Many people like to look up their family tree, but it is rare for someone to place their lineage into historic context. Bill Griffeth, an award-winning CNBC financial journalist, did, when he rediscovered American history while doing a little genealogical research along the way. By Faith Alone: One Family's Epic Journey Through 400 Years of American Protestantism is the chronicle of his geographic, historical and spiritual journey. Griffeth began his expedition in England where, in the early 1600s, his ancestors found themselves on the minority side of the Protestant Reformation. They were Puritans, those much maligned yet remarkably versatile dissenters who insisted they could restore Christianity to its unadulterated roots. The Puritans were soon losing their argument with the Church of England and had to, in Griffeth's words, become strict Anglicans, or leave the country. They left, although for some the leaving may have had as much to do with a desire for better economic prospects as with religious conviction.
After several years of financial and religious prosperity in the Netherlands, Griffeth's ancestors decided the New World would provide even greater opportunities, and they joined the early migrants so famously known as the Pilgrims. America proved a land full of peril and promise and seemed an ideal place for those of devout faith to test their resolve. Thousands of their brethren joined the growing New England settlements, where the human tendency to quarrel produced a growing list of denominations. It also produced the Salem witch trials. Griffeth's account of that horror is tinged with his personal relationship, however distant in time, with two of the victims.
Part travelogue, part family tree, part testimony, By Faith Alone is at heart an account of the spiritual development of America, an aspect of history often left out of schoolbooks. It is a story of people whose convictions drove them to a hostile world where they founded a nation. It is also, says Griffeth, acknowledging the cause of his family's wanderings, the story of a journey that never would have happened if Henry VIII's request for a divorce had been granted.