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Search for Answers Continues 103 Years After Tulsa Race Massacre

5/29/2024

As the 103rd anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre approaches, the City of Tulsa is continuing its search for victims and relatives from the Massacre.  

Intermountain Forensics, the laboratory assisting the City with DNA analysis for the Investigation, is making significant progress. Through family stories and DNA comparison thanks to assistance from the public, both from people who have submitted information online and from families of interest who have returned emails and phone calls from the genealogy team, Intermountain Forensics has refined and adjusted the surnames of interest for many of the burials. The City is working with Intermountain Forensics to update the public with these findings to help make progress on identifications.  

“I’m so thankful for our experts who have been pouring over the samples and data for the better part of the past year to help move this investigation forward,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “Six years ago, we wanted descendants and the community to have more answers and today we are one step closer on the identification side. I feel a great sense of responsibility to follow through on what we promised and I’m eager for the process to continue.”

Intermountain Forensics has also identified two additional genealogy profiles from previously exhumed burials, one of which has associated surnames and locations of interest, along with another profile that is close to having identified surnames and locations of interest.

"All of us at Intermountain Forensics are both humbled and honored to contribute to such a pivotal initiative, which also serves as a template for addressing similar historical injustices nationwide,” Intermountain Forensics Director of Laboratory Development Danny Hellwig said. “The assistance from the public has been invaluable, and continued support of family stories and DNA comparisons will be crucial as we move forward in this historic work. We are pleased to report significant progress in our work on the 1921 Tulsa Graves Project, having now successfully generated eight usable forensic genetic genealogy profiles from the Oaklawn cemetery excavations. Our team, alongside our dedicated partners, are engaged in an intensive effort to research DNA relatives to identify individuals who have been lost to their loved ones for over 100 years. "

Work continues with DNA sequencing and enrichment on other DNA samples from previously exhumed burials. As that work progresses, public notice will be made as it relates to surnames and locations of interest for each. Burial and surname information can be found online at www.cityoftulsa.org/1921graves, along with an updated exhumation map.

People with any of the below surnames and locations of interest in their family trees are asked to visit http://tulsa1921dna.org and click the “Provide Information” button.

New genealogy profiles:

Burial 45 – Second Excavation

Burial 119 – Third Excavation

Updated genealogy profiles:
Thanks to those who provided information, Intermountain Forensics has updated the details of previously identified burials, including the surnames and locations of interest for nearly all of them.

Some of the surnames and locations associated with the burials remain unchanged while others have surnames and locations of interest that have been added to consideration or removed from consideration.

Members of the public whose surnames are no longer in consideration are asked for continued participation in the Investigation, and the City and Intermountain Forensics welcome them to share their experience with others.

Burial 1

Burial 3

Burial 13

Burial 15

Burial 17

Burial 41

Physical Investigation & Emmett Till Grant
Additional fieldwork is expected to take place in the coming months. More information regarding next steps will be made available soon. Additionally, planning work is underway on the Emmett Till grant that was awarded to the City from the DOJ. The three-year, $1 million grant is being used to help the City of Tulsa in partnership with the Greenwood Cultural Center and Intermountain Forensics in the genetic genealogy work for the 1921 Graves Investigation. The grant will support community education and public workshops, and genetic genealogy and cold case training for Tulsa Police officers.