Aug 12, 2022

Strangers No More

August 12, 2022

Genetic genealogy has become widespread in the United States. Almost every genealogist as well as lots of other folks have taken DNA tests. This has spawned a new category of books that I call DNA Shock memoirs.


These books detail the shocking findings that people have received in their DNA results. These surprises range all the way from learning that your parents are not your biological parents to learning that you and each of your seven siblings are all the children of a different father. Many of the people who discover these shocking results feel compelled to write a book about their experiences.


Some of these books are not worth reading. They’re poorly written and don’t really have much of a story to tell. Some of these books, however, deserve a place on a genetic genealogist’s bookshelf. Bill Griffeth’s two books Stranger in my Genes and Strangers No More fit in the latter category.


Bill Griffeth, who is well-known as a CNBC anchor took a DNA test in 2012 to help his cousin with his family history research. As an amateur genealogist, Bill had already traced his own Griffeth family line back to Colonial America. Imagine his surprise when he found that the man he’d based all that genealogical research on was not his biological father.


Stranger in My Genes describes his experiences in confronting his new reality and how it affected his family relationships. The book was a best-seller in 2016. He has now written a sequel to that book, Strangers No More.


The new book is about Bill’s experiences as he begins to reach out to his biological paternal family. At first awkward with them, he has forged family bonds with some of them. He also describes how, using DNA, he was able to connect with his sister’s son who had been adopted at birth. The other section of the book shares stories of others who have had DNA shocks and who shared their experiences with Bill.


The proliferation of these DNA shock memoirs means that none of them are very shocking any longer. It takes a well-written book to hook the reader, once the big reveal has occurred. Bill Griffeth manages to do this in his second book. The reveals are less shocking, but the reader still wants to know what happens next. The book is the kind that keeps you up late to finish it.


The books are best read in order and are available through the New England Historical and Genealogical Society as well as from Amazon and other vendors.


Carol Stetser