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Something was wrong in Phase III of the Cherokee DNA Project. Call it the Cher syndrome. A majority of the Cherokee-descended test subjects were receiving high Armenian matches—yes Armenian, not American. Conversely, a few customers who had no way to have any Native American or New World ancestry would get Cherokee as their top match.
Aside from Jan Franz, another Cherokee descendant puzzled by Armenian results was Marcia Dietrich, a customer whose no. 1 world match on an autosomal basis was enrolled members of the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina.
When Cher recorded the hit “Half Breed” and it began climbing the charts in 1973, she jumped on the Native American ancestry bandwagon. The superstar claimed she was one-sixteenth Cherokee on her mother’s side.
Commemorative stamp from 2013. We are republishing this interview from the early days of DNA Consultants since the topics it touches on have again become timely with the advent of a new form of “next-generation” DNA testing—ancient DNA.
Eran Elhaik is a faculty member at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield in England specializing in genetic epidemiology, population genetics, molecular evolution, epigenetics and personalized medicine.
Genetic data on U.S. government enrolled Cherokees were published for the first time two years ago, in 2016. Previously, the only data on Cherokee Indians available for identity testing or genealogy purposes comprised our company’s two samples, U.S. Cherokee Admixed (n=62) and U.S. Cherokee Admixed (n=92).
Dorene Soiret’s mother, Alice Gound, about 1960. Soiret is a participant in DNA Consultants’ Phase III Cherokee Studies. Photo used by permission of Alice Gound and Dorene Soiret.