Restoring a WWII Service Diary to the Family

While shopping at an antique store this spring, I purchased a WWII Serviceman’s Diary. I really only glanced at it and intended to sell it on Ebay. Many WWII buffs love reading these diaries for their descriptions of battles and for glimpses into the psyche of the soldier so I had hoped to make a little money on it and bring enjoyment to a WWII afficianado.

I finally got around to reading it a couple weeks ago and, just a few pages in, realized that the soldier, Donald (last name omitted for privacy) of Michigan really used his diary to record his courtship of a lovely local lady named Elvie where he was stationed in Australia.
Skimming ahead, some final entries chronicled that Donald and Elvie had tied the knot in Australia and Elvie herself added a few entries at the end.

I stopped reading after a few entries as it seemed so personal. Armed with the fellow’s name and birth date, I quickly found that the soldier had passed away several years ago in nearby Muskegon, Michigan. I didn’t however, find an “Elvie” of the same last name so wondered if their marriage survived.

Off I went to ancestry.com and, buried in an Ancestry Tree from an Australian woman was the soldier’s name. Oddly, he was linked to no one at all. An e-mail to the tree submitter first came back saying that she had no such person in her tree.

In a follow-up e-mail, I got more specific to the submitter and then received a follow-up response that listed the names of all of Donald’s and Elvie’s children!

This delightful woman was only very slightly related to Elvie and thought that perhaps the family was somewhere around Queensland, Australia. This, however, did not jive with Donald’s death in Michigan.

From there, a simple whitepages.com search turned up a phone number for Donald’s daughter. I left a message and last night received a return phone call.

It seems that the family had held an estate sale some time back and, by accident, the diary had been put into the sale. They were utterly floored that it had managed to make its way back to them! Elvie, it turns out, is still alive but in assisted living in the eraly stages of Alzheimers. The daughter said that her mother is still alert enough that she will understand that the treasured diary has been returned.

It is going off in the mail today. It’s the ability to make “reunions” like this happen that makes having skills in family history sleuthing so darn much fun and so rewarding!

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