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By Bowen West

Kendal Brenneman isn’t a historian but she’s found herself trying to solve a puzzle from 1946.

Originally trained as an actor, she began buying diaries at thrift stores or off eBay to discover interesting characters from the past. When she started to dive into the journals she found people and stories that time has forgotten.

That’s when she started the Lost Diary Project.

“Mostly when we read history books we read about the important people and events,” Brenneman said. “There are so many people that disappear. I got sad thinking we can just disappear like that. Through these journals, we can remember their lives and who they were. We get to remember them.”

The Lost Diary Project is a mission to rescue diaries, figure out who they belonged to and reunite them with their families. In part, it serves a way for Brenneman to flex her acting muscles and entertain listeners with readings about people from all walks of life. It’s also an opportunity for Brenneman to play detective.

While reading through the entries she pieces together the various information, the names, dates and events, all in the hopes of contacting descendants of the diary writers.

“I’ve got this puzzle piece and I’ve got to find the rest of the puzzle,” Brenneman said.

The Lost Diary Project had its first success on Oct. 20 with reuniting the 1931 diary of Marcus Marquard with his Ohio family. Now, Brenneman hopes to have a new success story with her most recent diary find — the 1946 diary of a young woman living in Idaho.

The diary belonged to Twila Montgomery, who was 18 years old at the time of the 1946 journaling. Her writings dive into the mundane — getting out of the school assemblies, traveling from Idaho to Oregon, her first dance with a boy. It’s the minute details that flesh out the person forgotten by time — the ongoing challenge Montgomery had with getting history homework in on time and the way she writes supposed as “suspose.”

Placing where Montgomery lived is difficult. There are mentions of northern and southern Idaho. The search for her descendants could be a statewide search.

“These diaries are just things that happened — they aren’t leading up to anything,” Brenneman said. “I guess it’s stuff that doesn’t matter to world history. It’s insignificant to most people but they matter to the person writing it.”

Brenneman has yet to find the living descendants of Twila Montgomery.

Brenneman’s diary readings can be found on her Youtube channel. To have access to all the diary reading videos and PDF scans of every diary visit buymeacoffee.com/kendalbrenneman.

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