News Story

Friendships Forged Through Common Goal of Preserving Family Heritage

Dr. Bryan Walls recently welcomed service volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the John Freeman Walls Historic Site and Underground Railroad Museum, calling them a “godsend.”

“[This] service project,” said Walls, “and the goal of this historical site are congruent with what [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] is all about, which is friendship, helping one another and preserving family heritage. We use the history of personal family struggles to promote mutual respect and reconciliation and to leave bitterness behind. Your wonderful service project, with volunteers coming down today, is a godsend and a blessing to our hearts.”

Dr. Walls formed a friendship with Mormon members in April of 2016 while participating as a keynote speaker at the Canadian Black History Summit, which was co-hosted by FamilySearch International (the genealogical arm of the Church) and the Ontario Black History Society. Summit participants were introduced to the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, a family history initiative to help African Americans reconnect with their Civil War-era slave ancestors.

“As I looked over the audience [at the summit],” Walls said, “I knew something special was on its way. The good Lord works in mysterious ways.”

At the John Freeman Walls Historic Site service project, Neil George, a young adult Mormon volunteer, commented, “I heard about this service project and wanted to take part because I have a great appreciation for history and historically significant areas. I want to be part of preserving this area.”

The 20-acre historical site contains John Walls’ original log cabin, the Walls family cemetery and the Historic Walkway, which re-creates the natural setting with which fleeing slaves would have had to contend.

As a result of thousands of volunteers participating in the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, the names of nearly 1.8 million men, women and children are now searchable online, allowing individuals to connect with and preserve their family heritage. More information about the Freedmen’s Bureau Project can be found by visiting

Why do Mormons volunteer? Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that as people work side-by-side and learn from each other, mutual understanding increases, misconceptions can be corrected and new friendships are built (see

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