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Park Ridge TV Journalist: A DNA Test Changed My Life

Bill Griffeth of Park Ridge, co-anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell" and author of "The Stranger in My Genes."
Bill Griffeth of Park Ridge, co-anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell" and author of "The Stranger in My Genes." Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Bill Griffeth as an infant being held by his dad, Charles Griffeth.
Bill Griffeth as an infant being held by his dad, Charles Griffeth. Photo Credit: Courtesy of New England Historic Genealogical Society
Bill Griffeth with his dog, Lady, at home in Reseda, California circa 1963.
Bill Griffeth with his dog, Lady, at home in Reseda, California circa 1963. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
The Griffeth family in 1961.
The Griffeth family in 1961. Photo Credit: Courtesy of New England Historic Genealogical Society
Bill Griffeth with his first cousin, Doug, and brother, Chuck, at the headstone of their great-grandparents, Orson and Martha Griffeth, in a cemetery outside Munden, Kansas in August 2012. All three had DNA tests done.
Bill Griffeth with his first cousin, Doug, and brother, Chuck, at the headstone of their great-grandparents, Orson and Martha Griffeth, in a cemetery outside Munden, Kansas in August 2012. All three had DNA tests done. Photo Credit: Courtesy of New England Historic Genealogical Society
Bill Griffeth's latest book, "The Stranger in My Genes," unfurls a powerful story of paternity and family secrets.
Bill Griffeth's latest book, "The Stranger in My Genes," unfurls a powerful story of paternity and family secrets. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

PARK RIDGE, N.J. — Bill Griffeth of Park Ridge, co-anchor of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” shares a startling family story in his new book, "The Stranger in My Genes."

After taking two DNA tests four years ago, he learned the dad he loved — Charles Griffeth — was not his biological father.

That meant his colonial New England Protestant ancestors, chronicled in his third book, “By Faith Alone,” weren’t really his family.

That meant his mother had a secret life.

Turns out, his real ancestors lived in the South and fought for the Confederacy. They were slaveowners.

“How different does that become? That’s something I still have to wrap my head around,” said Griffeth, who will speak about his personal journey 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Ridgewood Public Library.

After he traced his biological father, Griffeth and his wife traveled to the South to visit ancestral homelands.

But, he said, he still feels nowhere near the emotional connection he feels in parts of New England.

Griffeth, who is now 60, thought of his story as unusual. Maybe even unique.

“It’s not. I’m here to tell you, it’s not,” he said, “and that’s something I’ll be highlighting at the Ridgewood presentation.”

Since “The Stranger in My Genes” was released last September, many people have shared their own hair-raising family stories with him.

For years, Griffeth has spoken to historical and genealogical societies and delivered the same message: if you’re going to research, be ready to accept whatever truth you discover.

“I found I was going to have to start eating my own cooking, which was not easy to do,” Griffeth said.

For him, the discovery of paternity set off the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

It has affected his relationship with his mother, who has not read the book. They don’t discuss the issue, he said.

For all the shock and upheaval the discovery has caused him, though, Griffeth is glad he knows.

A journalist to the core, he values one thing above all: the truth.

“The tools of genealogy are not infallible,” he told Daily Voice. “You can look at a gravestone and it might not be the truth. You can look at a birth certificate and it might not be the truth.

“But DNA does not lie.”

So-called genetic genealogy has caught on in the last few years, he said, since Ancestry.com introduced DNA testing.

There’s a reason for that: it helps people search for the ultimate prize in life — a sense of belonging.

“You can strip your life to bare walls,” Griffeth said, “but what you can’t take away is your family. That’s what we, ultimately, belong to.”

Today, when he thinks of his father, it’s still Charles Griffeth who comes to mind. He’s the man who taught him to ride a bicycle and who did for him all the things that fathers do.

“Blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood,” Griffeth said, “and that’s the definition of family.”

No registration is required to attend Griffeth’s talk in Ridgewood on Feb. 27 . All are welcome.

The library is at 125 North Maple Ave.

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