin book. Of course I do believe in nature *AND* nurture, it's just that I find nurture a whole lot more interesting. Also filed under nurture, one's free will can flex its might, as opposed to some pre-written text with four letters. (Maybe 5, I see you uracil. Maybe 2.5 stars. A quick read, Griffeth's TV background likely leads to short chapters and simple sentences. The story itself while concealing a "secret" or two is not complicated, Griffeth shuffles the chronology to thicken this already thin book. Of course I do believe in nature *AND* nurture, it's just that I find nurture a whole lot more interesting. Also filed under nurture, one's free will can flex its might, as opposed to some pre-written text with four letters. (Maybe 5, I see you uracil.) This nurture-bias could be a weakness of mine, more interested in what comes next than in what came before, although like the author I likely have more history than future at this point. History is okay by me, but what my great-great-biological-grandfather did doesn't really feel like its much of my blueprint, plenty of teachers and mentors are more intrinsic. And certainly my Mom and Dad, even if DNA proves I lack their chromosomal recipe. About halfway through the book, I thought Griffeths had an epiphany where he dismissed all of this "real father" malarkey. That felt rewarding. Actualized. Dare I say courageous.... But no, more hand-wringing (and no small amount of back-patting to boot) persist. And as our book club pointed out, there's more than a little Mom-shaming at play here. I know the last word of the afterword has Griffeths thanking his Mom for his life, but as late as pp 172 he's pedaling tripe like this "If my mother had put two and two together back in the day, or at least had the courage to admit it, I might have grown up knowing both of my fathers." He backpedals some in the subsequent paragraphs but eventually returns to sobbing, "morning a man I would never know." Best of luck being the best man you can be in your remaining days...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christy Baker

    A Silicon Valley Reads 2019 Library selection, I picked this up and read it in a single evening, surprised by how easily drawn into the narrative I became. The story of this professional journalist and long-time hobbyist genealogist was more compelling than I would have imagined as I felt drawn in to the drama and intrigue of Griffeth's family and personal story of belonging, identity and understanding of what it means to believe a narrative of oneself and the world and have it upended. The obvi A Silicon Valley Reads 2019 Library selection, I picked this up and read it in a single evening, surprised by how easily drawn into the narrative I became. The story of this professional journalist and long-time hobbyist genealogist was more compelling than I would have imagined as I felt drawn in to the drama and intrigue of Griffeth's family and personal story of belonging, identity and understanding of what it means to believe a narrative of oneself and the world and have it upended. The obvious universalizing of the story brings to mind the question of how well we know anyone, including ourselves and those closest to us; what do we hold secret and what gets shared and what constitutes a sense of belonging and identity as well as how we define family. I will say that I was vaguely disturbed by the unanswered, for good reason, question of the nature of how Griffeth's own conception came to be and found the sense of uncertainty around such unsettling, but also respect his decision not to probe into such understandable. His own process of acceptance and coming to terms with the knowledge of his situation seems to my mind to be acknowledged if slightly glossed over, but perhaps that is merely an awareness of the diversity of how individuals respond to adversity and not actually a reflection of a difference between Griffeth's emotional state and his description of such. The story Griffeth's offers is worthwhile for the questions it leaves one pondering of who our are relations and how that influences our view of the world.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I found The Stranger in My Genes to be a compelling story. It fed my interest in genealogy and I and several relatives have done the DNA testing. The book is a quick read and I finished it after waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep. I enjoyed the book very much. "If genealogy has taught me anything, it was that when our lives are stripped to the bare walls-no job, no money, no possessions- we are left with a fundamental truth that defines us, and it's family. Careers a I found The Stranger in My Genes to be a compelling story. It fed my interest in genealogy and I and several relatives have done the DNA testing. The book is a quick read and I finished it after waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep. I enjoyed the book very much. "If genealogy has taught me anything, it was that when our lives are stripped to the bare walls-no job, no money, no possessions- we are left with a fundamental truth that defines us, and it's family. Careers and professional achievements are filed under "What We Do." It's family that makes us "Who We Are." Family relationships supersede all others. You may not get along with your relatives, you may not be interested in your ancestry, but you cannot escape their influence. Family gave you your looks and your mannerisms, and helped shape your very identity." (91) "Family histories are like religious creation stories. They can give meaning to our lives. There is a logical progression to the generations in a family that emerges when their saga is examined years after the fact. And the ancestral stories we pass down, or discover, are the legends that define us. They can be inspiring, instructive, sometimes distressing, and sometimes even comforting." (178)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Thorn

