1. Introduction
  2. Some rambling thoughts
  3. A stratigraphy of Maltese surnames
  4. Hull’s theory of a Girgenti colony
  5. Early census taking and surname rankings
  6. Census 2005 and the commonest surnames in Malta
  7. The pantheon of Maltese surnames
  8. Surname frequencies by location
  9. A snapshot of Gozo
  10. The ‘Australian’ parallel sample
  11. Cognates and doublets
  12. Multiple surnames
  13. Extinct surnames

Multiple surnames

Double-barrelled surnames in Malta are quite profuse. The Census of 2005 showed that 9,507 persons (2.35% of the population) carried such surnames (75). They totalled 3,882 or 31.5% of all enumerated last names. This is by all means a very high number which goes to justify their emphatic presence throughout this chapter. This, however, is not the case with surnames of Maltese migrants abroad. From a total of 4,647 Maltese surnames of Maltese who applied for an Australian passport between 1887–1940, only 9 Maltese surnames were double-barrelled (76). Even in Gozo, the number of double-barrelled surnames is quite small compared to mainland Malta.

The original bearers of double-barreled surnames just opted to tack on their maternal surname to their paternal one as a second element. Obviously they do not infer noble ancestry; but as a matter of fact, in most cases, they do presuppose some sort of prestige or, at least, a degree of pretentiousness (77). The commonest amongst them, in descending order of frequency, are: Mifsud Bonnici (93 occurrences), Ellul Sullivan (83), Borg Bonaci (77), Fleri Soler (69), Cassar Torreg(g)iani (69), Attard Montalto (61), Pace Bonello (56), Gauci Borda (55), Zammit Tabona (48), Borg Costanzi (43), Micallef Grimaud (42), and Leone Ganado (38). Other conspicuous examples include: Frendo Cumbo, Gauci Maistre, Zarb Cousin, Sant Fournier, Borg Costanzi, Schembri Wismayer, Borg Grech, Borg Olivier, Fenech Adami, Cilia La Corte, Attard Portughes, Apap Bologna, Pace Asciak, Borg Barthet and Zammit Marmarà. A couple of family names with three elements are Camilleri Ellul Bonici and Testaferrata Moroni Viani; a rare family name with four elements is Gera De Petri Testaferrata Bonici (78). The surname with the largest number of additions is unsurprisingly Borg (173 combinations), followed by Vella (139) and Zammit (117).

Some Maltese family names distinctly prevail only as the first element in double-barrelled surnames: Barbaro Sant, Cost Chretien (or Chritien), Izzi Savona, Mazzacano D’Amato, Porsella Flores, Gomez Blanco (as distinct from Gomes), and Parlato Trigona.

Others are only discernable as the second element in double-barrelled surnames as well: Agius Vadalà, Apap Bologna, Bonello Dupuis, Attard Biancardi, Borg Costanzi, Borg Olivier and Bruno Olivier, Sammut Alessi, Cachia Castelletti and Theuma Castelletti, Cassar Desain and Bugeja Desain, Cassar Torreg(g)iani, Galea Cavalazzi, Attard Portughes, Mallia Milanes, Ellul Mercer, Padovani Ginies, Zammit Maempel and Spiteri Maempel, Pellegrini Petit, Pace Bardon and Vella Bardon, Galdes Giappone and Rutter Giappone, Parlato Trigona, Micallef Trigona, Cassar Trigona, and Sceberras Trigona. Bonici (as distinct from Bonnici) occurs only either as first element in Bonici Mompalao or as second element in Testaferrata Bonici and Ellul Bonici. Parlato Trigona is a particularly pecuilar case as neither Parlato nor Trigona occur on their own. Double surnames should be allotted a degree of attention because otherwise their historical manifestation would be obliterated from local cognominal studies. However, as already argued, they are absolutely inconsequential from the purely statistical point of view.

It is visibly clear that not all listed surnames are of Italian and Sicilian descent. On the other hand, some double-barrelled family names are thoroughly so: Barbaro Sant(o), Izzi Savona, Mazzacano D’Amato. What is interesting though is the conjunction of an Italian surname with another which manifests a different geo-cultural character altogether, be it Arabic (as in Mifsud Bonnici, Fenech Adami, Cassar Torregiani, and Borg Costanzi), French (as in Pace Bardon, Bruno Olivier, Pellegrini Petit, and Bonello Depuis), or even English (as in Rutter Giappone, Pace O’Shea, and Orlando Smith). This can only supply further proof of the ethnic diversity of the Maltese people.

In most cases, the second element obviously represents the mother’s maiden surname, but in some isolated instances it could have been merely appended for hereditary purposes. For example, Baron Inguanez died in 1760 without issue and nominated his cousin, Gio Francesco D’Amico, as his successor in the fiefs of Buqana and Djar il-Bniet. To strengthen his claim to the two baronies, the latter immediately adopted the Inguanez surname (79).

