Cher the “Half Breed”


Cher in the 1970s. Public domain.

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.

Does Cher have any Cherokee ancestry? This is a question that ought to be easy to answer. The Goddess of Pop was born Cherilyn Sarkisian, May 20, 1946, in El Centro, a southern California town near the Mexican border that has the distinction of being the largest American municipality to lie entirely below sea level. Her mother, Georgia Holt, was an occasional model and bit-part actress who claimed Irish, English, German and Cherokee ancestry. Her father, John Sarkisian, was an Armenian American truck driver with drug and gambling problems.

Despite extensive research no record of the marriage “about 1945” of Holt (then supposedly going by the last name of Crouch) and Sarkisian can be found. They would both have been about 18 years old.

According to genealogies on the Internet, the new Mrs. Sarkissian was born Jackie Jean Crouch in Kensett, Arkansas, June 9 , 1927. Yet no census record of her can found in 1930, when she would have been three, or in 1940, when she would have been 13, five years before she is said to have married Cher’s father, John Sarkissian. 1950 census records have not yet been released. Her mother, Cher’s maternal grandmother, Lynda Inez Gulley Crouch, is similarly unfindable in records of the time. Reportedly, she was still living in 2006, when she would have been in her nineties.

Family records give Jackie Jean’s mother’s name as Lynda Inez Gully, but genealogy research cannot confirm this. Her father was Roy Malloy Crouch, born in Arkansas in 1905. Crouch died in Oklahoma City in 1969. He was 17 when Jackie Jean was born. The mother was 13. Crouch’s occupation given on census records was pastry baker. According to publicity information in later years, Dad moved from town to town looking for work, and he taught his daughter how to sing and play guitar. At 6 she was performing on an Oklahoma City radio station, and by 10 she had sung with bandleader Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Holt said in later years that she attended 17 junior high schools.

Holt and her father settled in a rundown one-room dwelling in Los Angeles. The teenaged Crouch worked in a donut shop. She married John Sarkisian in 1946, according to family traditions; they divorced a year later, remarried in 1965, and divorced again in 1966. Sarkisian, as previously stated, was the father of her daughter Cherilyn, born on May 20, 1946. Around this time, she changed her name to Georgia Pelham. After divorcing Sarkisian, she had several subsequent husbands: Chris Alcaide, John Southall (with whom she had daughter Georganne in 1951), Joseph Harper Collins, Gilbert LaPiere, and Hamilton Holt. Gilbert LaPiere legally adopted Cherilyn and Georganne, changing their last names to LaPiere.

Cher’s mother changed both her first and last name and took various married names over the years. The diva’s mother was still alive in 2019, aged 92.
Jackie Jean Holt’s ancestry has been assembled by William Addams Reitwiesner in a web page, “Ancestry of Cher.” As compiled, it goes back ten generations in America and could possibly support a small amount of Cherokee.

Some of the families involved were pioneers in Arkansas that moved there from Cherokee lands in Tennessee about the time of Indian Removal. Names in Cher’s family tree also appearing on Cherokee rolls include Bookout, Carter, Waldron (Waldon), Webber, Robinson, Moon, Clark, Pearce, Green, Moore, Barnes and Brown. Few of these names occur in a timeframe close to Cher’s mother’s birth, however, and while there are many Crouches on the rolls, there is not a single Couch. One searches in vain for revealing marriage patterns or repeated alliances between part-Cherokees in the same places. Cher’s maternal ancestors did not let the grass grow under their feet.

If Cher was one-sixteenth Cherokee, by the law of numbers one of her mother’s great-grandparents was Cherokee. Their names were William Howard Crouch, Mary Ann Bookout, William Martin Green, Julia Ann Bryant, Thomas Gulley (b. 1836), Delilah Donaho (b. Georgia, ancestors Irish), Frederick Fritsch (b. in Germany) and Margaret Ann Stewart (b. 1835 in Tenn. of Scots-Irish parents). None of these could have been even half or quarter-Cherokee.

In the generations prior to the 1830s the ancestry of all Cher’s forebears on her mother’s side was clearly Scots-Irish, Scottish, Irish, English, German or Dutch. If one of these married a Cherokee woman (for instance, an otherwise unidentified Jane), Cher could have been one-sixty-fourth Cherokee. But even this is unlikely.

In later years, Cher disavowed her claim of Cherokee heritage and said it was “false.”

Armenian Story

Cher’s Armenian ancestry on her father’s side is unassailable. John Paul Sarkisian was born March 23, 1926, in Oakland, California. He died January 28, 1985, in Fresno, California. He was all Armenian. Both his parents George and Blanche (originally named Siranous) emigrated from Turkey, where they were registered as Armenian. His grandparents and great-grandparents were Armenians.

Both sets of Cher’s Armenian grandparents had strong ties with Fresno, California. Her Dilkian great-grandparents, Hagop and Noussaper, a weaver and seamstress by trade, gravitated to Fresno after fleeing Turkey via Patras, Greece, and arriving in New York on the S.S. Alice in 1912. Noussaper, adopting the name Lucy in California, died in Fresno in September 1972 at the age of 94 and was buried at Ararat Armenian Cemetery. John Sarkisian went to technical school in Fresno and was drafted there in World War II. He would be buried there, too. Cher’s Aunt Louise, who died on March 26, 2008, at the age of 93, was also buried in Fresno, in a coveted plot in the Ararat Cemetery.

