In 2000, an interesting article by Fiorenzo Toso was published in the magazine Estudis Romànics under the title ‘L’onomastica d’origine ligure a Gibilterra’ (‘Surnames of Ligurian origin in Gibraltar’). From an analysis of the surnames appearing in the telephone directory, he was able to show the substantial presence of Genoese within Gibraltarian society from the time of the War of the Spanish Succession, when the Rock was captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet on behalf of Archduke Charles of Austria, causing most of the civil population to flee. The siege which Philip of Anjou, the Bourbon claimant to the throne, subsequently laid against the garrison forced the military authorities – which from the earliest days mostly consisted of British troops – to repair the fortifications and to reinforce its defences immediately after the Rock was captured. This, however, meant that there was an urgent need for workers, and that workforce came from many parts of the Mediterranean and, as time went on, became the foundation of the Gibraltarian identity of today, as diverse as yanito, the language of Gibraltar and the most visible cultural aspect of this micro-state of 30,000 people in a tiny territory of not much more than six square kilometres at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula.
In the incipient civil community which took shape under the shadow of the British fortress there were Genoese, Sephardic Jews from the far side of the Straits (who were mainly responsible for supplying basic products such as water and food to the garrison when the border between Gibraltar and its hinterland was closed), people from the then British Isles, Portuguese and some Dutch, as well as quite a few individuals from almost every corner of the Catalan Countries. In this regard it is worth mentioning that when Gibraltar was taken on 4 August 1704 there were three hundred Catalan and Valencian volunteers among those who sailed with the allies of the Archduke Charles of Austria, led by the former viceroy of Catalonia, George of Hessen-Darmstadt. The vast majority of them followed Prince George the following summer to the siege of Barcelona, but there were some who remained in Gibraltar. The most well-known case was that of Josep Corrons, a native of Caldes de Montbui, ‘alcayde de Mar de Gibraltar, nombrado por su magestad en Lisboa, después capitán del Mar y sargento mayor de dicha plaza por sus Servicios’ (‘Captain of the Port at Gibraltar, appointed by his majesty at Lisbon, subsequently Master of the Sea and Commander of the fortress in recognition of his services’), who held the post even after the fortress was formally transferred to the British crown as a result of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713: ‘Corrons continuó controlando el puerto de Gibraltar y sirviendo de intermediario entre el gobernador y la población civil hasta que tuvo una disputa con el teniente gobernador Cotton (1716-1719) y salió de Gibraltar’ (‘Corrons continued to be in charge of the port of Gibraltar and to serve as an intermediary between the Governor and the civilian population until he had a dispute with Lieutenant Governor Cotton (1716-1719) and left Gibraltar’), according to the historian Tito Benady. Captain Andreu de Salas also stayed on, and is mentioned in church records as being a native of Barcelona in 1709 and as a ‘a native of the Castle of Valencia in Catalonia’ (‘natural del Castillo de Valencia en Cataluña’) in 1716; it appears that he was in charge for forty years of the Spanish Guard (about which very little has been written and which became the Genoese Guard from 1727) under the Governor and with jurisdiction mainly over civilians and the border.
