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Experts uncover more DNA profiles, surnames tied to potential 1921 Massacre victims

An excavation team at Oaklawn Cemetery, part of the city's 1921 Graves search, in September
Ben Abrams
An excavation team at Oaklawn Cemetery, part of the city's 1921 Graves search, in September 2023.

The update follows a third excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery in 2023 that uncovered over 50 unmarked graves.

Scientists are making progress in identifying the remains from unmarked graves at Oaklawn Cemetery containing possible victims of the 1921 Race Massacre.

Experts at Intermountain Forensics, the company working with the city to identify remains via DNA, updated the media Thursday on the latest from their investigation.

"We’ve been able to refine our placement of where the unknown burials could fit into the family trees of their living DNA relatives," said Alison Wilde, director of the company's genealogy wing.

Experts are using DNA databases from companies GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA that compile consumer tests to track down potential family members.

Wilde said all of the families contacted so far have been surprised by the revelation they may have ancestors tied to Tulsa.

"For the most part, they have no memory of a family story about Tulsa," Wilde said.  "We haven’t encountered anybody yet that says ‘Yes, my grandma told me a story about her cousin that was in Tulsa.’  We haven’t heard that from any of the families yet, so they’re left to ponder over the possibilities.”

The team also said many have contacted them by seeing their family names in local news because of the search.

The City of Tulsa and the forensics team encourage those with possible ties to massacre victims to reach out by going to tulsa1921dna.org and click the “Provide Information” button.

A list of the latest family names to be identified can be found via a news release on the City of Tulsa's website.

More information about the city's graves search can be found at www.cityoftulsa.org/1921graves.

Ben Abrams is a news reporter and All Things Considered host for KWGS.
Check out all of Ben's links and contact info here.