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About the study
We finally took the plunge at the start of 2018 and registered our own surname. Although we already have two other one-name studies, Eastlake and Estall, now that we've moved to Malta and are surrounded by thousands of Baldacchino 'cousins' on these islands, we couldn't resist finally getting started on a study of what we think is a fascinating surname. We've only just registered the name so this profile is a beginning step that will change a lot over time but we think that sharing and being in contact with others who are interested in the name is possibly the most important part, and certainly the most enjoyable part, of a one-name study. Our contact details are at the bottom of this profile and we hope to hear from you.
Although born and raised in England, my husband Mark is half-Maltese, the son of Louis Baldacchino and Maggie Estall. We visited our family in Malta throughout the years and always dreamed of retiring to Malta but were only able to do so two years ago. Now we're living in a country where everyone knows how to spell and pronounce our name, where it's the 50th most frequent surname and where daily we encounter the history of those who have held the name over eight centuries or so.
Thanks to the well-reputed Maltese genealogists, Antoine Lanfranco and his son David, along with the extensive work of Charles Said-Vassallo on the maltagenealogy.com website, we have a good idea of our direct line paternal Baldacchino ancestors back to the 1500s. But our picture is currently a family history view, not a one-name study view, and we look forward to finding out much more.
Unlike our other one-name studies, we do not plan to attempt to reconstruct Baldacchino family trees in this study. Malta has many records but public access is limited. However, we are committed to recording all instances of the name that we can find in core genealogical records and using this information to learn more about the origin and early centuries of the name, its worldwide frequency and distribution, notable Baldacchinos and the historical context in which the Baldacchino families have lived.
Right now we've only registered one variant name, Baldachino (only one 'c'), so far found persisting in France and Gibraltar as well as a few in Argentina.
We'll discuss the name origin below but suffice it to say that many names may derive from the same root, for example Baldacchini, Baldaccini, Baldacconi, Balduccini, Baldaquin and maybe even shorter versions like Baldacci, Baldach, Balduc and Balda. What we know at present is that the Baldacchino name has been in Malta since at least the 1300s, that Malta is the country with the highest frequency by far of the Baldacchino surname in the world and that there are thousands of Baldacchinos worldwide, so just focusing on the 'ino' form of the name should keep us busy for a long time.
Although you'll find the word baldacchino in English writings, the word is Italian and the English form of the word is baldachin. Probably the most famous baldacchino is the Baldacchino di San Pietro, Bernini's creation atop St Peter's tomb at the Vatican. The word means a canopy of state or a canopy over an altar and Bernini’s stands 66 feet high.
There are plenty of other baldacchinos in Malta and around the world to choose from, even a snail! See in particular though the use of baldacchinos in processions, something that we constantly see in Malta. We believe that the surname Baldacchino is an occupational one, referring to those who carried the baldacchinos. However, the term baldacco is apparently an old Italian name for Baghad and some theorise that the Baldacchino surname derives from those who made the baldacchinos using the luxurious silk cloths produced in Baghdad.
We think we'll stick with the idea of the ones carrying the baldacchinos rather than making them. After all, it's the family story and our family crest or coat of arms, depictions popular in Malta since the 19th century but of no heraldic significance, certainly points us in that direction.
So we know something about the meaning of the word baldacchino and we also know that it's an Italian word possibly dating from the 12th or 13th century. We're confident that some form of the surname originated in Italy but we don't know if the particular form Baldacchino took root in Italy or in Malta first. We may never know the answer but looking at the frequency and early occurrences of the name in the sections below raises some interesting questions.
Historical occurrences of the name
It's early days but here are a few of our surname holders who have already caught our interest:
Giacomo Baldacchino (active 1551-1587): 1565 is the 'great' date in Maltese history when the Knights of St John, supported by the Maltese population as well as mercenaries from Italy and Spain, defeated a massive invasion from Sulieman the Magnificent's Ottoman Empire, as the front line of defence between 'the Cross and the Crescent'. It was a devastating period lasting several months and ending with only the last fort standing when a relief force was finally sent by the Viceroy of Sicily. At the time of the siege, there were 14 notaries operating in Malta and remarkably, one of these was Giacomo Baldacchino. Even more remarkably, a recent project on notary documents of this period has unearthed a writing by Giacomo on the day the relief force finally arrived and the siege was lifted. As you might imagine, it describes that the people 'lay prostrate before God …'. Hugely unique and important find.
Dr Joseph George Baldacchino (1894-1974): Joseph was a Maltese doctor turned archaeologist. He excavated the fascinating Ghar Dalam cave, where finds date back to the Paleolithic period and also provide the earliest evidence of human habitation on the island. In 1933, he became Curator of Natural History for the Malta Museum Department and following the war, he became Director of the Museum Department. He promoted much work on Malta's megalithic temples, some of the oldest freestanding structures in the world and a number of which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Bishop Francis Baldacchino (1936-2009): Born in Malta, Francis was the first Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Malindi, Kenya. He was ordained as a Capuchin in 1961 and went on a mission to Kenya in 1964. Amongst many other accomplishments, he established a major seminary in Nairobi. Pope John Paul II appointed him a bishop in 2000 with oversight of almost half a million faithful. He remained in Kenya until returning to Malta shortly before his death.
Most fortunately, a document was studied in the latter 20th century that gives us a start. The 1419-20 Militia List of Malta appears to be a census of Maltese men aged 16 to 65, excluding priests, those from the town of Birgu and those on the smaller island of Gozo. Five men with the surname Baldakin or possibly Baldakinu are identified in four Maltese villages. Another five are identified who had spread across more villages in the 1489 Angara List. In the 1500s, the name Baldacchino appears with increasing frequency in church registers and we know of the notary introduced above, Giacomo Baldacchino, active in the mid-1500s.
