Monday, February 15, 2010

What’s in a name?

So you’re wondering what the name of the blog is all about. Have you ever Googled “von Trapp or Trapp Family”? Go ahead and give it a shot. There are thousands of links, and while many of them are to reference sites, archived news stories, books, and an assortment of legitimate family businesses, a good number of them contain an odd mix of fact, folklore and fiction.

In one account, a guy from the UK said that the name of my grandfather’s first wife (my grandmother) was Frances. I’m thinking, who the hell is Frances? Her name was Agathe. He also claimed they met in 1912. My father was born in 1911, so if it’s true, somebody’s got some explaining to do. Some of the sites are funny, but one was downright creepy, and honestly made me question whether I really wanted to keep going with this project. I mean, there are some real whack-jobs out there. What can of worms am I opening here? But then I remembered that I was tired of reading other people’s version of my family’s story. This is my story too. So onward we go!

Now, I’ve never been one to introduce myself, “Hi, I’m Francoise von Trapp, I’m related to the famous von Trapp’s.” It’s just not me. It’s easier just to let people ask. That got a little sticky during the 13 years that my last name was Gibson. I mean who was going to ask someone named Gibson if they were related to the famous von Trapps? It wasn’t that I wanted them to. It was just a little awkward when it came out long after I met someone. “We’ve been friends for a year and you never told me?” Stuff like that. My daughters volunteered the information to their music teacher in 1st grade when he started out by having them all learn Do Re Mi. I don’t think he believed them at first. It was actually a relief when I reverted back to my maiden name.

I remember one surreal experience when I was in college at the University of New Hampshire. It was the first day of my public speaking class, and the instructor paired us off to interview each other, and then give a speech about the other person. The person who interviewed me never asked if there was a connection, so I didn’t bother to volunteer the information. A little while later, a guy from across the room got up to introduce his interviewee whose name was, coincidentally, Virginia Trapp. The first thing he said about her was that she was related to the von Trapp’s in the Sound of Music. Could have knocked me over with a feather. At that point I thought I knew all my relatives – at least the ones who were my age and older, and I didn’t know any cousins named Virginia. She told me her aunt had done their genealogy and that she was distantly related. All right then. Who was I to question it? I saw her around campus those four years, but we lost touch after that. I wonder what happened to her?

Trapp and Von Trapp aren’t uncommon names (we spell it von Trapp). I was surprised to find this out when I did my own people search on FaceBook. There were over 300 results and I only know about 40 of them. I’ve always wondered what it must be like to NOT be related, but have to constantly live with that question? Do you just start making stuff up after a while? I think I would.


  1. Francoise, I'm embarrassed to say I've seen the movie once (yes, once) in my entire lifetime. And I was about 8 years old at the time!

  2. Haha, nothing to be embarrassed about. Plenty of chances to watch it again. I'll bet ABC runs it as a marathon Easter weekend. Last year they did - "spend the weekend with the von Trapps". The girls and I looked at each other. "We do that EVERY weekend!" But i recommend for the best effect to rent the DVD. Otherwise it's a four hour event and lots of commercial breaks.

  3. Judy Monte Capron, againFebruary 15, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    We have it on VHS. Keep it on the boat. My girls LOVE it, keeps them quiet for 2+ hours!( 13 year old is sick of hearing me say, "Did you know I went to grammar school with one of Maria's granchildren?" "Yes, MOM! I KNOW")

  4. No, i am not a relative so Jonathon of the real family told my daughter but my grandmother said we were a distant relative , so are we , dont know for sure to this day, but my brother in the early 80's was sent a post card invitation to stove vermont to find out if he was a relative. My brother might as well be on another planet as he has never acted like a brother to his little sister. he never went but the question still arrises. That's how people remembered me in school by my last name and it being like the movie and family in it. Your not the only one with continuing issues with having the last name "Trapp" . Mine is Deborah Jean Trapp, My father was Robert Howard Trapp Sr. My brother of course you can figure that...the obviously bad person that he is...but rich. Maybe someone will read this and be able to finally answer the question ...with truth..Great blog

  5. It's funny what some people who are trying to give the "correct" information say. Some people say, "The movie was wrong, because there were 10 children not 7." Um, there were eventually 10 children, because of the 3 Georg and Maria had together, but before Maria got there, it was just 7. Even though they changed the names and switched the first two as far as chronological gender, they did get the # of kids correct for that segment of the family history. I must have a 6th sense though, because as a kid watching the movie, before I had ANY idea it was based (albeit loosely, and my mom told me before too long) on a true story, it always bugged me that the oldest wasn't a boy. Weird, huh? I didn't find out it was that way in real life until years later.