News Story

Canadian Black History Summit: Connecting U.S. and Canadian History With Genealogical Records

The first Canadian Black History Summit will be held Saturday, April 16, 2016, at the Etobicoke, Ontario, building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The summit will connect black history and black genealogy experts and participants with new information about the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, which in the near future will give access to over four million searchable records. This free conference is a co-operative effort between FamilySearch, the genealogical arm of the Church, and the Ontario Black History Society.

Topics at the Canadian Black History Summit will include examples and initiatives of black family history such as the Freedmen’s Bureau Project and the impact of the Underground Railroad. The Freedmen’s Bureau Project is an exciting new family history project to help both black Canadians and black Americans reconnect with their Civil War–era ancestors. Canada played a critical role in the Underground Railroad, which served as the means for black slaves to reach freedom in the North. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 individuals entered Canada in the 1840s and 1850s through this path.

Rosemary Sadlier, past president of the Ontario Black History Society, stated, “This inaugural Canadian Black History Summit promises to be a national historical event to benefit everyone — families, historians, researchers and genealogists. A focus is on extending and connecting the history of African-Americans to the history of African-Canadians, since Canada was a final destination for many who left the U.S. during and after enslavement, and stories of horrendous experiences are within many of the records. These records and the opportunities to learn more about how to access them provide another treasure trove of lived experience [that] will add greatly to the narrative on black history, Canadian history and global migration. With the speakers — again, reflecting more on the ongoing nature of the bi-national U.S.–Canada connections — and with the opportunity for attendees to both learn and apply new information, this summit is the launch of a rebirth of the diversity and resilience of family — a rebirth of the foundations of black history.”

Summit presenters include Darius Gray, author, historian, journalist and co-director of the Freedman’s Bank Project; Bryan Prince, award-winning author, historian and consultant; Shannon Prince, curator of the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum; Thom Reed, senior marketing manager of FamilySearch and a specialist for the Freedmen’s Bureau Project; Rosemary Sadlier, author of six books on African-Canadian history; and Dr. Bryan Walls, author of “The Road That Led to Somewhere,” founder of the John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum and past president of the Ontario Historical Society.

In addition there will be displays, videos and handouts at the summit, plus a musical presentation by the First Baptist Church Choir. The First Baptist Church of Toronto was founded in 1826 and is the oldest black institution in the city of Toronto.

This unique conference starts at 2:00 p.m. and concludes at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, 2016, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 95 Melbert Road, Etobicoke, Ontario. Onsite registration starts at 1:00 p.m. Online registration is available at

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former executive director of the Church’s Family and Church History Department, stated, “One of our key beliefs is that our families can be linked forever and that knowing the sacrifices, the joys and the paths our ancestors trod helps us to know who we are and what we can accomplish” (June 2015 news conference announcing the Freedmen’s Bureau Project).

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