An Introduction to Genealogical Research in Malta
Genealogy has been defined as the science of proving
step by step into the past a persons ancestry which may then be represented
in narrative or tabular form.
To some, genealogy is regarded as elitist under the
misconception that the only people with ancestry are royalty and the nobility.
It is true that as one's searches reach back beyond the 15th century, the
records of the famous or notorious tend to survive those of the solid citizen
but, in reality, there is only one family tree - the tree of man - and each
and every one of us is but one link in that tree. Considering that each one
of us has 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great great grandparents
and so on at an ever accelerating and expanding rate, it is indeed not at
all unlikely that a common ancestor was shared by a sovereign and his
subject at some stage in the past, quite apart from Adam or, depending on
your persuasion, the ape.
A positive function of genealogy could thus
serve to demonstrate the brotherhood of man, as some new research reveals
an unexpected relationship hitherto obscured in the mists of time. For instance,
much feuding went on during the 15th and 16th centuries between the de Nava
and Inguanez families in Mdina. They were mortal enemies in their day but
their desendants' relationship mellowed over the centuries even to marriage
and today many individuals can claim descent from both warring factions.
The genes of the original de Nava and Inguanez families now coexist in perfect
harmony within their common descendants.
Genealogy could also be regarded as a lateral approach to the study
of history. Genealogical research entails digging up historical documents
and the discovery that an ancestor existed at the time of a particular historical
event will invest that event with a new and exciting meaning almost to the
point of personal involvement. It is not even necessary to find some notable
personage in ones family tree to experience this involvement. The fact
that your great great great grandfather lived in Valletta in 1798 could well
conjure the events leading to the expulsion of the Order of St John from
Malta and the imposition by Napoleon of the French regime. Your venerable
ancestor may even have taken part later on in the blockade of Valletta. Trace
even further back, say to 1565 and your forefather may have been one of the
defenders of Birgu during the Great Siege. You will see then that history
ceases to be a dry chronicle of events enacted by paper characters but becomes
instead a vibrant tale involving identifiable human beings whose blood still
courses through your veins.
There are a number of ways ancestry can
be traced in Malta. The easiest, of course, is to engage the services of
a genealogist who, for a fee, will produce a family tree of varying antiquity
within a relatively short period of time. However the joy of genealogy is
to conduct your own research and make your own discoveries. Be your own Sherlock
Holmes and I will warrant that each breakthrough will more than reward the
hours of laborious investigation. If I may draw a parallel with archaeology,
it is all the difference between looking at a Greek vase in a museum and
unearthing one yourself in your garden.
Most of the information you will need can be found in
parish records which, in most cases will enable you to delve as far back
as the mid-Sixteenth century. Beyond that date, research becomes a little
more complicated since any information would have to be gleaned from notarial
deeds and ancient documents. Fortunately, a wealth of information is still
readily available in the archives of the National Library of Malta, including
copies of most of the parish records. A gem is the Adami Collection which
lists numerous legal documents of particular interest to genealogists.
This website was created to bring together sites of
interest to people who want to find out more about genealogy and heraldry.
A search engine has also been installed in conjunction with Google. By going
Search and hitting the "cilialacorte" button, researchers
will be able to access the information contained in this site and possibly
find links to their genealogical tables.