Malta was a dependency of Sicily from the 11th century Normans to the arrival of the Knights of St John in 1530. The Baldakins of the 15th century lived in villages in the south of the island of Malta along with other names of similar origin. Recent academic evidence suggests that the earliest Maltese surnames came from a 'triangle in Sicily with Agrigento, Caltanissetta and Gela at its points' (Hull, 'The Oldest Maltese Surnames' in Sicily and the Mediterranean, ed Karagoz and Summerfield, 2015). Whether or not Baldakin was one of these names is not specified but it is interesting to see on the map below that the locations of Baldacchinos in modern day Italy are concentrated in this area of Sicily, albeit at low frequency. We don't yet know where the data came from or exactly when (need to translate some Italian!) but we think that this is a fairly recent distribution map from http://www.gens.info/italia/#.Wlf7UqinHIV.
Using http://forebears.co.uk/surnames to take a broader look at the Baldacchino surname today, there are clearly going to be a lot of new countries for us with this surname given that we're accustomed to studying surnames that originated in England and mainly spread to British colonies (or the successors of colonies).
Distribution of the name
Like every other part of this study, the research still lies ahead that will help to explain how the Baldacchino surname gained such a global presence. However, we do have some information for starters:
- With its very early beginnings in Malta, the Baldacchino surname joins other such early arrivers in the top 100 list of Maltese surnames today. Malta has grown remarkably through the centuries into one of the most densely populated countries in the world today. There is detailed population data at http://populstat.info/Europe/maltac.htm showing a rise from 120,000 in 1834 to 390,000 in 2000 (note that figures on this chart are estimated after 2001), with more recent years at https://tradingeconomics.com/malta/population showing that it has now reached 440,000. Despite the huge influx of visitors, the population remains over 95% ethnic Maltese and the top 100 surnames cover 75% of the country’s population.
- There are thousands of records of Italians with the Baldacchino surname dating from the 18th century to the present available from https://www.familysearch.org/search. Upon analysis, many of these records will be for the same individuals but initially it appears that there has been an ongoing presence of Baldacchinos in Italy through the centuries.
We don't yet have specific information on the later migration of Baldacchinos, however given the highly concentrated nature of Maltese surnames and given that Baldacchino is the 50th most frequent surname in Malta, our initial assumption is that overall Maltese migration patterns may provide a fair indicator of the migration patterns of those bearing the Baldacchino surname. With that in mind:
- http://www.maltamigration.com/ has a wealth of information on Maltese migration and describes how migration got well underway from the early 19th century, with for example over 30,000 leaving in the decade 1861-1871. Popular destinations included Greece, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and other locations around the Mediterranean. We have already found many Baldacchinos in a collection of Tunisian records at http://en.geneanum.com/, where a Maltese community lived from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. Given the French rule of Tunisia in this period, this may have contributed to the substantial presence of the Baldacchino surname in France as well, perhaps the destination of many at the time that the French left the country.
- Some glimpse of migration in the latter 19th and early 20th century is available from census records as available, although this is by no means representative of overall Maltese migration. It does however highlight some of the shifts following World War I.
- http://www.maltamigration.com/ has much greater detail on 20th century migration, including interactive maps. The following maps show the great differences between inter-war migration patterns and those following World War II. Later emigration was heavily focused on the South Pacific where Maltese surnames are apparently now familiar.
Maltese census records and civil registrations date from the second half of the 19th century. However, they are not generally accessible and will need investigation. Maltese church registers exist from the 16th century and we believe that many of those dating from the 16th to 18th century are available in the Adami Collection at the National Library in Valletta. These records are likely to be in Latin but an initial look says that, with time, they should be manageable. Passport records are available locally (everything is local in Malta) for the 20th century and voter records are available locally from Malta's independence in 1964 to the present day. There are also numerous records from Malta held at The National Archives in London for the period of British rule, however it is unknown at present how much information on Maltese nationals may be available from these sources.
Online records specific to Malta include http://www.geneanum.com/ with about 70,000 Maltese baptism records 1513-1938, https://en.geneanet.org/ with numerous Baldacchino records from Malta and elsewhere, http://www.maltagenealogy.com/ with extensive lineages descending from noble lines, some registers (to be determined) in the Archbishop of Malta Archives at http://archives.maltadiocese.org/, also records at http://maltaramc.com/ and http://www.maltafamilyhistory.com/ primarily but not exclusively focused on British military families in Malta from 1800 to the 1970s.
An announcement by FamilySearch of their upcoming 'Malta National Archives Collections 1400-1940' also leaves us optimistic, although we have not established the current status of the project.
Standard genealogical websites will be useful for Baldacchino migrants, including most notably https://www.ancestry.com/, https://www.familysearch.org/ and https://www.findmypast.co.uk/. http://www.geneanum.com/ appears to hold unique and substantial information on Baldacchinos in Tunisia and France. https://en.geneanet.org/ holds substantial archival and family tree information on Baldacchinos in Malta, Algeria, France and other locations. Australian and New Zealand sources, extensively available online, will be useful but much Maltese migration took place to these locations in the latter half of the 20th century and data protection laws may make this part of the research challenging, so contacts will be important. We would welcome information on Italian, French, German, Argentinian and northern Africa sources, including archival collections and family trees.
The Guild's DNA Advisor Susan Meates has set up a Baldacchino DNA Project for us at Family Tree DNA and Mark's DNA test results should be available shortly. See https://www.familytreedna.com/public/Baldacchino. We invite anyone with an interest to get in touch with us and we encourage males with the Baldacchino surname to participate in y-37 (or higher) DNA testing. We have also joined the Malta DNA Project at Family Tree DNA which is investigating all Maltese surnames. It currently has over 300 members and we hope that it will help us to further understand results for the Baldacchino surname.