    Spoilers in review. Because the information is interesting, and the accounts of his wife, brother and cousin are refreshing, I gained some insight into story. However, several chapters could have been condensed into one- more than once. If the intent was to build to a climactic moment of truth; as to who was the likeliest of females to of strayed.. It was completely lost. I didn't care. The confusing scenarios with would be possibilities of lovers for Mom or Grandma were thoughtless and painful Spoilers in review. Because the information is interesting, and the accounts of his wife, brother and cousin are refreshing, I gained some insight into story. However, several chapters could have been condensed into one- more than once. If the intent was to build to a climactic moment of truth; as to who was the likeliest of females to of strayed.. It was completely lost. I didn't care. The confusing scenarios with would be possibilities of lovers for Mom or Grandma were thoughtless and painful written accounts of potential infidelity. And his oversensitivity about the possibility of being " a bastard" child does not commute to empathy for his mother's feelings( she is outed to the other children and grandchildren, etc.)but the continual ego bolstering as to how well versed he was in genealogy and his own educational, social and financial successfulness at the expense of well...just about every one else is flagrant. Woven into the fabric of this tribute to himself( which his virtuous mother is a reflection of...although he belabors her shame throughout the book; instead of making it brief )is a written contrast between his blue collar relatives, and how he begins to identify with the better dressed, more confident biological father.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rashmi

    The Stranger in My Genes by Bill Griffeth Genealogy is indeed an interesting subject for me as is history and both are interlinked in some strange way so when I came across this memoir at my favorite place, you guessed it, the Library, I had to check it out, pun intended! Bill Griffeth is a Financial journalist on TV (CNBC). This memoir is about where a simple DNA test reveals that he isn’t related to his cousin at whose behest he took the DNA test. Not convinced with the results, he retakes it a The Stranger in My Genes by Bill Griffeth Genealogy is indeed an interesting subject for me as is history and both are interlinked in some strange way so when I came across this memoir at my favorite place, you guessed it, the Library, I had to check it out, pun intended! Bill Griffeth is a Financial journalist on TV (CNBC). This memoir is about where a simple DNA test reveals that he isn’t related to his cousin at whose behest he took the DNA test. Not convinced with the results, he retakes it and asks his brother to do so, only to find out that he is not related to his brother either. His world, as he knew it, is shaken. He is torn between letting it go or asking his mother, how that came to be. I understand his anguish to some degree but the continuous pinning is a little too much. He was loved and grew up in a family where he was loved by both parents and his siblings. He has a good career, a loving wife and two children. Nothing changes and yet everything does. He traces his ancestry to the 1600’s and it’s interesting to read those stories and details. If it wasn’t for his lamenting, it would have been a great memoir. I rate it a 3/5.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    With the advent of DNA into the study of family history, I was intrigued by Bill Griffeth's experience of learning that his beloved father was not his "father" after all. This short memoir is a poignant reminder that not only do we all have skeletons in the closet, but also that the old adage "be careful what you wish for" is so true. To be fair to Bill, it was his first cousin who was keen to have him take a dedicated Y-chromosome DNA test. The fascinating aspect of the Y-chromosome is that it With the advent of DNA into the study of family history, I was intrigued by Bill Griffeth's experience of learning that his beloved father was not his "father" after all. This short memoir is a poignant reminder that not only do we all have skeletons in the closet, but also that the old adage "be careful what you wish for" is so true. To be fair to Bill, it was his first cousin who was keen to have him take a dedicated Y-chromosome DNA test. The fascinating aspect of the Y-chromosome is that it literally follows from son to father and so on into the deepest past with only a few slight mutations that occur along the way. It doesn't affect females as they don't have a Y-chromosome and, as a result, it does not work in finding or confirming maternal grandfathers. So, this shocking revelation took Bill on a very personal and difficult journey. If you enjoy genealogy, I would highly recommend this book, which also includes some old family photographs and relationship charts as well as an explanation of Haplo Groups and Y-DNA.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patti

    A fascinating read. When DNA testing reveals to Bill Griffeth that the man he has called dad for over 50 years, is not the man who actually fathered him, he sets out on a quest to discover the truth of his parentage. Though understandably shocked by this discovery, Mr. Griffeth painfully reconstructs the paternal side of his family tree, all the while seeking to be loyal to the memory of the father who raised him and gentle with his 95-year old mother---who is ashamed that her decades-old secret A fascinating read. When DNA testing reveals to Bill Griffeth that the man he has called dad for over 50 years, is not the man who actually fathered him, he sets out on a quest to discover the truth of his parentage. Though understandably shocked by this discovery, Mr. Griffeth painfully reconstructs the paternal side of his family tree, all the while seeking to be loyal to the memory of the father who raised him and gentle with his 95-year old mother---who is ashamed that her decades-old secret has come to light. DNA testing, the internet, and other modern technology have brought to light so many things previous generations might have preferred to keep hidden, and I---the historian of my family---always wonder, "Should we really know this stuff?" each time I come upon my own surprising discovery. I'm still not sure we should, but I keep digging, and I keep on eating up the works of others who---like Bill Griffeth---are doing it too. For those who are similarly into researching their family history, this is a must-read. The entire story is riveting--and not just the search for Bill's "sperm donor." The stories about his ancestors are all fascinating as well. Definitely, one of the best genealogy/family history books I have ever read.

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