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Research in Malta


Map of Malta

Historical Overview:

Malta has a history spanning some 5000 years + but for genealogical purposes we start with the Arab Period followed by:

Rule of The Kingdom of Sicilly: c 1194 – 1530s.

Conquest bean c1091, by Count Roger I of Sicily. He attempted to establish Norman rule.

In 1127, his son Roger II of Sicily succeeded and this marked the gradual transition from an Arab cultural influence to a European one.

In 1191, Tancred of Sicily appointed Margaritus of Brindisi the first Count of Malta. Until the 1224 AD/CE, however, there remained a strong Muslim segment of society.

Knights of St John: ​[start of the Modern Period]


In the early 16th century, the Ottoman Empire started spreading over the region, reaching South-East Europe. The Spanish king Charles V feared that if Rome fell to the Turks, it would be the end of Christian Europe.


In 1522, Suleiman I drove the Knight Hospitaller of St. John out of Rhodes. They dispersed to their commanderies in Europe. Wanting to protect Rome from invasion from the South, in 1530, Charles V handed over the island to these Knights.


For the next 275 years, these famous "Knights of Malta" made the Island their domain and made the Italian language official. They built towns, palaces, churches, gardens, and fortifications and embellished the Island with numerous works of art and enhanced cultural heritage.


Napoleonic Conquest:


Over the years, the power of the Knights declined; their reign ended in 1798 when Napoleon Bonaparte's expeditionary fleet stopped off there en route to his Egyptian expedition. Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his ships, and when they refused to supply him with water, Napoleon Bonaparte sent a division to scale the hills of Valletta. Grand Master Hompesch capitulated on June 11. The following day a treaty was signed by which the order handed over sovereignty of the island of Malta to the French Republic. In return the French Republic agreed to "employ all its credit at the congress of Rastatt to procure a principality for the Grand Master, equivalent to the one he gives up".


During his very short stay (six days), Napoleon accomplished quite a number of reforms, notably the creation of a new administration with a Government Commission, the creation of twelve municipalities, the setting up of a public finance administration, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the abolition of slavery and the granting of freedom to all Turkish slaves (2000 in all).


On the judicial level, a family code was framed and twelve judges were nominated. Public education was organised along principles laid down by Bonaparte himself, providing for primary and secondary education. Fifteen primary schools were founded and the university was replaced by an ’Ecole centrale’ in which there were eight chairs, all very scientific in outlook: notably, arithmetic and stereometry, algebra and stereotomy, geometry and astronomy, mechanics and physics, navigation, chemistry, etc.


The British Empire: ​​[1800-1964]


In 1800, Malta voluntarily became part of the British Empire. Under the terms of the 1802 Treaty of Amiens, Britain was supposed to evacuate the island, but failed to keep this obligation – one of several mutual cases of non-adherence to the treaty, which eventually led to its collapse and the resumption of war between Britain and France.


Although initially the island was not given much importance, its excellent harbours became a prized asset for the British, especially after the opening of the Suez canal in 1869. The island became a military and naval fortress, the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet.


Home rule was refused to the Maltese until 1921 although a partly elected legislative council was created as early as 1849 (the first Council of Government under British rule had been held in 1835), and the locals sometimes suffered considerable poverty. This was due to the island being overpopulated and largely dependent on British military expenditure which varied with the demands of war. Throughout the 19th century, the British administration instituted several liberal constitutional reforms which were generally resisted by the Church and the Maltese elite who preferred to cling to their feudal privileges. Political organizations, like the Nationalist Party, were created or had as one of their aims, the protection of theItalian language in Malta.


A UK integration referendum was held on 11 and 12 February 1956, in which 77.02 per cent of voters were in favour of the proposal, but owing to a boycott by the Nationalist Party, only 59.1 per cent of the electorate voted, thereby rendering the result inconclusive.


There were also concerns expressed by British MPs that the representation of Malta at Westminster would set a precedent for other colonies, and influence the outcome of general elections.


