Review: The Stranger in My Genes, by Bill Griffeth

This weekend I had the privilege to attend a lecture by Bill Griffeth; CNBC financial journalist, genealogy enthusiast, and author of The Stranger in My Genes; as part of the Silicon Valley Reads events series.  His book describes his journey taking a Y-DNA test that led to the discovery that the father who raised him was not actually his biological father, and how he processed that information.

The book is very well done.  It has 34 chapters in three sections.  Some chapters are short; they all feel the right length.  Chapters about the DNA discovery are interspersed with trips to historical locations from his family’s past.  I found it quite a page turner.

It is a generous service to the rest of us that such a public television personality has made his very private story known.  He reveals the darker sides of the journey, like the difficulty dealing with anxiety and confronting and navigating the relationship with his mother.  At the same time there are the positive parts of the journey, the encouragement and support of those around him, especially his wife, who also uses her genealogy skills to tell him more about his biological family.  It is a great story.

There are a number of family photographs throughout and a few charts to explain family branches and DNA details.

The book’s editing team included talented individuals at NEHGS, and it shows in the tightness of the writing and story.

I would definitely suggest this book to those of us genealogists who help others find relatives through DNA, to gain perspective about what finding family secrets can feel like for the parties involved.  Plus, it is a great read for the general public as well.

Bill mentioned in his lecture this weekend that there will hopefully be a sequel.  I look forward to hearing more about that.

The e-book can have some awkward page breaks, where the caption falls to the next page and such, but otherwise it functions well.

The book is published by NEHGS.  It is available in physical and e-book form from and Amazon.

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