Monday, December 19, 2011

family archiver

It’s official. I’m the Archiver of the family. You know, that person who insists on family photos and preserving stories and digitalizing film and uncovering deep, dark secrets. That’s me. I’m not as aggressive as most, and to be honest, scrapbooking has zero appeal, but still. I’m the one who cares about where I came from. And about keeping that history alive.

It all started last year, when I decided to give my parents and siblings DVD copies of our Family Video. The video was on some ancient c. 1982 VHS tape, and time and use had taken its toll. As our family continued to grow and spread out over the midwest (I have a sister and brother in Minneapolis, a brother in Detroit, and parents in the Chicagoland), I started to panic. Who would preserve the memories?! Who would protect them from being lost or damaged?!

The easy solution was “me!” and so for Christmas last year, I had our super old VHS transferred to DVD. And somewhere in the process I even let the scrapbooking bug bite me, and I got crafty with the cases. 

But archiving is a slippery slope.

Sometime mid-year, I began to think long and hard about my heritage. My dad’s side includes some German lineage, but the Scandinavian ties were always the strongest. My dad and Nana and aunts and uncles would talk about eating lutefisk and blood klub (or something of the sort), while we feasted on Swedish pancakes and pickled herring. They’d talk about my great-grandfather Karl Johnson (originally Johansson, according to, who came over from Sweden and married a Minnesota Swede named Hulda.

The more I thought, the more I wanted to learn. And so I found myself on, researching all I could late into the night for days on end until I came across a family tree that linked my family all the way back to 1744 Sweden.

1744! Just a few hundred more years, and I’d be able to prove that Thor was my next door neighbor or something like that.

And so it continues. I’m slowly taking on the role of photo-keeper and digitizer, document hoarder and memory saver. Eventually, I imagine I’ll grow a long, white beard and smoke a pipe while my children’s children’s children seek me out for answers to questions such as:

“Why am I so tight-lipped?”
“Where do I get my blue eyes?”
“Who do I look like most?”
“Why can I be so emotionless?”
“Where do I get my knack for building things?”
“Has our family always driven so fast?”

And so this is my future. The future of an Archiver. Maybe one day I’ll take a trip and visit that small Swedish settlement in which my ancestor was born in 1744. I suppose that’s one benefit to this task.

That, and it gives people with no hometown a sense of belonging.


  1. Try being the Gay Archiver. It's something to do with the genetics, I'm convinced...but seems ironic that the family insists on piling all that valuable information onto someone who is not actively seeking to procreate and strengthen the lineage. Most likely, upon closer inspection, I am not potty-training, sports-cheerleading or college fund-gathering myself into a frenzy - so the implication is that I'm the most likely candidate to make something useful of the 300 years that have gone before.

  2. Bahahaha! Oh man, Michael. This made me laugh so hard.