The Trump Ancestry - A Story of Immigrants

Updated on Feb 18, 2019. Originally added on Aug 03, 2017 by Kathy Pinna

Donald John Trump is the 45th President of the United States. Like most in the United States, he comes from an interesting family lineage which began with immigrants who did not speak English and possessed limited skills, but were able to make a name for themselves and achieve "the American dream".

Regardless of your political stance, you're sure to find the Trump ancestry a fascinating read.

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Friedrich Trump - Donald's Grandfather

Friedrich (3/14/1869 - 5/27/1918), who changed his name to Frederick when he emigrated from Bavaria Germany in 1885, stated on his immigration papers that he had no skills or profession and that he didn't speak English.
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When Friedrich came from Germany to the U.S. in 1885, he didn't speak English and was fortunate to live with his older sister Katharina in New York. Within a short amount of time he found work with a German speaking barber who took him under his tutelage. After a little over 2 years of apprenticeship with this kind barber, he returned to Germany to practice his newly gained skills.

There was little work for Friedrich in his hometown and as he was reaching the age at which he would be conscripted into the German Army, he decided to return to New York so that he wouldn't have to serve. Once back in the U.S., he remained a barber for another 4 years - living in an immigrant German neighborhood of New York.

In 1891, Friedrich, who changed his name to Frederick, moved to Seattle, Washington. With his savings, which he had put together from his barber practice, he bought a restaurant in the Red Light district of Seattle. Serving food and liquor, his restaurant also advertised that it had "Rooms for Ladies" (a common way of offering prostitution). His first restaurant provided the model for all of the restaurants he ran in the future - they all offered food, alcohol, and prostitution. Popular with the men of the time.

In 1893, now a U.S. citizen, Frederick moved north of Seattle to Snohomish County. He wanted to take advantage of the large gold and silver mining in the area. After selling his Seattle restaurant, he bought 40 acres of land in nearby Pine Lake Plateau but couldn't afford the price of choice land in Monte Cristo - near where the rush was supposed to occur. As a result, he filed a claim to the mineral rights on the land he wanted - even though someone else had already claimed it. This allowed him to get the land cheaply and while his claim to build was disputed, he ignored it and quickly built a restaurant like his Seattle establishment - offering liquor, food and 'female entertainment'. At the end of the following year, he bought the land outright from the original deed owner with the profits from his endeavor.

It turned out that there wasn't much gold and silver in Snohomish County but that didn't effect Trump - he staked two miners in the Yukon Gold Rush, sold his restaurant, and returned to Seattle. His new restaurant in Seattle did well, and the miners he staked sold their claim for a profit. The partnership then found another claim and sold that for a profit - giving Frederick enough funds to go to the Yukon himself. Selling off everything but his Pine Lake Plateau property - which he transferred to his sister Louise - he went North.

After establishing a few tent restaurants, he and a partner opened a two-story restaurant which offered fine dining " fresh fruit and ptarmigan in addition to the staple of horsemeat". But due to a local crackdown on liquor and prostitution - as well as fights with his partner - Frederick sold his share, becoming a wealthy man.

Elisabeth (Christ) Trump - Donald's Grandmother

Frederick married Elisabeth (10/10/1880 - 6/6/1966) when he returned to Germany (again).
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Now a wealthy man, Frederick once again returned to his hometown in Germany where he quickly proposed to his new neighbor's daughter Elisabeth who was 11 years younger than he. Frederick's mother wasn't happy about the proposal since she thought that the Christ family was of a lower class than the Trumps.

Shortly after their marriage in 1902, Elisabeth and Frederick went back to New York City. Frederick once again found work as a barber and augmented his income as a hotel and restaurant manager. However, Elisabeth quickly became homesick and she and Frederick returned to Germany with their young daughter in 1904. In Germany, they deposited their life savings - now the equivalent of about half a million today - into a German bank. It looked like the Trump family was going to stay in Germany, but the Bavarian authorities decided that he was a draft-dodger because he had previously left to avoid conscription. So once again the Trumps were on the move - they couldn't stay in Germany and returned to New York.

Back in New York, Frederick and Elisabeth had two sons - Fred (Donald Trump's father) born in 1905 and John born in 1907. To support the growing family Frederick operated a barbershop in Queens and bought a house, renting out some of the rooms. He wanted to buy more land, but anti-German feelings due to World War I didn't allow him, as a German-American, to buy land.

Friedrich Trump's Death

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In early 1918, walking along the street with his son Fred (Donald's father), Frederick felt ill. Taking to his bed, he died the following day - later found to be one of the early victims of the 1918 Flu Epidemic. Frederick was 49 - Fred was 12. He left cash and holdings worth just under $500,000 in today's money.


Frederick Christ Trump Sr. - Donald's Father

October 11, 1905 – June 25, 1999
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(Photo of - left to right - Fred (Donald's father), Frederick, Elizabeth, Elisabeth, and John)

Although Fred was conceived in Germany, the family moved back to New York when his mother was 5 months pregnant. After his birth in the Bronx, the family moved to Queens. Two years after he graduated from high school, he built his first house. Since he was still a minor and his father had died several years before, he and his mother Elisabeth created a company - Elizabeth Trump & Son. His mother remained head of the company until he became 21 in 1926 - he had already built 20 homes in Queens. He seemed to be much like his father - in the 1930's he created a new kind of self-serve grocery store, Trump Market, and after only a year sold it to a grocery chain.