The Little Armenia section of Fresno in the south of California’s Central Valley was like a New Jerusalem for Armenians. It was the immigrant world portrayed in many of William Saroyan’s prize-winning writings. Saroyan, who was born in 1908, had half his ashes buried at Ararat Cemetery in 1981, less than a mile from the house in which he was born. The other half of his ashes were placed in Armenia at the Komitas Pantheon near fellow artists such as composer Aram Khachaturian, painter Martiros Saryan and film director Sergei Parajanov. Such a gesture well captured the divided identity experienced by Armenians in America in the twentieth century.

Armenians who escaped the Massacre of 1915 joined relatives in communities like Fresno and Los Angeles and typically took low-paying jobs picking fruit or working at canneries. Many never took the trouble to learn English. John’s mother and father bought a home valued at $4500 in Modesto, California and began the process of naturalization in 1930. George Sarkisian, Cher’s paternal grandfather, was manager of a service station.

John’s maternal grandparents, Hagop and Nousapper (Lucy) Dilkian, also eventually managed to purchase a home in Modesto, though they remained aliens speaking mostly Armenian. One census taker who found Hagop living with his son in a shanty worth $20 and working odd jobs in 1930 thought the family spoke Arabic. Next door were Japanese and Mexicans.

All told, Cher’s ancestry is half Armenian and half Scottish, Irish, English, German and Dutch. Even if her family includes Gypsies, tramps and thieves, there was, verifiably, not a single Native American line anywhere. The only Cherokee princess in her background came from the publicity department.

Basic American Indian


  Comments: 73

  1. Lynne Schlaufman

    My Grandmother was half Cherokee and have Chickasaw and my dad was at least 1/2 Cherokee. We’ve traced his side of the family back to before his great great great grandfather was shaman. I’m not sure how many greats. At any rate, I’m so glad that Cher probably has no Indian blood. I’ve always been proud of mine but she’s a knucklehead. I would hate to think that we share even a drop of Cherokee. Thank you for this tracking of Cher and her family. She’s an embarrassment to Americans!

    • To be clear, Cher disavowed the claim of Cherokee heritage as a ruse by her publicist in the 1970s and does not uphold any claim to any Indian blood. She is pure Armenian-white European (or as pure as anyone can be). As to knucklehead, she’s an accomplished actor, entertainer, singer, recording artist and entrepreneur/millionaire with a huge social conscience, so I don’t think she’s exactly a lightweight in any area of the arts, business or society. I wasn’t aware the Cherokees had shamans.

      • Agree with your response Donald. Lynne…how dare you try to speak for all Americans including myself! She has made a good name for herself and has contributed in more ways than I have. Certainly, I imagine, more than you as well! Being mean is not a good look.

      • And while she may have “disavowed” it in recent times she called an indigenous woman the B word on the internet for bringing it up. (This was on Twitter within probably the last 5 years).

    • Cher is fabulous.

      • Cher, like many others, does a lot of charity works that are not publicized. For example, she was visiting hospitalized service people during the Iraq War, and after they told her many of their injuries were due to inadequate armor on their vehicles, she made sure to publicize it while fighting back tears. And she called David Letterman a knucklehead. We have a lot to thank her for.

    • Cher’s claim of having Cherokee blood always rang false to me. Thank you for doing the research to prove it! She’s always been a wannabe who’ll jump at any opportunity to bolster her endless need to self-aggrandize who she is. Definitely not a fan of this phony woman.

    • Cher is a legendary singer and actress. She had had many hit records, tv shows and movies. She is a true legend, Cherokee or not!

    • You are most probably envious of Cher’s contribution to music, movies etc I do feel that irregardless of CHER’S official ancestry, she is STILL an exciting and entertaining vocalist, performer and GIFTED actress! As ICON, ACTRESS, ARTIST; this can NOT be denied! I LOVE CHER! I have consistently ENJOYED her
      BEAUTY, her ENERGY, music, musical shows & performances! I think that she is a ‘SPOT ON’ actress as well! I also love and ENJOYED her chemistry and performances with Sonny! I am just ‘SO GLAD’ that she is still with us! WHAT HAVE YOU CONTRIBUTED?

    • very rude comment

    • Lynn, you really had to do something about your anger issues.

    • Sarkasian I think is her maiden name. Her dad is Armenian just like Kim Kardashian, her mom is Irish and Cherokee which mean her great grandmother or grandfather was 100 percent

      • Did you read the article? She has disavowed the Cherokee claim and no Cherokee in her ancestors. Her mothers side is not “Irish and Cherokee”! Read the article and find the facts Ann!

    • I agree with you for the most part: Cher is an embarrassment to the human race, bur there are worse living in the White House. I know why Cher’s NA dna is not showing up. Usually NA dna doesn’t show up because full-blood NA already know what tribe they are from and don’t bother confirm it througham privy dna tests, so there isn’t a reliable database of NA dma. I married into this family (unfortunately and their family “family history” and I believe Cher DOES have NA blood.

      • She never claimed she had native Indian Blood. That was a a rumor that spread after she did the song Half Breed her dad is 100% Armenian her mother has a mix of different ancestry maybe a tiny bit of Cherokee but it might only be like a 16th or even less not very much to even count Sarah said she doesn’t have any Indian blood whatsoever

      • N.A. dna doesn’t “show up” by NA know!? That makes no sense! Cher has said she doesn’t have Cherokee or any NA and it was a PR stunt! This article of extensive ancestors tracking proves no NA ties! Do you people just chose to not read facts or accept what Cher herself has said!?!? Wow!

      • An embarrassment? Madam, hear what you say. Because everyone else is.