In the first century of the British period, Gibraltar continued to receive people from outside in order to meet the needs of nearly three thousand garrisoned soldiers. Early residents also included Jeroni Andreu Sacases from Urgell, a notary public; Anastasia Carmona from Girona; Joan Gatell from Barcelona; the stonemason Antoni Carreras; Damià Capsir, from La Pobla del Duc de Gandia; the couple consisting of Joan Baptista Ferrer, from Valencia, and Amàlia Cavaller, from Puçol; the Valencian Francesc Estany; the Majorcan Gregori Neto; and even a couple from Aran, in the far north of the Catalan countries, Manuel Pons and Marianna Pons. The records of baptisms, marriages and burials held by the church do give a good account of the presence of dozens of Catalans, Valencians and Majorcans throughout the century, with families such as Jaume Susies (‘from Bonastra, in the diocese of Barcelona’) and Miquel Coll (from Cardona) – a son of his, Gabriel Coll, would eventually run a tavern, and his daughter was to marry, on 6 January 1744, Joan Baptista Illa, foreman of works, from ‘San Juan de las Badessas in Catalonia, diocese of Vico’. For its part, the couple consisting of Miquel Riera, from Sabadell, and the Menorcan Tecla Portes ran a vegetable shop during the middle of the century in City Mill Lane, and many of their children worked as gardeners: in the 1777 Census, the first taken under British rule, Joan and Pere were listed as being of that occupation, but it was the eldest of their children, Patrici, who appeared in the Census as owner of the vegetable garden at Governor’s Garden Street. The Riera-Portes family, who owned orchards and shops, are a perfect example of the significant settlement by some of our country’s families to the Rock, and they even held a certain important position in local society
The church records and the censuses ordered by the military governors of the period very clearly show the arrival and the settlement of all those families on the Rock. Here and there, amid surnames of Genoese, Andalusian, Jewish, British or Portuguese origin, are names which are typical of the Catalan countries, among which stand out mostly those linked to the island of Menorca. It must be said that Menorcans headed to Gibraltar in the 18th Century for a very special reason: by Articles X and XI of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, Philip V ceded the Rock and Menorca respectively to the British Crown and they quickly became two strategic pillars in the Mediterranean for the future consolidation of the British Empire linking up to Asia. This historical event gave rise, all at once, to intense military, merchant and commercial movement between both places. It also resulted in the movement of people: hundreds of Menorcans headed south throughout the century of shared sovereignty in search of work.
However, their presence is not immediately obvious. Thus, until the end of the 1720s there is no mention in the documents which I looked at of individuals who came directly from Menorca. From then until the middle of the century the arrival of Menorcans became more consistent, in particular those enrolled in the Royal Navy and privateering vessels calling into Gibraltar. In the second half of the 18th Century there was a sizeable increase in the number of Menorcans on the Rock, partly coinciding with the French occupation of Menorca (1756 to 1763), who stood out as builders, mariners, shipwrights and carpenters, shoemakers and tailors, all of which were the leading professions at the time in Mahon and the Raval del Castell de Sant Felip (the settlement that had grown up as a suburb outside the castle walls of Saint Philip). However, the most significant movement of Menorcans took place during the last British period of Menorca (1798-1802) and, in particular, when Spain finally took over the island’s sovereignty under the Treaty of Amiens of 27 March 1802.
A number of families descended from those of the area near the mouth of the port of Mahon were recorded in the texts I consulted as having been in the first wave of migrants in mid-18th Century. Tecla Portes, a native of Sant Felip, married as previously mentioned to Miquel Riera, from Sabadell, was already recorded as being the mother of a number of children baptised after 1729. As in many other cases, the family name appears with different spellings depending on who was writing: Portas, Portos, etc. A similar range of spelling variations also affected the surname of another native of Sant Felip, Isabel Sans (Sants, Santos, etc), who was married to someone from Valencia. Margarida Trémol (who according to some entries in the archives was from Ciutadella and in others from Mahon) was also married to someone from Valencia, Francesc Mayor, a distinguished member of the Catholic community of Gibraltar’s micro-society at the time.
In the 1740s the surname Costa begins to appear in the parish records as a result of the marriage between Pere Costa (spelled at times ‘De Acosta’) and Antònia Cardona, both from Sant Felip. This shows that, in Gibraltar, despite the fact that there were Portuguese individuals who were also called Costa, which Toso included as a surname of probable Ligurian origin,it could also be linked to the island of Menorca. Toso himself, in his article of 2,000, included Serra in the list of surnames of general Italian origin. However, throughout the 18th Century there is a record of a number of Menorcans who carried that name to the Rock. For example, there is the family of the shoemaker Josep Serra (sometimes spelled ‘Sierra’) and Anna Messa, from Raval de Sant Felip, who moved to Gibraltar sometime between 1765 and 1771.
A family name about which there is no dispute as to its Menorcan origin is that of Pellicer, which began to appear in the records in Gibraltar in the middle of the century spelled ‘Palliser’ and ‘Pallicer’. In the 1777 Census it is spelled ‘Pollisé’. The surname Roger underwent even more spelling variations, recorded as early as the 1760s as ‘Ruge’, ‘Rocher’, ‘Rotger’ and ‘Roger’. In the 1777 Census there is a further variation, ‘Rutgé’, applied to a family in which the father was from Ibiza and the mother Catalan.