The penchant for double-barelled surnames was already in evidence in 17th century Malta. Fra Aldovrandino Testaferrata Abela, the grand-nephew of the Vice-Chancellor Giovanni Francesco Abela, was made a Knight of St John in 1631 (80), while the Cumbo Navarra family founded an entail or primageniture in 1634 (81). However, it seems that the custom became commoner among the local nobility in the 18th century. Baldassare Fenech Bonici was created Count Palatine by Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 (82); the Carbot Haxiach (Asciaq) family erected the benefice of Ta’ Godla in 1749 (83); the Muscat Sceberras family erected the benefice of Ta’ Cassia in 1762 (84); while Count Giuseppe Stagno Navarra also embraced the Religion in 1790 (85). Other entails were founded by Paolo and Beatrice Testaferrta Cassia (1713), Bernardo Piscopo Macedonia (1725/26), Giovani Battista Cassar Desain (1781), and Pietro D’Amico Inguanez (1785) (86). Some other Maltese eminent families of the 18th century include: Montalto Gatto, Galea Ferriol, Perdicomati Bologna, Mallia Tabone, Thuema-Castelletti, and Sant-Fournier (87). Giuseppe Caruana Dingli married Antonia Farrugia at Valletta (Porto Salvo) in 1791 (88). In most cases their origin is therefore easily traceable.

More recent examples abound (89).

  • Joseph Caruana Colombo (b. 1898) was the son of Laurence Caruana and Giovanna Pia Colombo
  • Carmelo Zammit Marmarà (b. 1899) was the son of Joseph Zammit and Giulia Marmarà
  • Paul Galea Souchet (b. 1899) was the son of Vincent Galea and Antonia Preca Souchet
  • George Borg-Barthet (b. 1901) was the son of Alfred Borg and Valentina Barthet
  • Thomas Joseph Agius Ferrante (b. 1916) was the son of Albert Agius and Mary Ferrante
  • Maurice Agius Vadalà (b. 1917) was the son of Prof. Thomas Agius and Sophie Vadalà
  • Joseph Caruana-Montaldo (b. 1924) was the son of Joseph Caruana and Mary Montaldo
  • Joseph M. Cassar Naudi (b. 1925) was the son of Paul Cassar and Aloisia Naudi
  • Joseph Zammit Lupi (b. 1925) was the son of Vincent Zammit and Helen Lupi; Reginald Vella Tomlin (b. 1926) was the son of Emmanuel Benjamin Vella and Priscilla Tomlin
  • Joseph M. Borg Xuereb (b. 1928) was the son of Carmel Borg and Maria Xuereb
  • Joseph Zammit Mangion (b. 1929) was the son of Louis Zammit and Sylvia Mangion
  • Anthony Agius Muscat (b. 1931) was the son of Joseph Agius and Maria Stella Muscat
  • Joseph Micallef Stafrace (b. 1932) was the son of Joseph Micallef and Carmela Stafrace

These are not necessarily the progenitors or first bearers of such double-barreled surnames, but they are surely very early occurrences.

Notes :
  1. NSO press release (5/6/06), unofficial count.
  2. Mark Caruana, personal communication, 28/8/2008.
  3. A few examples of double surnames counted in Italy are Rossi Doria, Rossi Drago, Cecchi Paone, and Cecchi Gori; two triple surnames are Rossi Bernarducci Vives and Rossi Visco Gilardi.
  4. Surnames Moroni, Viani, and De Petri never occur on their own in Malta.
  5. J. Montalto, The Nobles of Malta, Malta: Midsea Books, 1980, p. 29.
  6. Montalto, p. 89.
  7. Montalto, p. 275.
  8. Montalto, p. 41.
  9. Montalto, p. 169.
  10. Montalto, p. 170.
  11. Montalto, p. 90.
  12. Montalto, pp. 275--76.
  13. Cf. Montalto, pp. 235--36.
  14. Lanfranco Archives.
  15. Cf. Malta Who’s Who 1967. A Biographical Dictionary (4th issue), Malta: Progress Press, 1967, passim.

  1. Introduction
  2. Some rambling thoughts
  3. A stratigraphy of Maltese surnames
  4. Hull’s theory of a Girgenti colony
  5. Early census taking and surname rankings
  6. Census 2005 and the commonest surnames in Malta
  7. The pantheon of Maltese surnames
  8. Surname frequencies by location
  9. A snapshot of Gozo
  10. The ‘Australian’ parallel sample
  11. Cognates and doublets
  12. Multiple surnames
  13. Extinct surnames
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