World War I Diary Found Inside Antique; Where’s The Soldier’s Family?

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-06 20:02:39-04

Kent County, Mich. (June 6, 2014) — Jan Oendag said she bought two antique boxes for her daughters, 30 years ago.

She didn’t expect to find a soldier’s diary from World War I inside one of the boxes.

“I like auctions,” she laughed.

An auction in Standale is where she bid on the boxes.

“From what I can remember, someone told me this is where you put your Bible,” she demonstrated.

Instead, she found a little black book. It was a shocking find, as it turned out to be the journal of a soldier. The entries had been written as he fought in World War I.
The dates were from 1918 and 1919.

“It’s basically, day-by-day experience of what he went through in the war, where a couple of his buddies got shot. He thought one of the days was going to be his last days but he
lived,” Oendag explained.

Today, she feels compelled to give the lost items a permanent home where they’ll have the most meaning.

“I would like this to go back to someone in his family. I think it would be a nice history,” Oendag said.

But items inside the box provide few clues as to who the mystery soldier is. Alongside the journal were two empty envelopes from 1946.

They have stamps from the Netherlands. On one, it’s hard to read the full name. The other is addressed to ‘J. Bouman’ of Grand Rapids.
A close scan of the diary and you can see that the author refers to himself as ‘Bouman’ on at least two occasions.

He often writes to his mother and to a woman named ‘Bessie.’ Other people are referred to as well.

According to notes in the journal, he sent letters to Detroit, Hastings, Hesperia, Center Lake and Hartford.

The couple turned to two other people for help in tracking down potential relatives of Bouman but didn’t get anywhere. So they contacted FOX 17.

“Yea, when [my husband] seen FOX 17, he said let’s try this and see if you guys can get a little further than what we did,” Oendag explained.

Do you know of a “J. Bouman” that served in World War I?

Other information includes an address on the envelope for “J. Bouman”: 3245 Highgate Road SW, Grand Rapids, MI

FOX 17 drove by and checked that address, but the search continues.