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DNA wanted from possible descendants of Race Massacre victims

by Kesean Cleveland
DNA wanted from possible descendants of Race Massacre victims
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Anyone who believes they may be a descendant of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre are being asked by scientists to provide genetic material. Doing so will help scientists when they begin trying to identify remains of possible victims.

Danny Hellwig, laboratory director with Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, said that researchers are not ready to begin trying to match DNA for identification, but an outpouring of requests from local residents on how to provide genetic material led them to begin the process of accepting donations.

According to the Associated Press, Hellwig has said that Black people who had ancestors in Tulsa during 1921 are sought. “What we need is to populate these databases with family lines of direct descendants, making identifications of the remains possible within days,” Hellwig said.

The need for DNA is a part of the nonprofit foundation’s project of examining 14 sets of remains removed from a local cemetery a year ago. At least two of the remains have a possibility of being victims from the massacre based on certain factors, but their names are unknown. 

descendants mass grave tulsa massacre

J. Kavin Ross, Sen. Kevin Matthews, Vanessa Hall-Harper, and Bishop Melvin Cooper carefully transport remains to researchers in 2021. (Photo courtesy of: J. Kavin Ross)

Researchers seek DNA samples to help identify remains

A match to a family member could be made within days if the descendant is in Intermountain Forensics’ DNA database. A search for the graves of massacre victims began in 2020 and resumed last year with nearly three dozen coffins containing remains of possible victims recovered.

A search for the graves of massacre victims began in 2020 and resumed last year with nearly three dozen coffins containing remains of possible victims recovered. The remains have not been confirmed as victims of the 1921 massacre, a finding that officials say could be impossible because of the length of time since they died.

People can provide their information from genealogy sites such as ancestry.com or 23andme.com and upload that to www.tulsa1921dna.org.

“Donors have the option to prohibit their information from being shared with other agencies, including law enforcement, and can remove their information at any time,” Hellwig said.

Investigators haven’t said when they’ll analyze additional sites where suspected mass graves are located and potential search areas are planned, according to a news release from the city of Tulsa.

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