Nicola SOLTANA, the founder

Publié le 21/10/2021

By Nicolas VELIN with the participation of Georges GANDERGodfrey SULTANA and Joshua SULTANA


Do you know Nicola SOLTANA? One of the first SOLTANA in Gozo! Probably "the Founder" of the gozitans SOLTANA-SULTANA.

Through him, we will try to establish the origin of the SOLTANA and to explain the confusion which existed on the the SOLTANA / SAGONA families.

To do this, we will establish his ascending and descending family tree.

The children of Nicola SOLTANA

By making genealogy, we discover, first of all, Nicola SOLTANA through his four children:

  1. Pietro, married on 09/viii/1627 in the Matrix of Gozo with Valenza MERCIECA (1)
  2. Giovanni, married on 07/x/1629 in Porto Salvo of Valletta with Margarita MINTUF (2). A marriage contract was also established on 05/09/1629 at Pietro CALLEJA (3)
  3. Gio Maria, baptized on 19/v/1605 in the Matrix of Gozo (4)
  4. Gio Battista, baptized on 02/vii/1606 in Matrix of Gozo (5)

We learn, from these records, that Nicola's wife is called Giulia and that Nicola was already dead in 1627.

We also notice that there are two baptized sons and two married sons. Are they the same? Difficult to judge.

Family tree of Nicola SOLTANA
Descending family tree of Nicola SOLTANA

The couple Nicola and Giulia

Thanks to the information obtained by the acts of his children, we can estimated that Nicola married just before 1605. He would be born around 1580.
Moreover, since he died before GiuliaNicola never got married again.

Unfortunately, the marriage certificate of this couple cannot be found.

During our research, we realized that many online trees give as parents of Nicola the couple "Giovanni SAGONA x Anna" or the couple "Giulio SAGONA x Vincenza Teresa SAYD". Why his father would be a SAGONA and not a SOLTANA ? According to certain genealogies, because of a change of name!


No historical document seems to explain this possible change of name. So where does this information come frome?

By rereading the marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA, one can image where this confusion comes from :

Marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA
Marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA (1)

In the text, it is written on the second ligne: "tra Pietro Soltana fig° del qdam Nicolao et Giulia olim giug spozo"
In the margin, it is written: "Tra Pietro Soltana e Valenzia Mercica".
It does not seem at first sight to have doubt on the SOLTANA's name.
But if we look closely, the "LT" of SOLTANA, in the margin, is as if merged in a single letter (which is not the case in the text).
One could read, if one uses only the margin, SOBANA / SOHANA / SAHONA.

SOLTANA in the margin
Writing of SOLTANA in the margin of the marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA (1)

But, how a possible misreading would be found in a such great number of genealogies?

In Malta, there are a number of Guljana, in other words, a collection of transcriptions of original acts. These collections have been used by notaries, genealogists, ...
We will check four of them :

  • G. ADAMI has transcribed to Pietro SAGUNA
    Transcription du mariage de Pietro SOLTANA avec Valenza MERCIECA, par G. ADAMI
    Transcription of the marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA, by Goffredo ADAMI (6)
  • G. GATT has first transcribed to Pietro SAGUNA then corrected to Pietro SULTANA
    Transcription du mariage de Pietro SOLTANA avec Valenza MERCIECA, par G. GATT
    Transcription of the marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA, by G. GATT (7)
  • P. ATTARD has transcribed to Pietro SOLTANA
    Transcription du mariage de Pietro SOLTANA avec Valenza MERCIECA, par P. ATTARD
    Transcription of the marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA, by P. ATTARD (8)
  • The Geneanum collective has transcribed to Pietro SOLTANA
    Transcription du mariage de Pietro SOLTANA avec Valenza MERCIECA, par le Collectif GENEANUM
    Transcription of the marriage of Pietro SOLTANA with Valenza MERCIECA, by the GENEANUM collective (9)

We thus note here that errors of transcriptions took place.

The collection of G. ADAMI is the first large collection that was publicly available. Therefore, the error contained in this one has impacted a large number of family trees.