    • The giveaway that you are not native is how you feel the need to announce your tribal related blood, what percent in your blood, and snap it with the extra spice of “grandpa is a shaman” shows the signs of desperation, arrogance, scoffer, and mockery like a white woman would feel she needs to list before jumping on the hate Cher bandwagon which FYI none of my tribe or people would ever believe your anything but what your told by some mixed up family unbending trees that want attention. The back biting women on other women is epidemic because of women like yourself, and by your calling a rock and roll legend, a highly celebrated talented and still rockin hot performer like Cher a knucklehead was telling more on you than ever on Cher, see here knuckleheads we dont point them out, and we as native americans do not speak this way, maybe you would benefit with talking to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or the fed pros because you make me feel unsafe with how you are online spreading fear and inciting untrue mass hatred for a woman you never met and the false self proclaiming of your being a Spokesperson for All Americans to say shes an embarrassment could land you in court, in fact I hope Cher sees this and file charges with federal courts then sues you just to make an example of what is considered hate speech and what is really free speech!!!!

    • I distinctly remember my Aunt Priscilla and my Dad talking about this when that song came out.
      Cher is hardly talented, without remix and auto tune she would never have made it out of her daytime gig.
      Both of them were hard working moral and proud people, my aunt a nurse and my father a Army Veteran who served in communications in Germany at Berlin during the airlift and then as a master electrician, we are Osage Cherokee cross. They were disgusted and insulted by that song and her depiction of Cherokee as skimpy dressed sluts. He went to his grave never having heard her retraction, but they both agreed she was a cultural theif and embarrassment to her people.

      • Autotune???? Are you kidding me??? She may not sing your style of music, but she could not have used Auto Tune. It was not even invented. As college educated a musician with a degree in music, I will tell you, she has good pitch. I have not listened to her extensively, but I do not ever recall cringing like I have for other singers of her era.

  2. Cher is beautiful and looks native. It is not her fault if the family stories were inaccurate. There were a lot of Irish who told people they were black Irish. Why blame Cher?

    • Black Irish doesn’t mean your black. Irish are usually dark hair with brown eyes in Ireland. But the Scots started mixing with the Irish. When immigrating to the US, there was a lot of blond/strawberry blond Irish in the northeast. If you have brunette hair and blue eyes (like me) you were considered black irish.

      • But many are actually Black.

        • I’ve never met anyone with Black Dutch or Black Irish who really had any Black. Usually it was code for Jewish or Cherokee. Black Dutch was first used in England and Virginia of Netherlands Jews who were Sephardic with dark looks. Black Irish had a similar history. There actually were Jews among the Cherokee; see the chapter in Cherokee DNA Studies II. There were also Blacks or Mustees.

          • Well people just don’t think. Native america migrated,from across the waters they also made there way there thur trail of tears.i have Cherokee , Choctaw. I’m also descendant of chief John Bowels, half Cherokee and Norwegian. He had red hair and blue eyes. So does my family. Most Indian do not claim their blood because it was forced on them not to because of government, also would not be on rolls. I have been a researcher for over 30 years in Genealogy. Learned a lot. Mela

          • Black Irish was traditionally used to refer to black hair, not black skin-the Irish sources confirm that although Wikipedia claims it’s Irish people wit black skin I never heard it used that way and in the US. Both dad and his dad had black hair and blue eyes -grandpa’s family immigrated from Ireland

        • I preface with the undeniable fact that I am a black women of Caribbean descent. My grandfather on my mother’s side was of mixed heritage. He was mulattoo in appearance. Because the people on my Island are a mixed of many things including African and East Indian, my grandfather wrongfully assumed that he was mixed with black, European and East Indian. My family, assumed that we had a bit of East Indian heritage that accounted for some of us appearing lighter in complexion. Still, we do not present as anything other than black. I am proud of my blackness and is therefore not attempting to erase that fact however; my grandfather’s last name indicates that my grandfather was Arawak ( Taino) and black. I was able to find our tribe’s name. In my country there is no issue of land rights and such because there are no full blooded Arawaks remaining. What is left of them is scattered in the blood of people who look nothing like an indigenous person. People like myself, tend to honour our heritage in a personal way. I chose to mark my face, in their honour. In Africa spiritual we honour our ancestors so, we acknowledge our ancestors both African and Arawak. Never do we publicly claim indigenous ancestry because; we don’t require validation nor ridicule. We are not the full blooded Arawaks however; we are the baskets from Africa by way of the middle passage, who now functions as baskets to hold whatever remains of the bloodline of the Arawaks. My point is, having a percentage of indigenous blood is never an excuse to appropriate a tribe. I am not the only black personal with indigenous heritage who feels like an imposter because; the Caribbean Indigenous is invisible to all other tribes. I was hurt when I moved to Canada and realized that most indigenous wants nothing to do with anything black.Whites get to appropriate indigenous cultures and monetize that appropriation to a personal benefit or gain meanwhile Black peoples with legitimate claims to partial indigenous heritage are not made to feel welcomed. We the black branch of the tree, we don’t want land, we don’t want to be included in tribes because we are not full blooded, far from it in fact. But to be vetted, authenticated and acknowledged as “cousins” would be nice. I saw an article about the folk singer Buffy Sainte Marie regarding allegations of faking Cree ancestry. It hit me really hard. I actually cried because I could never ever claim my own heritage due to fear of being too black to also be indigenous. Still, I honour my tribe in my own made up way because there is no one left to teach us the ways of our Arawak ancestors. I feel sad than Europeans are never too white to appropriate with impunity because; they are readily accepted in that role of “white indigenous” yet I am too black to have indigenous ancestry. I am a black female with ancestors from the Arawak peoples and I honour both of my heritage equally, even though one is far more pronounced making me appear fully African. We the black one don’t get any measure of the love and acceptance that the European fakes are allotted every time . Thank you for listening.