One of the Menorcan family names most commonly found in documents of the 18th Century arrived in Gibraltar in the middle of the century – it is, moreover, one which has the most spelling variations. In 1755 and 1757 the name appears as Manuela Prados, from Sant Felip, in documents, and in 1759 and 1760 in the same book of baptisms kept by the Church it was changed to Manuela Prats (and even ‘Prast’). From the 1760s to the 1780s, the forms ‘Prast’, ‘Prats’ and ‘Prado(s)’ were the most frequent and all of them belong to people from Raval de Sant Felip and Mahon. But in the last quarter of the 18th Century there are the variants ‘Prett(s)’ and, in particular, ‘Pratts’: in the 1777 and 1791 Censuses, ‘Prats’ and ‘Pratts’ are already among the most common surnames of Catholic civilians in Gibraltar. The appearance of the spelling with a double ‘T’ may be the result of a wish to distance oneself and differentiate the name from the word ‘prat’ which in British English means ‘idiot, fool’.
Individuals with Castilian family names began to arrive in the second half of the 18th Century from Raval de Sant Felip, a very particular and special settlement in Menorca which had grown up next to the castle of the same name at the entrance to the prized port of Mahon. Most of the local population were descendants of soldiers from Castile and Extremadura posted to the fortress in the 16th Century whose names, over time, gradually adjusted phonetically to the predominant Catalan language. In Gibraltar they appear as Xeres (‘Jerres’, ‘Jerez’, ‘Geres’ and even ‘Xerés’) and Hernandes (spelled ‘Arnandes’ in a document of 1789, ‘Ernandes’ in 1792, and ‘Ernandis’ in 1794), in addition to Dias, Flores (also ‘Floris’), Lopes, Marques, Ortis, Peris and Ruis.
However, it was not just Castilian surnames that travelled from Menorca to Gibraltar but also names from other foreign communities present on the island during the almost 100 years in which it was British. A typical case is that of Magdalena Paleulogo, from Mahon, whose family name was Paleologo, a name which belonged to a family of the small but significant Greek colony which settled in Mahon during the British period. Another case which stands out is that of the Neapolitan seafarer Pasqual Escarnitxi, who was a resident of Raval del Castell de Sant Felip after the arrival of the British in Menorca. Following the French occupation in the 1750s, he left the island with his whole family to seek refuge and a base for his maritime operations on the Rock, where his family and his wealth increased, mostly from operating privateer vessels. In the records in Gibraltar the family name is spelled in a number of ways: Escarniche (1763), Scarniche (1772), Scarnichia (1774 and 1792) and Escarnitxe (1774).
His wife, a native of Raval de Sant Felip, was the first to bear the surname Guivernau in Gibraltar. In the last quarter of the 18th Century there were more people from Sant Felip who had that name: Francesc Guivernao and Antoni Guivernado (the spelling gradually changing to suit Castilian phonetics). It was in that turbulent period, in which Spanish and French forces laid the ‘Great Siege’ of Gibraltar (1779-1783)and a Bourbon force managed to occupy Menorca (1782), that some of the surnames which have come down to the present day were first noted on the Rock. That is the case in particular of the name Pons. The first references to the name appear in the 1770s, with mention of a certain Margarita Pons (also spelled ‘Ponsa’ and even ‘Ponze’) married to Gabriel Anglada, who was also from Menorca. In the 1791 Census there were already quite a few listed and, on 14 October 1810, Francesc Pons, of thirty years of age, was buried after dying from ‘un golpe que le dieron en la cabeza’ (‘a blow to the head’). Later, in 1822, Magdalena Ponz [sic], a twenty-year-old who was also from Mahon, died ‘de sobreparto’ (postpartum illness).
Likewise, another Menorcan family name which is still to be found in Gibraltar is Abrines, which began to appear in parish and government records from the second half of the 18th Century: however, until the 1770s it is found only in the form ‘Brines’ (and ‘Vrines’), and only subsequently with the initial ‘A’. Thus, in the 1777 Census, everyone listed with that surname appear as ‘Abrines’, while in the 1791 Census, the number of persons with that name is greater.