In addition, the decreasing strategic importance of Malta to the Royal Navy meant that the British government was increasingly reluctant to maintain the naval dockyards. Following a decision by the Admiralty to dismiss 40 workers at the dockyard, Mintoff declared that "representatives of the Maltese people in Parliament declare that they are no longer bound by agreements and obligations toward the British government..." (the 1958 Caravaggio incident) In response, the Colonial Secretary sent a cable to Mintoff, stating that he had "recklessly hazarded" the whole integration plan.


Under protest, Dom Mintoff resigned as Prime Minister, while Georgio Borg Olivier declined to form an alternative government. This led to the islands being placed under direct colonial administration from London, with the MLP abandoning support for integration and now advocating independence.


In 1959, an Interim Constitution provided for an Executive Council under British rule.


Public Registry of Malta


(Births, Deaths and Marriage Certificates).


Their database commences 1863.


Records prior to 1863 were kept by ecclesiastical authorities and can be found only in church archives. Thus baptismal, marriage and death certificates before 1863 can only be obtained from the relevant parishes in Malta and Gozo.


The Public Registry was set up on the 3rd August 1889 although the records date back to 1863. Until recently, the Public Registry was housed at Merchants Street at the "Palazzodella Città" or as it was also known, the "Consolato del Mare", "Banca Giuratale" or "PalazzMuniċipali". It has recently been moved to the Evans Building in the same street.


Records kept at the Public Registry include births, marriages and deaths including annotations to the mentioned certificates which may arise during one's lifetime.


Certificate Types:


The civil status certificates that may be requested online are:


• Birth Certificates

• Marriage Certificates

• Death Certificates

• Free Status Certificates


Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates may be requested in an extract format or in full. The extract includes the main details pertaining to the act in question, whilst the full version includes all details.


Free Status Certificates certify that no act of marriage in relation to an applicant has been registered in the Public Registry of Malta between specific dates.


Free Status Certificates intended for use abroad, must invariably be authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The National Library of Malta


The National Library of Malta (aka Bibliotheca) began in 1555. It is currently the legal deposit and copyright for Malta. Its collection spans the personal libraries of the Knights ofMalta (also the archives and treasury manuscripts of that order), including archives from the medieval Università dei Giurati of Mdina and Valletta.


In 1925 the Library acquired its "legal deposit" status by an Act of Parliament and 11 years later was granted the prefix "Royal" by King George V. The following year the Royal Malta Library took over the custody of the Archives of the Order of St John which were transferred from the Public Registry premises.


With the setting up of the new Public Library in Floriana in 1976, the Library in Valletta was officially designated as the "National Library of Malta" and became solely a research and reference Library.


In its capacity as National Library the mission of the Bibliotheca (as it is more commonly known) is to acquire, catalogue and preserve manuscripts and all printed books, as well as periodicals and journals issued in Malta. Act no. II of 1925 instituting the Legal Deposit imposed on all Maltese authors and editors publishing in Malta or abroad, the obligation to deposit two free copies of each of their publications, one at the National Library of Malta and the other at the Gozo Public Library. For this reason, the National Library has become the main source of Melitensia with the function of placing the written heritage of Malta at the disposal of researchers and the general public.


Collections include:














ARCHIVES OF THE UNIVERSITÁ (Municipal Administration of the town and island of Malta)


Adami Collection:


Adami collection where marriages (c. 1575-1818) held in Malta and Gozo between 1546 and 1876 are listed by locality. But information to be gleaned is limited.


Hill Museum & Manuscript Library


Contains the archives of the parish churches of Malta and Gozo. The earliest records date from 1539; the most recent from 1986. The parish archives record the baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths of the inhabitants. Some of the recorders also noted unusual events in the life of the parish.


Two of the parishes, Lija and Cospicua, preserved music manuscripts.


As discussed original manuscripts are housed in the parishes but microfilm copies are held by the Malta Study Center, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library.


Note: Permission to reproduce microfilms must be obtained from the parish that owns them.