          • Thank you for pouring out your heart and soul! You was so gentle when you described your experience with the pain of not being accepted. You shared it as a way of teaching us to help ignorant people open their eyes to the real truth. It is okay to be both black and native. All native descendants come in all shades of skin color tones. When you opened your deepest soul and your gentle heart, the world felt touched by your gentle disposition.. you opened the doors for other black native people to join the healing movement! Thank you for reaching out and coming out of the closet. May you be healed everywhere you go!

            From Windy
            Creek and Melungeon

  3. Cher has stood by her claim of Native ancestry as recently as 2003. See this A&E biography at 5:38 where she talks about her grandmother. It doesn’t seem too far fetched to me, given her family history. I don’t find it difficult to believe her.

    • Cher doesn’t have Native Ancestry. She’s Armenian. Her mother’s side is European. Her mom has not been forthcoming about a lot of things in her life & Career including her real name which is NOT Georgia Holt. Many whites lied about Native Ancestry and some were called once upon a time $5 Indian. They paid a fee to be associated with Native Americans. If Cher chooses to have an Ancestry DNA Test it would show if there’s any Native heritage which I do not believe exists.

  4. Cher is pure Caucasoid (Caucasian, ethnic white). Her parents were both ethnic whites. She has a Caucasian phenotype and Caucasian haplo group (R1b). She presents ZERO mongoloid (Indian) phenotype or haplo group.

    • “Heather” both “caucasian” and “white” are social constructs. Cher is not the same as a western European. You haven’t taken a sample of her DNA to make the claim that she is “white”. Armenians are descendants of people who hailed from as far as South Asia to the Mediterranean. They cannot be grouped into one group or “race”. R1b is only ONE of four ydna haplogroups found among them proving my point that their line isn’t just akin to “whiteness”.

      • You are right. We consider Armenians their own megapopulation. Ancient DNA samples confirm some of them came from South India.

        • About Cher in general. She does look like she has native blood even if she doesn’t, but as a young girl her song said alot to me. I was adopted whose great grandfather was “one of the last of Floridas original people” according to children’s home where I was adopted from. I am obviously of native decent so believe father may also have native ancestry. They were underage so records sealed with no way to ever know who they were. “Half breed” hit home for me and later in life federal changed my records to American Indian But Cheers song despite the inaccuracy of her true heritage gave me inspiration as a teenager. She was my idol. Beautiful, talented and spoke up for all of us half breeds in society. Seen all of her movies, know all of her songs. No one can despute the overwhelming talent she possesses. She remains an icon. No matter what she is.

  5. Claiming Native-American ancestry is something that caught on in the late 1960s, presumably with the Billy Jack craze. All the “cool people,” commonly known as “white people with a severe identity crisis” thought is was great fun to falsely claim Native-American ancestry to 1) impress their friends and 2) to alienate all the rest. Growing up in Portland, where “cool people” are endemic, I knew of one such group of Caucasian white teens who hung out at Portland State U. even though none of them were students there. They always insisted they were “part-American-Indian” until one day a real Native-American approached them. They all got up and ran away, never to show their faces on campus again.

    • Peanutbutter and Jam

      Denise Waterford, really? Insecurity issues have we? We were kids in the ’60s. What kid didn’t try to be cool then and now? let it go, you will live longer and be much happier.

      • I am s Cherokee Nation Citizen living in Oklahoma. Lydia Halfbreed was my biological grandmother. Cher is not a halfbreed Cherokee. I volunteer many hours within my tribe st our Heritage Center and our Cherokee Nation Colorguard. I would think anyone of good character and spirit that lied and profited from MY tribe and families genocide since the1970s would want to clear their name as Elizabeth Warren was held accountable for her mistrusts. CHER made millions singing this song HALFBREED. They are many here in Cherokee Nstion that frown on this woman for these untruths for profit and explotation of our names and history . I am one of those Warriors . I would love to meet her at our Heritage Center and give her a personal tour of our true Cherokee history anytime she could arrange it. I pray she would accept my humble offer She could be a positive influence for our future of Cherokee and America . WADO bird

        • I won’t reply in such a way as to let this space be devoted to fighting old wars about the white man’s history of Indians but your mention of Halfbreed interests me for purely genealogical reasons. Let’s leave popular culture and and Federal Indian policy out of history and genetics, okay?
          It seems the Hickses, Chisholms, “Motoys” and others had hardly measurable amounts of Native Blood to begin with but were mostly white opportunists on the frontier. Half of their families lived strictly as white people in Georgia. The Ridges had a bit of Natchez, the Hicks NA line was Chontal Maya, John Ross has so little NA in him, it would be hard to say what his mother was but she didn’t come from Cherokee territory. The Halfbreeds were Chickasaw, if anything. The Vanns were Scottish Jews with practically no NA heritage. Chief Black Fox (my ancestor) was part Choctaw and Chickasaw and had zero Cherokee. In few cases do we find much Cherokee, whatever that may be taken to be at the time.
          From the new book to be titled Cherokee DNA Studies: More People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong (chapter 7, “The Jewish Strain”): Cherokees used to wear beards. “Anciently, all the Cherokees wore a long beard on the chin,” the grandmother of George Hicks told missionary and antiquarian Daniel S. Butrick about 1830. She wasn’t alone in reporting this. “The Raven says that the old men used to tell them that the ancient Cherokees had always been in the habit of wearing a long beard,” but they began plucking out their whiskers “probably 80 or 100 years ago.” The Raven was considerably more than a hundred years old “and now blind.” He stated:

          …[A]nciently the Cherokee men uniformly wore a long beard, as their fathers had done, & considered it peculiarly ornamental. It seldom grew over six inches long. It was considered almost an unpardonable offence to seize a man by his beard… [when I was a lad, I] feared [my] beard would not be so thick and long as was desirable; and being told what to do to promote its growth, [I] commenced doctoring it… The medicine, however, proved ineffectual, and [I] never had as heavy a beard as [I] had desired (243).

