How Far Does The Drumpf Family Go Back? 'Last Week Tonight' Spotlighted Donald Trump's Ancestral Name

If you're a fan of late night political satire, you've probably seen an episode or two of John Oliver's HBO series Last Week Tonight. And if you happened to tune into the episode that aired last Sunday, you finally got to see Oliver do something he clearly loathed ― he devoted the main segment of his show to deconstructing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. And in doing so, he shed a little light on the billionaire businessman's distant family lineage ― so, how far does the Drumpf family go back?

It's a question that Oliver's segment actually obscured somewhat, at least that's what Daniel Victor suggested in The New York Times on Wednesday. Here's the basic issue: the Trump family was once the Drumpf family, until the name was at some point changed to the now-iconic moniker. Oliver claimed that the Drumpf family name was dumped by a "prescient ancestor," but the exact timing of the switch was left unclear.

That's likely in part because the exact timing of the switch is historically unclear. The best estimate that can credibly be made is likely the one in Gwenda Blair's 2000 book on the Trump family legacy, The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire. According to Blair, the switch happened at some point during the Thirty Years' War, which raged from 1618 to 1648 ― by the end of the 1600s, the Trump name was evidenced in the form of a winegrower named John Philip Trump.

So, that's the answer: the Drumpf family name would seem to have been changed back more than 300 years ago, which is a crucial point in all the #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain conversations. In the event that you were under the assumption Trump himself changed his name to something distinctly less Germanic-sounding, that's not the case, nor was it a decision taken by his immediate family.

It's also worth noting, whatever you think of Trump, that it's everyone's right to pick their own name. Or, at the very least, it's nobody else's right to do so ― while Oliver rightly pointed out that Trump has flashed some of his trademark hypocrisy on this, having once harangued Jon Stewart on Twitter for changing his birth name, it's nonetheless true that "Drumpf" is not his last name, Trump is.

That's truer still when you consider how long ago it was changed ― it didn't even happen in Trump's lifetime, nor the lifetime of anyone he's ever known. And this aspect of his family's immigrant history is actually entirely mundane ― while it's far less common nowadays, the stripping or altering of heavily ethnic-sounding immigrant surnames in early America was fairly routine. If your family emigrated to the United States in the 1800s, in fact, you could potentially have a similar tale to tell. So yeah, it's all in good fun! But let's be clear: you don't just get to change somebody's name because you think an ancestral name sounds funnier, or in Oliver's case, less impactful.