Unknown remains at Oakwood Cemetery to be DNA tested


AUSTIN (KXAN) —In 2016, work to restore a chapel at one of Austin’s oldest cemetery’s led to the discovery of dozens of skeletal remains.

“The archeologists who were monitoring construction came across fragments of bone, and it was discovered after many months of investigation that indeed the chapel had been built over preexisting graves when it was constructed in 1914,” said Kim McKnight, Historic Preservation and heritage tourism, program director.

The chapel has a long history in Austin, built in 1914, on what was once the racially segregated portion of the Oakwood cemetery.

Oakwood Cemetery dates back to the 1830s. It is a cemetery with a lot of history, but also many unanswered questions. In all, the remains of 36 individuals were found on the site.

“It is very clear to everyone involved that these were people that were forgotten clearly at the time the chapel was constructed and it is our goal to learn as much as we can about them and try to interpret the lives they lived,” said McKnight.

Austin Parks and Recreation is now in the early stages of exploring an academic partnership to conduct DNA testing on the remains.

“You can determine different patters of genetic variation and relatedness among the individuals that are interred,” said McKnight. “Were these families interred together?”

The partnership will allow the research to be done at no cost to the city, according to McKnight.

City leaders and PARD will continue to give updates on the project.

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