Casa Italia’s Genealogy Department is happy to collaborate with area professionals interested in saving the stories of individuals and families. Please meet Diane Dassow, a Personal Historian in the Chicago area.********

My name is Diane Dassow. I founded Binding Legacies in 2004 to help people preserve their precious life stories in audio and written form.

One of my biggest challenges as a Personal Historian is overcoming procrastination—but not mine! It’s not unusual for families to postpone collecting their stories and putting them in writing. Even those who value the idea of preserving the family stories for future generations often assume that they have forever to do it. They don’t want to think about how, in the tick of a clock, the opportunity can be lost forever. My own experience bears that out.

At the time my mother died 25 years ago, my daughter was 18 months old. Consequently, she doesn’t remember her maternal grandmother. I think this experience was an important step toward my finding this career. I began to realize the importance of preserving the voices and values of our loved ones.

It was too late to get Mom’s life story in her own words. Much later, after I had been in business for a while, I put together a book of memories and tributes about Mom based on interviews with other people. But it’s just not the same. Her voice is lost to us.

I typically work with busy, active adults who just don’t have the time or may not have some of the skills to write their own personal histories. Many of my clients are owners of family businesses, and some have been immigrants for whom English is a second language. They aren’t comfortable expressing themselves in writing, but they have important stories and values to communicate to their community, their grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and descendants yet to be born.

With my Italian heritage, I am learning the language of my grandparents, and have a special interest in working with Italian-Americans.

A client can tell his or her life story in recorded interview sessions, with my help through questions and a format I call guided monolog. After transcribing the interviews, I prepare a draft manuscript, usually in the narrator’s voice. This becomes a working document and is subject to change. A narrator always has the final say about what to include and what to leave out. Couples, too, can create a blended personal history.

A personal history can take the form of a privately published hardbound book, a simple printout of the transcript or just the interview recordings on compact disc. Whatever the media, the goal is saving the stories for the purpose of sharing them.

I am a member, and past board member, of the Association of Personal Historians (APH), an international trade organization, and am active in the Chicago Chapter of APH.

The Binding Legacies website posts a list of upcoming speaking engagements and other programs that I conduct. My main message? Don’t wait. Everyone has a story. If you haven’t taken steps to preserve yours, now is the time.

For details contact Diane Dassow (630) 932-1523, on FaceBook, or through BindingLegacies.com.

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