Historical Research & Writing


I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, then followed my mother’s advice to go somewhere “different” for college. In 1965, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. Now, more than five decades later, my roots are still in the East, but my heart – and my passion for researching and writing about history – is in the West. Colorado has remained my home. Here you will learn more about my books, articles, current projects – and about me. Thanks for visiting my website. (Visitors to are redirected here, as that site has now merged with this one.)

Stumped on a cold case? Need historical context for a research project? Looking for people or places in Boulder County, Colorado? Contact me for more information.

Silvia Pettem, © 2017



See BOOKS Page for ordering information

THE LONG TERM MISSING: HOPE AND HELP FOR FAMILIES (Rowman & Littlefield) empowers families and gives them hope by providing them with the tools they need to become their long-term missing person’s advocate while proactively searching for their loved ones.


Why Finding the Missing is Important
Categories of Long-term Missing Adults
Children: Helping to Bring Them Home
Proactive Police
Civilian Searchers
Celeste’s Sister Sara: Found Alive in Mexico
NamUs: An Investigative Tool
Become Your Long-term Missing Person’s Advocate
Gather Information, Document, and Do the Research
Pitfalls and Legalities
Retrospect –– Inside a (Previously) Cold Case
Final Words

Silvia Pettem writes from the heart. Her engaging narrative is packed with real-life stories and is a must-read for family members as they journey from heartache to hope.

R. H. Walton, EdD, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Utah State University
Author of Cold Case Homicides: Practical Investigative Techniques

Knowledge is power, and in these pages you will find knowledge to empower yourselves. You will be taught how to navigate the unknown territory you have entered. You will recognize what realistically can and should be done in a case. Best of all, you will become your long-term missing person’s advocate, not only to law enforcement but to the rest of the world. And, maybe—hopefully—you will find resolution and answers.
Stuart Somershoe, Detective, Phoenix Police Department

The Long Term Missing is the first book to show how families use NamUs to bring their loved-ones home.
J. Todd Matthews, director, case management and communications, National Missing & Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)


Hunt, Chuck, Faribault County Register, March 5, 2017

"[The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families] is fascinating.... I highly recommend reading Pettem's book."

One Final Chapter in (Blue Earth) Jane Doe Story

Ewing, Jody,, April 10, 2017

For so many — including Iowans — it is the book thousands of families have long wished someone would write. It doesn’t provide just hope, it offers clear and insightful methods for those who want to get involved in finding out what happened to a loved one who went missing long ago. Silvia Pettem, a Colorado-based historical researcher, newspaper columnist and cold case instructor in classes sponsored by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, has just released her new book, The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families, about how families can become proactive in renewing police contacts, keeping up with latest technologies, and educating themselves as they strive to become their long term missing person’s advocates.

The author of more than a dozen books, including Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases, Silvia’s latest work addresses topics such as:
Why Finding the Missing is Important
Categories of Long-Term Missing Adults
Children: Helping to Bring Them Home
NamUs: An investigative Tool
How to Gather Information, Document, and Do the Research
Pitfalls and Legalities to Avoid, and much, much more.

The Long Term Missing comes complete with illustrations and describes how cold case investigations are driven by changes in technology or changes in relationships. As the founder of Iowa Cold Cases, I am both honored and humbled to have contributed to Silvia’s new book the role Iowa has played in increasing statewide public awareness about unsolved cases and getting advocates involved. Many thanks to Silvia for her comprehensive research, thought-provoking interviews, and solid guidelines for families looking for hope, help and answers.


"Pettem advises searching parents to be a 'squeaky wheel.' She also encourages them to see if their states offer Missing Persons Day events and to attend to give DNA samples and to update reports. This guidebook should empower families to never give up hope, even as Pettem reminds readers that not everyone wants to be found."

And this is a different book that recently was released in the United Kingdom ––

HANDBOOK OF MISSING PERSONS (edited by Morewitz and Colls) published by Springer International. Pettem and Walton are co-authors of the chapter, “Investigation of Long-term Missing Persons as Cold Case Homicides: An American Perspective.”

Handbook of Missing Persons


The Business of Books, Rowman & Littlefield, "Daily Camera," December 29, 2016Lake Station brings in cameras to crack cold case, “Chicago Tribune,” October 15, 2016

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Long-term missing persons
Unidentified remains
Cold case homicides
Boulder County, Colorado, history