Orfila appears eight times in the Gibraltar telephone directory and could go back on the Rock to 1751 with Joana Andreba Orfila from Mahon. However, it was not until the end of the 19th Century that the surname was to really take root: the baptism of Vicent Borras and Llorença Orfile from Mahon was registered in the Book of Baptisms in 1800, and the Menorcan painter Pere Orfila appears in the 1817 Census. Seven years later, Francesc Orfila, from Mahon, was buried in 1824 and his son Josep Orfila in 1825, victims in all probability of one of the terrible epidemics of calentura (yellow fever) and tabardillo (typhus) which struck the city at the beginning of the Century.
In the latter part of the 18th Century there appear two or three Menorcan family names which, in the hands of priests and secretaries to the Governor, were often misspelled. Arnau, for example, is found from 1778 to 1791 in the forms Arnaw, Arnao, Harnau, Ernau, Arnaba and Arnaud, which is how it is recorded in the 1777 and 1791 censuses. Alau, a name that was always linked to people from Mahon, is spelled Alao, Allow (1777 Census), Aló (1791 Census) and Alaw or Allau towards the end of the century. Pou, just as the aforementioned surnames ending in u (Alau, Arnau, Andreu, etc), changed to Pow in the 1791 Census and, well into the 19th Century, was also spelled ‘Pau’.
The family name Tudurí does not appear in the documents researched for this article until a much later date. In 1785, the names of Josep Todorí and Maria Tartavull, both from Mahon, are registered in the Catholic parish’s Book of Baptisms. A couple of years later, the surname changed to Tuduri, both for Josep and for Caterina Tuduri (o Tudury), also from Mahon and married to Gabriel Femenias. In the 1791 Register of Inhabitants a fair number of individuals from Menorca appear with their surname spelled in yet another way, ‘Tudory’. Because of the variety of spellings (including ‘Tudoy’ and ‘Tudry’ among others), in a marginal note in the entry for the baptism of Sebastià Tuduri on 2 June 1805, Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar Juan Bautista Scandella ordered all names spelled ‘Tuduri’ to be corrected to ‘Tudury’.
Another family name which no doubt caused many a headache to those in charge of the church and military registers in Gibraltar is Tartavull. The first time it appears is in 1744 in a record of the death of Miquel Tartabulle from Mahon. Another native of Mahon, Maria Tartavull, appears in the Books of Baptisms for 1785 and 1787. In the 1791 Register of Inhabitants there are up to three spellings of the name: ‘Taltavul’, ‘Tartavul’ and ‘Tartavulla’. Ten years later, a Genoese priest in charge of the Church of St Mary the Crowned found another two ways of writing the ‘complicated’ surname: ‘Tartabulli’ and ‘Tartavoi’. As for the spelling of Femenias, a name that is typical of Mahon in particular, between 1787 and 1800 the vowels were shifted around: Feminias, Faminias and Famanias.
Today, there are no ‘Femenias’ in the telephone directory, but there are, instead, many Victory, a surname which, at first sight, may appear very English but which probably has more to do with Menorca. The reason for saying that is that from 1786 onwards there are records in Gibraltar of a Menorcan of that name: Joana Victori. Ten years later, the name appeared again in church records as ‘Joana Vitori’. And five years later, in the baptismal entry for a son, the name is written ‘Joana Bitori’. It was not until the 1791 census that the name was written at times ‘Victory’, which is the spelling which became fixed in Gibraltar.
The surname in Menorca is in fact related directly to noble Castilian families who moved there from the middle of the 16th Century to work in the garrison posted to Sant Felip. In this particular case it probably derives from the Castilian Victoria, adapted to Menorcan phonetic rules generation by generation, losing the final neutral vowel. The same probably applies to the surname Dalmedo, a name that derives from De Olmedo which, having been filtered through Catalan, travelled from the Raval to the Rock where it became firmly established. In 1790 there is a record of one Josep Deolmedo and, three years later, of Margarida D’Almedo, Pere Dalmedo and Maria Darmedo (also appearing as ‘D’Armedo’). In the 1791 register of inhabitants, the spelling most frequently used by the Governor’s secretary were ‘Del’Medo’ and ‘Delmedo’. In 1800 there were a few more variants: ‘De Almedo’ and ‘De Alemedo’.
