Mar 12, 2021

Using Prospector for Genealogy

March 12, 2021

The Covid pandemic of the last year has brought numerous changes to our lives. While not as consequential as some of them, the changes to how we as genealogists can proceed with our genealogical research have been frustrating for many of us.

I realize that genealogists have been fortunate to have a wealth of resources available at the touch of a computer key. Many of us have taken advantage of new opportunities such as Zoom genealogy meetings and virtual conferences and webinars to hone our research skills. I’ve heard other members of LCGS mention how much research they’ve gotten done over the last year because of all the extra time at home to spend on digital research.

I’ve been able to do some digital research as well; it’s just that not everything I need to continue my progress is available online. Many of the vital records, court documents and deeds that I want to consult are held in various brick and mortar repositories such as libraries and archives. Many of these have been and still are closed because of the pandemic. A few of them are beginning to open up but with restricted hours and limits on time a researcher can spend onsite. Add in the difficulty and potential danger of travel, and it’s no wonder that my list of records I want to access is growing exponentially.

One bright spot in the quest for offline books is that Prospector has recently been re-activated after being shut down for several months due to Covid. Prospector is an alliance of over fifty public, academic and special libraries in Colorado and Wyoming that functions as a type of inter-library loan among those various libraries. Not every library in Colorado and Wyoming is a member, but many are. The Poudre River Public Library District ( ) belongs to Prospector, and it is one of my go-to sources for books pertaining to genealogy.

Libraries need to meet so many needs beyond just books nowadays that some of them have reduced the books that they keep on their shelves. Books that don’t circulate frequently, for example, are sometimes purged in favor of newer, more popular titles. For genealogists, some of those older, out of print books are exactly what we need to advance our research. For example, one of the best treatments of Swedish immigrants in America is Vilhelm Moberg’s trilogy The Emigrants. The books are frequently recommended to anyone wanting to learn more about the lives their Swedish ancestors’ experienced as immigrants to America. The Poudre library no longer has copies of them, but other libraries in the Prospector alliance do. Recently, I wanted to refresh my understanding of 19th century Swedish immigrant life by re-reading the series. Within three days I had the books via Prospector.

Several of the libraries who belong to the Prospector system are universities. Their libraries often hold more non-fiction, scholarly books than local public libraries. Last fall, I borrowed several books about Japanese immigrants to the Intermountain West which are held at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. I was working on a project concerning my mother’s childhood neighbors who were Japanese settlers to Utah. Never having seen the books and knowing that this would be a one-time project, I was hesitant to buy them. Instead, I found them on Prospector. It cost me nothing and required no driving to Greeley to find the books I wanted. Turns out that two of the books weren’t applicable to my topic, but thanks to Prospector, I spent nothing on books I didn’t want.

Prospector is simple to use. Just access the Poudre River Public Library District website (or any other Colorado or Wyoming library Prospector subscriber website). The home page features a Prospector icon to click on. Just search for the title, or author, you’re interested in and then use your library card to request any books you find. Within a few days you’ll receive an email letting you know the book is available for pickup.

I’ve used Prospector frequently over the years. It’s a great way to access books that are not available online or that you don’t want to buy. If you’re not using it, now is a great time to start.


Carol Stetser

Researcher/Director at Large