The digitization of the Matrix register and its online availability exists only since 2020!

Therefore, the candidate parents "Giovanni SAGONA x Anna" and "Giulio SAGONA x Vincenza Teresa SAYD" must be eliminated. Besides, we will notice that, simple coincidence or not, the first father bear the first name of one of the sons of Nicola and that the second is the male version of the wife of Nicola.

On this subject, by respect to the maltese tradition, Nicola had to name one of his sons by the first name of his own father, usually his elder.
His father could therefore be named Pietro or Giovanni. The fact that Pietro married first, could indicate that he is the elder.
Heed that this tradition is not always respected.

But there may be, at the same period on the Gozo island, others SOLTANA which could bring additional information.
This is what we will try to find.

Vincenza SOLTANA

We have estimated the birth of Nicola SOLTANA around 1580.

Are there any baptisms at that time concerning SOLTANA in Gozo?

Yes, there is one, that of Vincenza.

She is baptized on 03/ix/1571 in the Matrix of Gozo (10), her parents are Pietro SOLTANA and Ventura.

We notice, here, that her father is called Pietro, so he shares the same first name as one of the sons of Nicola.

Moreover, with Sebastiano CUMBO, she establishes a marriage contract on 13/iii/1583 at Ferdinando CIAPPARA (11). But this contract was ultimately not followed by a marriage.
No descendants exist.


So, the father of VincenzaPietro SOLTANA, was in Malta in 1571. We can estimated a birth around 1540-1550.
He is therefore contemporary to the Invasion of Gozo in 1551 and the Great Siege of Malta in 1555 par the Ottomans.

He therefore lived through the repopulation of Gozo.

Was he part of the "native" Gozitains or of the newly arrived immigrants from Malta, Sicily and elsewhere?

Stanley FIORINI has analyzed the repopulation of Gozo and we find this same Pietro, named in Latin, "Petrus de SOLTANO"

"A couple of entries in this Table are of great interest. The occurrence "Petrus de Soltano Siculus et habitator hujus terre et Insule Gaudisij" both represents the earliest
appearance of the surname Sultana in these islands and answers the question raised by Wettinger concerning the enigmatic absence of this seemingly Semitic surname from medieval lists. That Petrus cast his roots at Gozo is evident from the baptismal  register which records the baptism of the child his wife Ventura bore him. The patchiness of the documentation from this period conceals the birth of other offspring and of Petro's marriage." (12)

In one paragaph, he summarizes the origin of the SOLTANAs which posed issues to Godfrey WETTINGER.
Indeed, no SOLTANA appears in the medieval lists of Malta (13) and Gozo (14), which seems to indicate an appearance of this patronymic in Malta only after 1551.

The information provided by Stanley FIORINI, comes from the notarial act of 22/08/1569 at Tomaso GAUCI (15) : He is said to be Sicilian and husband of a certain Vennera / Ventura.

Moreover, he justifies, by the patchiness of the historical documentation from this period, the fact that no other baptism of possible children of Pietro are found.

But is it possible that only one SOLTANA is the common ancestor of all the Gozitain SOLTANA?

Historical and demographic context

We are therefore in 1569, when Pietro SOLTANA appears for the first time in the writings (15).
Gozo is coming out of a troubled period, the invasion of the Ottomans and their raids.
80% of the Gozitans found themselves captives of the Turks, that is to say approximately 5.500 people (16).
In 1560, the Gozitan population is estimated to 600 people, in 1575 at 2.350 (17).

In this context of low population, it is possible to transform an unknown patronymic into a well established one.
For that, it is necessary to have a great descent.

The descendants of SOLTANA

We will thus etablish the descendants of the SOLTANAs, here studied.

From the parish registries, as well as the notarial acts, we were able to establish the tree of Giovanni and of Pietro SOLTANA, the sons of Nicola:

Pietro SOLTANA's descendant family tree

Arbre généalogique de Pietro SOLTANA

Giovanni SOLTANA's descendant family tree

Arbre généalogique de Giovanni SOLTANA

We can notice that the SOLTANA's is important.