On 27 April 1805, Juan Bautista Nosardy Zino, the later Vicar Apostolic, officiated the marriage in St Mary the Crowned of Joan Prieto, son of Joan and Inès Pons, to Margalida Dalmedo, daughter of Miquel Dalmedo and Margarida Cabedo, all natives of Mahon. The names of both the groom and the mother of the bride were also of the same kind: Prieto (in some cases spelled ‘Preto’) and, especially, Cabedo. The latter, a phonetic adaptation from the Castilian Quevedo, is also found for the first time in documents for 1790. There is the intriguing case of Grabiel [sic] Cabedo (in 1794), Quavedo (1795), Cabedo (1796 and 1797), Quebedo (1799) and Cabero (1800). Despite these variations, the surname appears in the 1791 Register invariably as ‘Quevedo’. Much later, on 27 August 1831, the parish records show the death of Joan Cavedo, of thirty-six years of age, husband of Ysabel Neto, ‘both natives of Villa Carlos in Mahon’. His widow, in fact, also bore a surname which belonged to the Castilians who had formerly settled in Sant Felip, given that Neto (or Netto) are the Menorcan form of the surname Nieto.
There is a completely different story behind the surname Vacarisses. Although in his article Fiorenzo Toso linked Bacarisa (the most common form of the spelling in Gibraltarian documents) directly to the Genoese community,not all those persons who took the name to the Rock were by any means from Liguria. Listed in the 1791 census, for example, is the Menorcan shoemaker Francesc Vacarisas, and the church records for 1810 to 1836 contain references to Bacarisas, Bacarisa, Baquerizas, Vacarissa and Vacarisas, all of whom have links to Mahon. Indeed, ‘the most famous artist of the Rock’, Gustavo Bacarisas Podestá (Gibraltar, 1873 – Seville, 1971), was a descendant of the Menorcan branch of a family of that surname.
Another well-known surname today in Gibraltar (18 entries in the Gibraltar telephone directory) is Triay, a name which arrived later on the Rock from Menorca. The first mention of the name is on 24 May 1803 in the baptismal entry for Pere Triay, son of Sebastià Triay and Anna Giambias [sic], from Mahon.
An analysis of the church records for 1704 to 1804, the period in which Menorca and Gibraltar were both British (with a number of gaps in the case of Menorca), reveals yet more Menorcan surnames which, to a greater or lesser extent, left their mark on the Rock. They include Alzina (or Alsina), Andreu (Andrew), Anglada (Inglada, Ynglada), Bagú, Barceló, Begues, Benejam (Benagan), Benet (Bonet), Blanxart, Borràs, Cabrera, Calbet, Campins, Canevas (Canebas, Canavas), Cardona (Cardó), b, Caules, Colom, Escales, Fa, Fàbregues, Ferrer, Fillol (Fiol), Flaquer, Forner, Gambó, Gelabert (Helabert), Ginard (Ginart), Giró, Givanaut, Gomila (Gumila), Guillem, Llambias, Llufrio, Mas, Maspoch, Masquida, Miret, Moll (Molla, Molle, Mol, Mols), Moncades, Monjui, Mora, Oneto, Nin, Novella, Nugent, Oropesa, Paulin, Turbin (Turbint, Torobin, Thorobin), Ramis, Rexach (Raxach, Rexart, Recharta), Ribas, Riudavets, Roca (Rocca), Roquer, Roselló (Rosillon), Sabater (Sabaté, Sebates, Sapatera), Seguí (Seghi, Seguin), Sintes, Soler, Soreda, Torres (Torre), Valls (Vall, Val, Vallo, Walls, Wals), Vila, Vinent and Vives.
Some of those surnames appear in the telephone directory, as has been seen, and also in electoral registers. Some others may be found walking around the streets of the old town, in business names (such as the architects’ firm Orfila, the well-known Chambers of Triay & Triay, the graphic artist Cabedo and the wholesale distributor Abrines) or even in the names of the streets (immediately opposite the Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned, in the heart of the city, there is Giro’s Passage and, in the upper town, there is Tudury Steps). Most of them, of course, may be found on many headstones in the cemetery, at the foot of the impressive Rock.
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