Genealogists Announce Breakthrough In DNA Analysis Of Oaklawn Cemetery Remains

Tulsa City leaders and forensic scientists and genealogists have announced a major breakthrough in the analysis of DNA from human remains found in unmarked graves at Oaklawn Cemetery.

Wednesday, April 12th 2023, 6:28 pm



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Tulsa City leaders and forensic scientists and genealogists have announced a major breakthrough in the analysis of DNA from human remains found in unmarked graves at Oaklawn Cemetery.

Scientists looking at the DNA from remains found at Oaklawn Cemetery, said on Wednesday they have connected six burials to people living in America today.

They said it is still too soon to know if those burials belong to 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims.

Scientists, researchers, and the City of Tulsa said the DNA analysis being done at Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, is starting to provide results.

"We do not believe a match of this type has ever been achieved before in American history,” Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum said during a news conference Wednesday.

"All I can say is - Wow!” Descendent Brenda Nails Alford said.

Of the 22 sets of human remains from Oaklawn Cemetery that are going through DNA analysis, genealogists said so far, they can connect six burials to specific surnames and locations, based on matches made through two public DNA databases.

"We do not know for certain that these relatives are direct descendants, nor do we know if the remains are definitely Race Massacre victims,” Bynum said. “But we do know these remains share DNA with people living in America today."

Genealogists said when it comes to remains found in what archeologists labeled "Burial 3," they are interested in talking with people who have the surnames Scott, Huntley, Daniel, Meriwether, Sims, and Bohannon with connections to Coweta County in Georgia.

They are also interested in talking with people who have the surnames Benjamin and Willis, with connections to Austin County, Texas.

The list of names and locations go on for several other burials. Genealogists said now, they need the public's help to figure out who is buried at Oaklawn.

"It's important that in the community, and really, throughout the nation and the world, that you look at your own family tree and you say, 'do I recognize what they're talking about?' 'Do I have those surnames?' 'Do I have these locations?” Genealogy Case Manager Alison Wilde said.

While people may not have the same surname today, Wilde still encourages people to search for answers, through their ancestors.

Intermountain Forensics said it expects more names and locations will come out as they continue to study the DNA from Oaklawn.

Here is a list of surnames and locations that were released Wednesday by the city and Intermountain Forensics:

Burial 1: Surnames of Interest: No specific surname identified, yet – Genealogy team will reach out to potential DNA relatives  

Area(s): North Carolina  

Burial 3: Surnames/Location of Interest #1: Scott, Huntley, Daniel, Meriwether, Sims, Bohannon  

Area(s): Coweta County, Georgia, and surrounding counties  

Surnames/Location of Interest #2: Benjamin, Willis 

Area(s): Austin County, Texas  

Burial 13: Surnames/Locations of Interest #1: Maggett  

Area(s): Leflore County, Mississippi  

Surnames/Locations of Interest #2: Strong, McGee 

Area(s): Union Parish, Louisiana, and Texas  

Surnames/Locations of Interest #3: Still  

Area(s): Oklahoma during Indian Territory designation 

Burial 15: Surnames/Locations of Interest #1: Holden, Larrimore 

Area(s): Sabine Parish, Louisiana 

Surnames/Locations of Interest #2: Luckett, Mayre 

Area(s): Rapides Parish, Louisiana 

Burial 17: Surnames/Locations of Interest: Smith, Davis, Rentie 

Area(s): Alabama, Texas, and Oklahoma during Indian Territory designation and early 1900s 

Burial 41: Potential Last Name(s): No specific surname identified, yet – Genealogy team will reach out to DNA relatives 

Area(s): N/A 

The City of Tulsa said no apparent gunshot wound or trauma was present in any of these six burials.  

For more information, or to reach out to Intermountain Forensics about contributing DNA or information, click here.

Related Story: Tulsa City Leaders To Offer Updates On Mass Graves Investigation At Oaklawn Cemetery

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