          The Raven lived until the summer of 1838.
          Two other sources confirm that Cherokee men tried to sometimes promote whiskers, sometimes pull them out (242). One of the sources was Thomas Smith, or Shield Eater (died 1828), a convert at Spring Place and regular informant to Butrick on Cherokee culture. Another was Zachariah, or Zacharias, formerly a silversmith, later a headman of Taloney, or Talona, a town on Talking Rock Creek in Gilmer County, Georgia. Of the two men, both were half bloods. Zacharias had a Hebrew name and may have come from Jewish forebears. The “grandmother of George Hicks,” his mother Lydia Halfbreed’s mother, was a half blood herself. She was known as Qua-la-yu-ga Gu-u-li-si Crittenden (d. 1849). Here is the descent of this matriline, ending in George Agustus Hicks, traced back to the Wild Potato Clan wife of Moytoy, the “Cherokee Emperor,” as the British called him in 1730:

          1. Wild Potato Clan Woman (1686-1730) m. Moytoy of Tellico (1687-1741, perhaps son of Moytoy of Chota, who was a French Jew by the name of Beamour)
          2. Ah-nee-wa-kee (Deerhead, b. 1710) m. Cornelius Dougherty (b. 1700, d. 1770 in Keowee Territory)
          3. Jennie Dougherty (abt. 1745-after 1826) m. Crittenden (Non-Cherokee)
          4. Qua-la-yu-ga Gu-u-li-si Crittenden (b. abt. 1760, d. 1849) m. George X Chisholm (bef. 1822)
          5. Lydia Halfbreed (abt 1774-1849) m. William Abraham Hicks, Principal Chief 1826-1828
          6. George Agustus Hicks (b. 1793, d. aft. 1858)

        • I have a question, If 1-16 means a great-grandparent is Cherokee, what does 1-4 Cherokee, 1-8 Cherokee and 1-32 Cherokee mean in relationship with family. My son-in law has a gg-grandfather who was 1-4 Cherokee, he was born in Wake County, North Carolina. He said, his grandfather’s sister dressed as a Indian, smoked a pipe and carried a gun. Wouldn’t have a photo taken of herself because it would take her spirit away. Any help will be appreciated.

        • Thank you! This was a big thing in our family.
          She could have done her people the Armenians and our people a great service by giving the statement ‘no I am not Cherokee, I am Armenian but I have witnessed this struggle and can relate’. This woman is a no-good sellout and embarrassment to Armenians and Cherokee.
          This is doubly sad when you consider Armenian history as Christian martyrs.
          God bless you for your advocacy, I live in the Ozarks and must visit your center some day!

  6. Please allow me to share my story with being told I was Cherokee all my life and then finding out I’m Greek after taking a DNA test.

    My father’s family is in White County Arkansas, the same area where Cher’s Mom is from. My great grandmother was very dark and so some of her many children came out very dark, some even looked Native American. Her father had grown up in or around the Cherokee Nation in Georgia, so this was how they explained the dark looks, by saying somebody must have married a Cherokee. This of course was passed down as truth. Now where the Greek cames in, is still a mystery.

    • As for Greek… If you have read my Old World Roots of the Cherokee or are reading previews of the new book subtitled More Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong or following Richard Thornton’s excellent research on North Georgia during the Spanish and Ottoman periods you will understand there are many ways Greeks could have been quite numerous in the Southern Highlands–galley slaves, miners etc. Both the Apalaches and Cherokees spoke Greek. Tamahitans is just another name for the Sea Peoples, who were mostly Greek. It’s an Egyptian word.

  7. I’m not understanding the math here. If Jackie Jean was born in 1927 as stated and her dad (Crouch) is noted as born in 1905, how are you saying he was 17 when she was born? The math doesn’t add correctly – he’d be approximately 22. And why would her mom be 13? Mom’s birth year isn’t even noted here.

    • The math is correct. It may not seem like it’s right, but unfortunately, Lynda had Jackie at a super young age. It was Arkansas, after all.

  8. What people doing research may not understand is how far back in time that Indian ancestry may enter their family. And, that you have to research each separate line backwards. people with Indian tend to marry people with Indian and that continues today among the white descendants at least here in TN.

    • You are right about part-Indian marrying part-Indian, especially in Tennessee. Way back in 1996 I wrote the following article, which I am reproducing here. Little has changed.
      Six Generations of Cherokee Blood
      By Donald N. Yates
      I first wrote this article in 1996, before the advent of genetics in genealogy research. Since then I have determined through DNA analysis that my Native American genetic makeup is probably less than half the figure I arrived at purely with reconstructed genealogy and oral history. Obviously, a lot of those “fullbloods” were not full bloods, but mixed.
      The interracial mixing in my family lines goes back further than I originally gauged. I estimate now that you have to go back to the generation of Cherokee born about 1750 to find the first 100 percent Native in my family tree. That is the generation of 6th great-grandparents, approximately the generation of Black Fox and Attakullakulla and Nancy Ward. Evidently, many of my Jewish ancestors exaggerated their admixture with the Indians. Still, a lot of the research hypothesis testing below can be of interest and, I hope, inspire others in their family searches.
      As an interesting aside, I also found a tiny degree of East Asian genes. Perhaps Gavin Menzies is right about the Chinese discovering America. …!