There is a great number of men (10 married), which allows to transmit the name from generation to generation.

Thanks to the small population of Gozo and the large number of descendants, it is quite realistic that most of the gozitan SOLTANA share a common ancestor.


As a result of our study, we have been able to clarify the family tree of Nicola SOLTANA.

This one is probably the brother of Vincenza, daugther of Pietro and Ventura.
He would be therefore the son of Pietro and Ventura. It is in any case, the most probable hypothesis.

Moreover, thanks to his two sons, Pietro et GiovanniNicola SOLTANA "the Founder" had a very wide descent.

The root of the Gozitain SOLTANA is thus, surely, "Petrus de Soltano Siculus et habitator hujus terre et Insule Gaudisij" (15), Pietro SOLTANA, Sicilian, inhabitant of Gozo.

Arbre généalogique de Petrus SOLTANA
Petrus SOLTANA's descending family tree

To go further

G.P.F. AGIUS DE SOLDANIS, in one of his books, wrote : " cognome di una casa da Firenze e Napoli passata in Malta, indi al Gozo, ove procreo tutti coloro che portano il cognome di Sultana... Cio segui da tre secoli a questa parte". Therefore, according to him, the SOLTANAs came from Florence and Naples. From his point of view, SOLTANA derives from SOLDANI.

In the Catasto di Firenze 1427-1429 (18), we can find a certain Niccolo SOLDANI. Is there a link with our SOLTANAs? A new study will be necessary!

Notes :
  1. A.P. Victoria Matrice Mat. 2 1603-1711, f. 95-96
  2. A.P. V.S.D. Mat. 2 1627-1651, f. 28
  3. Lib. AD. 33, Goffredo ADAMI, p. 455
  4. A.P. Victoria Matrice Bap. 2 1603-1646, f. 25
  5. A.P. Victoria Matrice Bap. 2 1603-1646, f. 39
  6. Lib. AD. 09, Goffredo ADAMI, p. 51
  7. Giuseppe GATT, p. 47
  8. Lib. GM. 17, Pietro ATTARD, p. 131
  9. Marriages' database in Malta, Collectif GENEANUM, 2021-09-21
  10. A.P. Victoria Matrice Bap. 1, f. 32v
  11. Lib. AD. 51, Goffredo ADAMI, p. 1462
  12. The Resettlement of Gozo After 1551, Stanley FIORINI, 1986, p. 213
  13. The Militia List of 1419-20 : a new starting point for the study of Malta's population, Godfrey WETTINGER, 1969
  14. Crociata List, MCM CEM 12, 1533
  15. NAV R287/5(I), f. 423v
  16. The Resettlement of Gozo After 1551, Stanley FIORINI, 1986, p. 209
  17. The Resettlement of Gozo After 1551, Stanley FIORINI, 1986, p. 226
  18. Catasto di Firenze, 1427-1429

  1. Maltese surnames, Joëlle Pawelczyk
  2. Aspects of maltese surnames, Mario CASSAR
  3. Weddings in Malta in the eighteenth century, Aurore Verié
  4. Le sultan Djem et sa prétendue descendance maltaise, de Nicolas VELIN
  5. Le légendaire Eugène Matteo d'Armenia, de Loïck PORTELLI
  6. Jacques et Marguerite de Pellegrino, de Loïck PORTELLI
  7. Headquarters Gozo in 1551 and repopulation of the island (excerpts), Stanley Fiorini
  8. Marriage in Malta in the late eighteenth century (excerpts), Frans CIAPPARA
  9. The three CUMBO brothers, by Georges GANDER and Nicolas VELIN
  10. Nicola SOLTANA, the founder, by Nicolas VELIN
  11. Le maréchal Davout est-il Maltais ?, de Loïck Portelli
  12. Qui est Marguerite d’Aragon ?, de Loïck PORTELLI
  13. Les Racines Maltaises de Gérald DARMANIN