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Understanding the Role of Genetic Genealogy

The City of Tulsa’s 1921 Graves Investigation project seeks to identify human remains found in Oaklawn cemetery through the use of Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG).The Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) process involves comparison of DNA profiles from the Oaklawn remains to members of the public who have previously taken consumer DNA tests and uploaded them to the publicly available genealogy DNA databases GEDmatch and/or Family Tree DNA.

Meet some of our Genetic Genealogy Team

Our genetic genealogy team is a crew of highly dedicated volunteers.  This is a labor of love for all of them. We’re proud of the experience and diversity our team members bring to this important identification project.

Please meet (from left to right): Alison, Janel, Lisa, Elizabeth, Valerie, Samantha, Andrea, and Jenny (not pictured).

A Community Effort

The City of Tulsa's 1921 Graves project has always been at its heart a community project.  It has been guided by the community (through the members of the project's public oversite committee), and can only be completed with the assistance of the community through providing information about their family histories. Intermountain Forensics, as part of implementing this project, has made efforts to create collaborative relationships with municipal and community organizations that are dedicated to serving the citizens of North Tulsa and the Greenwood District.  They have been invaluable in helping us learn about the concerns of the community that they serve, and in helping us connect to that same community to ask for help in the completion of the project.

Preliminary Work

Information collection prior to our genealogical work is an important part of this process. The more information we are able to gather regarding families from 1921, the greater chances we have of identification when we begin the process of comparing the DNA profiles from the remains unearthed in Oaklawn Cemetary. Whether you have family stories, have taken a DNA test, would like to take one or have a family tree (digital or written), we would love to hear from you. Please consider providing any information you feel might be helpful via our online form below. If you need assistance to complete the form, please visit any one of the Tulsa City-County Library locations.


Our nonprofit lab will be creating DNA Profiles for each of the human remains exhumed from Oaklawn Cemetery.  In order to discover their identities, the genealogy team will use these profiles to find common ancestors among their living relatives.


There is NO separate DNA database that is specific to this project.  That wouldn’t offer us the best chance for success. Instead, we need to turn to large public genealogy databases, like GEDmatch.  More than a million people have voluntarily made their DNA available there for comparison in projects like this.

To understand more details of this process, read our Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) statement.

Having Your DNA Compared to the Unidentified Remains

We’ve been contacted by dozens of people with family stories connecting them to the Tulsa Race Massacre.  Many have asked if a DNA test they’ve already taken can be used to see if they’re related to the unidentified remains in this project. The answer is YES. For those who have not tested and are direct descendants of Tulsa Race Massacre victims, a free DNA kit can be provided so that your family’s DNA is represented in this project. Contact us at to discuss your options.

With or without DNA, we still want to hear about family connections to Greenwood, since these stories provide valuable information about potential victims. You can submit stories, your family tree, images, links and more on our online form.

How to Upload your DNA information to GEDmatch

If you have tested at one of the Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) companies such as Ancestry, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA or My Heritage, you can upload your raw DNA file to GEDmatch is a free service that is not affiliated with any of the DTC DNA testing companies, but accepts DNA profiles from all of them.  

DNA Comparison Pathways
Tulsa Resources

Click the chart below for a larger pdf version.


Our team has created resources to better understand our process and the use of DNA in this project.

Making the choice to share your family history and/or your DNA is a very personal decision. We understand that everyone has their own privacy concerns.  We have developed several DNA comparison pathways for community members to participate in this project which allows the freedom of choice of how private you want your information to be.

View Document >>

Join Our Team

We encourage experienced genetic genealogists who are part of the Greenwood, Tulsa Race Massacre, African American and/or Black communities to contact us regarding volunteer opportunities for this project or becoming an apprentice in training for future phases of the 1921 Graves Investigation project.  

For more information, contact us at

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