      After about seven years of intensive genealogy research, I have established my known degree of Indian blood. I wanted to share the results with the Amerind list, since I know a lot of you are in the same boat. Some of you even have the identical lines and surnames and brick walls. Probably few Indians today have had the opportunities I have had to investigate their family history. I feel anything further I may find will be a case of diminishing returns. I invite your discussion.
      How far I have come since that day in 1993 when an older second cousin of mine told me a surprising story about my fullblood Cherokee great-grandmother Elisabeth Yates and first piqued my interest! That was my father’s line. Lawden Yates died in 1978, without so much as telling a soul of his Indian blood. As you can see below, I have since determined that he was a minimum of a quarter blood, mixed Cherokee and Creek.
      My mother was supposed to have all the Indian blood. She put it all on her maternal grandmother Shankles. I subsequently found out that there was just as much in Mother’s paternal line, the Coopers. Does any of this sound familiar?
      Wherever I looked, I found Cherokee. Generation after generation, Cherokee or part-Cherokee married Cherokee. Was this an accident? I do not think so.
      My investigations suggested that I was the sixth generation since the last of the fullbloods born in the pre-Removal days before 1820. There is a saying that Cherokee elders and clan mothers plan to the seventh generation. Looks like they did — and are still doing — a good job!
      In a crude way of reckoning, four out of 32 of my ggg-grandparents appear to have been fullblood Cherokee, making me one-eighth. I found only one ancestor proven to be non-Indian, Louis Graben, from Germany.
      Besides Cherokee, which was the overwhelming element, there was a slight mixing with Creek, Cheraw (possible), Saponi (possible), Choctaw and Algonquian tribes such as Powhatan. Putting it all together, I estimate that I am about one-fourth American Indian by blood.
      An obvious question is if there was a pattern of Cherokee or part-Cherokee marrying another Cherokee, how to account for it — particularly in cases where spouses might have concealed or even been unaware of their Indian blood? All lived in a predominantly white society in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee; the chances of consistently marrying another Cherokee in the area were slim. It is true that in each generation, most siblings in any given family (Coopers excepted) married non-Indians, so that Indian identification gradually disappeared in those lines.
      Another factor that contributed to the dying out of Indian identity was moving away from the ancestral lands. The Coopers on the other hand appear to have consciously conserved their bloodline, as I have investigated all my grand-aunts and -uncles’ families. Only Coopers and Sizemores attempted to legally claim their Indian heritage. They filed numerous applications, for instance, in the Guion Miller process of 1906. All were rejected by the government.
      A generalization I could make is that when the blood degree drops below one-fourth, there is a tendency no longer to identify as Indian, marry another Indian or raise your children with knowledge of the culture. One reason for the magic figure of one-fourth is that most of us do not interact with family members older than grandparents: typically, mixed bloods have one Indian grandparent and are thus one-fourth Indian. Grandpa or Grandma may or may not have “talked.”
      Of course, locale and Federal Indian policy have a lot to do with it. During generation one (pre-1820) when the official U.S., state and local government policy was extinction, the only Indians who survived off reservations kept a very low profile. Today, in generation six (Self-Determination), Indians are legally and openly asserting their own identity and culture. As long as the Indian wars lasted (until 1889), it was dangerous to be an Indian.
      My Coopers survived because they lived in a “gray” backwoods area on Sand Mountain straddling county lines and state lines. Still, the government managed to repossess their land, in 1892.
      Looks played a part, too. Some of the Blevins children were explicitly named Red, White and Black. My great-grandfather Henry Yates was half to three-quarters Indian and didn’t look it or admit it. His brothers Josephus and George looked Cherokee to a T and their descendants preserved many of the family memories.
      It was a custom for the carrier of certain traditions and stories to select one child or grandchild to pass them to. In some generations, none was qualified, and the tradition died. Stories were considered part of the possessions of a clan — living things that were treated with respect and honor. The Cooper tradition that we are descended from chiefs was passed from Isaac Cooper to his son Isaac, to Isaac’s son William, to grandson Peter Cooper. Peter’s wife, Lindy Sizemore, was the carrier of the Sizemore secrets. Much in Indian history hangs by a slender thread.
      A final thought is that, perhaps, there really is something to “having Indian blood.” I have a rare blood type (A negative), as does my wife. It is unlikely that a woman with A negative can have numerous children with a man of positive type (unless modern medicine intervenes with a drug like Rhogam). My wife and I do not have that problem. In a blood type study of indigenous people, A was the predominant type, though it represented less than 2 percent of the overall population. Certain groups like the reservation Cheyenne (Algonquian stock) and Amazonian Indians had 95 percent type A.
      May 15, 2000

  9. Annita J (Taylor) Fulton

    Your information about Cher having no Cherokee ancestry is incorrect. My great grandfather, Silas Clayton Green and Cher’s great grandmother, Laura Belle Green were brother and sister. Our great-great grandfather was Cherokee and his father had more Cherokee blood because of his parents. I have this documentation in my family history. Cher is listed as my 1st cousin, 3 times removed. I think that’s 3rd cousins. We have never met, although I was told that one of my first cousins had been in contact with Cher’s mother. We came from Arkansas, my great grandfather from Independence County and later our family settled in Izard County.

