Inside job: Inmates help further Mormon genealogy work

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) Inmates do genealogy research on computers in the Family History Center in the Wasatch unit at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah.

William J. Hopkins already knew a bit about genealogy work when he arrived at the Utah State Prison in 1994, an interest that was sparked in his teens by an aunt who is a family historian.

Hopkins, 40, now spends two to three hours a day working on family history projects — his own and that of others — at the Family History Center at the prison’s Wasatch unit.

He is an arbitrator, someone who reviews duplicate data entered by various indexers to ensure the information corresponds and then enters one copy into a database. Hopkins also tutors fellow inmates on how to do family research.

He has traced his family line back to Myles Standish, his 11th great-grandfather who came to America on the Mayflower as a military adviser to the Puritans and then went on to help settle Massachusetts. Hopkins also has traced his ancestors’ trek west as part of the Mormon migrations to the Utah territory between 1847 and 1850.

Topic: