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The von Trapp Family in Federal Records

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Anyone who has seen the movie The Sound of Music may wonder what happened to the von Trapp family after they departed Austria in 1938. Federal records from the National Archives' Northeast Region can help shed some light on that question.

The von Trapps fled Austria after the German annexation of Austria, fearing reprisals resulting from declining to sing at Hitler's birthday party, and Georg von Trapp's refusal to accept a commission in the German Navy.

The family, along with their musical conductor, Rev. Franz Wasner, and secretary, Martha Zochbauer, left Austria for Italy in June 1938. They entered the United States at New York in the fall of 1938 under six month visitors' visas and almost immediately began a concert tour in Pennsylvania. Son Johannes was born in January 1939 in Philadelphia. Their visitors' visas expired, and they left for a short tour in Scandinavia. Back in the U.S. in the fall of 1939 on visitors' visas, they entered at New York as seen on the passenger list excerpts below:

Passenger List, dated 9/27/1939

All the von Trapps are listed, as well as their musical conductor, Rev. Franz Wasner. Note that many of their first names are in Italian.

There was apparently confusion about the von Trapps' status, and they were held for inquiry as seen in the Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry below:

Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry, dated 10/7/1939

Special Inquiry sheet
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In 1944, several of the von Trapps applied for U.S. citizenship by filing declarations of intention at the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont. They were Maria (mother), Johanna, Martina, Maria (daughter), Hedwig, and Agathe. Georg von Trapp apparently never filed to become a citizen; Rupert and Werner were naturalized while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II; Rosemarie and Eleonore derived citizenship from their mother, Maria; and Johannes was born in the U.S. and was a citizen in his own right.

The von Trapps, in order to establish their legal entry into the United States for the purposes of documenting their permanent residence, entered the U.S. at Niagara Falls, New York on December 30, 1942. Below is a copy of Maria's Certificate of Arrival.

Maria von Trapp's Certificate of Arrival, dated 12/30/1942
Port of Entry: Niagara Falls, NY
Manner of Arrival: C.N.R.R. (probably the Canada National Railway)

This document authenticated that she arrived legally in the U.S. and was required in order to file her declaration of intention.

Certificate of Arrival for Maria Von Trapp
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Maria von Trapp's Declaration of Intention, dated 1/21/1944

Maria Augusta von Trapp - born 1/26/1905
Born at: Vienna, Austria
Brown hair, blue eyes, 5'7"
Occupation: singer

The declaration lists her husband's name, date, and place of birth, the date of their marriage, and the names and dates of birth of their children.

Maria von Trapp's Petition for Naturalization, dated 5/26/1948

The petition shows Maria's residence in Stowe, Vermont; her profession; her date and place of birth; height, weight, hair and eye color; the fact that her husband, Georg, had passed away and the date, as well as his date and place of birth and the date of their marriage; her nationality and last place of foreign residence; the names, places, and dates of birth of her children; and the date and place of her entrance into the United States; and the names of two witnesses to the petition. Also to be noted is that she changed her name formally from Maria Augusta von Trapp to Maria Augusta Trapp.

Below are the other von Trapps who naturalized in 1948 in Vermont. The photographs and information listed are from their Declarations of Intention. Certificates of Arrival and Petitions for Naturalization were also filed.

Agathe Joanna Erwina Gobertina von Trapp

Date of birth: 3/12/1913
Born at: Pola, Istria, Austria
Brown hair, brown eyes, 5'4"
Occupation: singer

Maria Agatha Franzisca Gobertina von Trapp

Date of birth: 8/28/1914
Born at: Zell am See, Salzburg, Austria
Brown hair, brown eyes, 5'4"
Occupation: singer

Hedwig Maria Adolphine Gobertina von Trapp

Date of birth: 7/28/1917
Born at: Zell am See, Salzburg, Austria
Brown hair, gray eyes, 5'6"
Occupation: singer

Johanna Karoline
von Trapp

Date of birth: 9/7/1919
Born at: Zell am See, Salzburg, Austria
Brown hair, brown eyes, 5'4"
Occupation: singer

Martina von Trapp

Date of birth: 2/17/1921
Born at: Klosterneuburg, Austria
Brown hair, brown eyes, 5'3.25"
Occupation: singer

The von Trapps' story, while one of the better known, is merely one of thousands of immigrant experiences documented in the records of the National Archives and Records Administration. For more information on naturalization records, please visit our page on Naturalization resources.

See Citations for records in the von Trapp Exhibit.

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