    • Hi, Thanks for setting the record straight. It would almost be odd if she didn’t have some Cherokeee ancestry given her mother’s family’s origins and migrations. I will make a note of your comment in our new book, chapter 1.

    • I’m a huge Cher fan and the “claim” was started originally by Sonny Bono and the publicity department at CBS. No one alive on that side to confirm or deny this statement. It was based loosely on the fact that Cher had been told all her life that she had NA ancestry. She BELIEVED this her entire life and Sonny used the belief to capitalize on the release of HALFBREED. Cher, as many of us who respected the NA culture, liked to do our ultra long hair in NA style braids and adorn clothing inspired by NA clothing. None of us MEANT any harm.

      I have been doing Ancestry research on Cher as a hobby and I found Ms Green in my research. Ms Green is on Cher’s grandfathers side, Roy Crouch…NOT , as she was told all her life, on Lynda Inez Gulley’s side. I have no idea the real percentage of any of the Green ancestors. I’m fairly certain that the NA blood line is TOO FAR back to actually appear in Cher’s DNA. BUT, What really does it matter?? She’s an inspiration and the song HALFBREED helped to draw much needed attention to the lives of the NA People in America. I love Cher and May God bless her.

  10. I believe mixed races make the most beautiful humans. So happy about DNA testing, but family must keep track of the facts! Knowledge is powerful, especially if that knowledge is informative about genetics that help family members avoid innate medical conditions.

  11. Sometimes you just have to go by the way a person looks! Cher looks part native American and there is a hint of it in Emmylou Harris too. Something about the bones and eyes. Both very beautiful women.

    I am the daughter of a Viennese Jew and Danish mother going back to the Vikings. The children of Gentile mothers are raised in the Gentile mother’s religion and supposably not regarded as Jews by other Jews. My father was not religious and I grew up as a devout Anglican in Australia, originally christened Lutheran.

    Yet I had to grow up with people constantly assuming that I was Jewish because “You look Jewish”. Even Jews insisted that I was
    Jewish (except for one Orthodox Jew I met). It annoyed me because I was not raised in any Jewish traditions, knew nothing of them and as an adult moved from agnosticism to being a contented but “spiritual” atheist. I have never had any sympathy for the treatment of Palestinians by Zionists.

    The other half of people who met me constantly likened me to Sophia Loren – a great compliment! And for some reason I grew up besotted with flamenco dancing. studied it, became fluent in Spanish and love Latin people. They’re sexy!

    Yet I lived in Munich for a year at 25 and visited the concentration camp, Dachau. There I realised that, were I alive during Hitler’s time, no way would I have survived unless like my father, I had been smuggled to Sweden by the sympathetic Danes who rescued 7500 of their Jews. I know that most is Raleys now don’t look Jewish the way that my father and I looked Jewish so it must have been an eastern European thing.

    However at the moment I saw Madeline Albright I thought she was Jewish from her bones. It turns out that she was but didn’t know it at the time she was appointed Secretary if State that her family had converted to Catholicism to survive Hitler.

    I have since met women of Polish ancestry who swore they were Catholic not Jewish but they have that same facial bone structure as Madeline Albright and myself. I found out an old Italian classmate raised as a Catholic, discovered only as an adult, that that her parents and extended family were all Jewish but didn’t tell their children.

    So I don’t care how many names and genealogical backgrounds people want to go through, I accept the Caucasian or Armenian backgrounds of Cher and Emmylou Harris, but I only have to look at them and see hints of native American. I have known quite a few full blood Native Americans and part blood, the latter particularly amongst Chilean immigrants to Australia.

    And whether Jews like it or not, I am half Jewish! Nowadays Jews are increasingly defining themselves by their culture and religion rather than race – understandably – but in that case nobody would think I was Jewish! And as I get older I’m looking more and more Jewish and less and less like Sophia Loren who still, miraculously at 85, looks like herself!

    • Appearances do give a lot of clues, however can be very misleading. Actress Vivian Leigh is a famous example. Having been born in India, many thought she had part eastern Indian blood. She does not. She is however part Armenian. In India in the 1800’s, along with the British, there was a sizable Armenian community. As far as those with Jewish ancestry, many Jews had to hide their heritage due to centuries of persecution. I am so happy your family was able to escape the horrors of nazi Germany. My husband is Russian Jewish on his father’s side and German Jewish on his mother’s side. Fortunately both sides came to the USA in the late 1800’s, so all were safe during WWII.

  12. I find it interesting that my family from Tennesee handed down the same story of Cherokee ancestry. Cher turns out to be an 8th cousin of mine as one of her maternal grandfather’s was a Fults from Virginia my paternal gr8. gr8. Grandpa was his brother. It’s curious to me that they left VA during the French and Indian wars. And according to eyewitness account they arrived from VA with the Hill wagons and “travelling with Indians and looked like Indians.”

    • Cher’s g g grandparents Frederick Fritsch and Margaret Stewart were also my g g grandparents. Their daughter, Nora was my g grandmother. There daughter (also Margaret) was Cher’s g grandmother. I know Frederick came here from Germany at the age of 17. I didn’t know much about Margaret Stewart and there was a rumor of Indian blood in the family (isn’t there in every family). But I had my DNA tested and there was not a drop of Indian blood.

      • Did you have it tested with our forensic DNA tests, for instance, the Basic American Indian DNA test? We have many more reference populations than any other company. Before I started DNA Consultants, I took the then-prevailing test and was told (as one example) that I had 0.01% Native American, which would have meant one “full blood” about 9 generations ago in the 18th century. I know from genealogy work I am doubly descended from Cherokee Chief Black Fox (d. 1811), but I am aware also of Creek, Uchi, Chickahominy, Choctaw and other Cherokee ancestors. In Eske Willerslev’s studies, as reflected on gedcom, my profile is often cited as the strongest Cherokee one. So go figure.