Memorial Day 1927 - Fred Trump arrested at a KKK Rally

Queens New York
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On Memorial Day in 1927, a parade that included the Ku Klux Klan and anarchists resulted in a riot. According to a flier promoting the parade, it was held to protest that "Native-born Protestant Americans" were being "assaulted by Roman Catholic police of New York City." It went on to say that "Liberty and Democracy have been trampled upon when native-born Protestant Americans dare to organize to protect one flag, the American flag; one school, the public school; and one language, the English language." Fred Trump was arrested for failure to disperse - one of 7 onlookers - but the charges were dropped. There is no record of why they were dropped.

Mary Anne (MacLeod) Trump - Donald's Mother

May 10, 1912 – August 7, 2000
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(photo of Mary Anne at her home in Scotland circa late 1920's)

Mary Anne MacLeod was born in Scotland - in the Outer Hebrides - the youngest of 10 children. Her second language was English since they spoke Gaelic at home. It is said that she was a star pupil - but maybe she had to be: her father was a truancy officer as well as a fisherman and a crofter.

Mary Anne Macleod's family home in Scotland
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Mary Anne MacLeod (left) and friend in Scotland

In May of 1930, when she was 18, Mary Anne left Scotland to join her older sister Christina on Long Island. She had $50 in her pocket so she took a job as a "maid or domestic" for at least the next 4 years. At a dance, she met Fred Trump. They fell in love and married in January of 1936.

The family of Fred and Mary Anne Trump

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Fred and Mary Anne Trump went on to have 5 children - (left to right) Robert (formerly part of the Trump Organization), Elizabeth (a former employee of Chase Manhattan Bank), Freddy (who died in 1981 of alcoholism), Donald, and Maryanne (a Federal judge). Fred became a successful builder, building homes for middle-class families in Queens and more than 27,000 apartments in New York City. In 1954, he was investigated by the U.S. Senate for wartime profiteering in relation to contracts to build barracks and other public contracts.

Fred and son Donald in 1987

Manhattan, Central Park
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As a landlord, Fred Trump wasn't popular. In 1973, the Department of Justice filed a civil rights suit against the Trump Organization - the original Elisabeth Trump and Son company, renamed. By then, Donald was the President, Fred was the Chairman. They were sued for denying black applicants as renters. The Trump Organization sued back, but settled after two years. Fred was also Woodie Guthrie's landlord in Brooklyn for two years in the early 1950's. Later, Woodie wrote about it in these lyrics:

I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line
Here at his Beach Haven family project

Beach Haven ain't my home!
No, I just can't pay this rent!
My money's down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain't my home!

Ironically Fred, fearing the anti-German prejudice that his father experienced, claimed he was Swedish for decades in order to curry acceptance with his Jewish residents. His son, Donald, repeated this claim - also for decades. Both of Fred's parents were born in Germany and their lineage can be traced back to Germany for several hundred years.

Fred, Mary Anne, and Donald Trump

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(photo taken at Donald's Military School)

Fred was concerned that Donald wasn't adequately disciplined - he was prone to pranks and acting out , neighbors accused him of bullying - so Donald was sent to military school. Like his German grandfather Frederick, however, Donald later evaded the draft - several times.

Donald and Ivana Trump Family

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(1980's photo of Ivana, Donald, Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Eric)

The son and grandson of immigrants, Donald Trump has also married immigrants. His first wife, Ivana Marie Zelníčková, was born in Zlín, Czechoslovakia and became a U.S. citizen 11 years after she married Donald.

Donald and Marla Trump Family

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Donald's second wife was the only wife who wasn't an immigrant. Marla (Maples) Trump was born in Cohutta Georgia - making their daughter Tiffany Donald's only child to not be the child of an immigrant.


Donald and Melania Trump Family

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His third wife, Melanija (Knavs) Trump, was born in Novo Mesto in Slovenia in 1970. She became a permanent resident of the U.S. in 2001 and a citizen in 2006. She had married Donald in 2005.

The former President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, is the grandson and son of immigrants - and two of Donald's wives are immigrants to the U.S. Some would say that immigration is a strength that encourages innovation and creativity. Others would say that immigration is a competitive threat to the people who currently occupy the nation. Whatever your view, the family history of the Trumps illustrates how one immigrant family, starting with nothing - neither a profession nor the ability to speak English - can quickly make a name for themselves and influence the course of a nation.

Did you know? Trump’s paternal grandfather, Freidrich Trump, at the age of 16 in 1885 immigrated to the United States from Germany. He did not become a United States citizen until 7 years later. With the American dream ethos alive, Freidrich had an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. He accumulated a fortune operating boom-town boarding houses and restaurants (bordellos) in Seattle and Canada.

A brief note about immigrants: Most of us are immigrants to North America - even those who are now called "Native Americans". Current understanding is that humans originated in Africa and migrated through time to other continents. "Native Americans" are believed to have migrated over the Bering land bridge from Asia to Alaska around 10,000 to 15,000 years ago (or perhaps some migrated even earlier by boat from other areas of the world). So current thinking about immigration is based on the Eurocentric view of North America - that the continent was "discovered" by Europeans - and that the length of time a family has spent on the continent determines who is an immigrant.

Have photos that you'd like to see included? Share your photos or read about Presidential Scandals through the early 1900's on the next page.

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