  13. Cher has no Native American DNA…in fact her ancestor Peter O’Neal was a regulator in Rockingham County NC and travelled with General Rutherford to Western NC, East Tenn and burned villages, killed Indians. He also was violent to Tories in NC AFTER the Revolution. ONeal settled down and purchased a cold water mineral springs in Rockingham County then known as Rockingham Springs. He left it in his will to his wife and 13 children. Before he died he agreed to sell it to a Scottish merchant named John Lenox (my ancestor). Lenox satisfied the requirements of the deed. For some reason Lenox stabbed ONeal. Lenox then went to court and sued the family. He was awarded the land. Don Thomas Simmons

  14. Cher is Gorgeous! -shes beutful! Shes an accomplished woman .I’m Ojibwe ANDAremienian , guess thats part of the reason I’m so attracted to her!-I even drempt of her! WHAAA-OW !

  15. The author did sloppy research. Cher is clearly part British-French and French. I know this because we share common ancestors John Pearce (Peirs, de Percy) and Maria Delamater ( de la Matre). John Peirs was English, with French ancestors and his wife Maria was from a French Huguenot family. It is also rumored there is Native American blood via my Chilcote and Underwood branches of my family that is on the same side. Like Cher, I am unusually small boned with tiny hips and long legs and very slim, but a bit curvier than Cher; I have an Italian mother : )

    • Question I have for years I was told I had Delaware did my DNA said I had 0% I’m 100% western European. My great great great grandma was delaware Indian was that to far back to be in my genetics or could she just have been half??

      • Many of the eastern North American tribes are invisible to orthodox geneticists because they all believe that only A,B,C,D and sometimes X from Siberia/Mongolia can denote Native Americans. It is a big blind spot. It also causes them to dismiss segments of DNA in autosomal analysis that are tied to Europe or the Middle East.

  16. Will her be buried with so notes or no

  17. First of all the title of this article is so outdated and distasteful. Who says “half breed” unless you’re extrmeely ignorant/racist? As a multiracial individual myself, it has always made my skin crawl hearing that term. WE ARE NOT ANIMALS.

  18. Hey…I am 60 yrs old & have ALWAYS admired her and her “grande huevos”. I used to look forward to singing, “I’ve Got You Babe” with her & Sonny…RIP.Lisa

  19. Regardless of Cher’s ancestry,(I also have English,Irish,German on my Mother’s side),Native American and Aborigines,(Indigenous Australians) are truly amazing and beautiful people and i hope they and their cultures are around for a long,long time.
    Cher,you rock!! And coming from a younger guy,i think you’re one of the sexiest women aound!!

  20. Cher actually does have a Native American in her lineage. I’m her third cousin once removed. She is on the same line my mother was. Jackie Jean Crouch’s mother and my great-great grandfather were brother and sister. If I remember correctly, William Martin Green, the relative Cher and I share, was married to an Indian woman from Tuscaloosa. Not sure if she was Cherokee or not. My grandmother told me that there was an Indian woman in her side. My grandmother was a Green. My guess is, Cher denied being part Cherokee due to the fact that she couldn’t prove it. No internet in the seventies. It was probably just a story her mom knew…and it looked good, because she sure does look Cherokee with that hair. I think that’s her Dad’s genes though. Look at her Moms cheekbones and you’ll see it. I sure wish I had those! I got the Scot-Irish look. Just thought I’d SHARE! 😉

  21. Changing the subject a little, there is also some controversy as to whether the late Farrah Fawcett had some Choctaw (indigenous) heritage.
    Would anyone happen to know if there is any truth to Farrah Fawcett’s claim to having Native American blood? Farrah Leni Fawcett was
    born in 1947 (making her approx. a year younger than Cher).

  22. My mother named me after her favorite singer because of that publicity stunt and that d* song. I am so very hurt by the knowledge that my mother believed this, and when she met my father and decided to have me despite not wanting to marry a “red injun” she would name me after her idol because she hoped I would be like Cher when I grew up.
    A nation’s culture should not be used as a publicity stunt. People like me with no culture and no heritage to trace or to depend on in life should not exist. I don’t blame Cher for my mother being a hateful person, but I do blame the publicity crew for appropriating culture for popularity points that make something as meaningful as ancestry into a gimmicky, racist song.

  23. Cher was a legend. Nice article

  24. Cher was a legend and still a legend. Her songs are amazing. Nice article indeed. I am your great fan.

  25. Interesting article about Cher’s disputed native ancestry. Some of the mentioned details seem hard to follow. I suppose that unless Cher herself chooses to have her genealogy professionally compiled, or appears on “Finding Your Roots” — the question will never be answered to anyone’s satisfaction.
    I am curious why so many have an issue with people who wish to acknowledge their native ancestry, in whatever degree they have it. Are we not to esteem our ancestors — all of them — not just the “politically correct” ones? It’s not a case of “appropriation” — unless one is actively trying to profit by it.
    Cher’s claim to native ancestry played very little part in her rise to fame. Except for the song “Half Breed,” most of her songs were about all manner of subjects and themes. She didn’t base her career upon that identity. So the smouldering resentment is rather out of place.
    I think we all should value our ancestry and there should be no embargo on mentioning a native (or several) forebear(s). We are all a product of all the hundred of people who came before us. That should be a source of pride to all.

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