MARK BORG

Consultant in Governance, Democracy & Elections

Home
Detailed Resume
Current Work
Previous Work
On-going Projects
Favourite Links
Personal Interests
Family & Friends
In the Press

Downloads

Follow my Blog

Contact info.

 

What are the origins of the Maltese surname Borg?

Please note this page is a "work in progress". Comments on any of the contents are highly welcome. Please submit to mail@markborg.com. Thanks.

Borg, unlike its Scandinavian counterpart, is pronounced Borj (incidentally the Scandinavian and the Maltese versions definitely have different origins). Many Maltese are under the impression that the surname Borg is derived from an Arabic source and this theory is based on the fact that the Maltese word ‘borg’ (an Arabic derived word) means a heap of stones or rock. In Arabic, it means "tower". However one asks, “Considering the widespread occurrence of this surname in Malta and parts of Italy and in other parts of Europe in various derivatives, why is it not as common in the Arab states if that was where it originated?” 

The coat of arms of the surname Borg may eventually give us an important or even definitive indication of its origins. The coat of arms is composed of a tower, which indicates that it originates from somewhere where there was a tower, castle or other fortifications of sorts. But where can this be? There are countless towers, castles and fortifications around Europe, many no longer exist, which could make our search for this particular 'tower' increasingly difficult.  

The Borg Coat of Arms

Source: www.searchmalta.com

There are a number of European surnames which phonetically seem related to the Maltese surname Borg. The following is a list of them with the country where they occur. We will then examine whether all or any of these are related to the surname Borg.

Surname Country Distribution maps
 
Borg Italy, France View its current distribution in Italy
Borga Italy, France View its current distribution in Italy
Borgi Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borge Italy, France View its current distribution in Italy
Borgo Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borgh Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borghi Italy View its current distribution in Italy,
Borgino Italy View its current distribution in Italy,
Borghino Italy View its current distribution in Italy,
Borgini Italy View its current distribution in Italy,
Borghini Italy View its current distribution in Italy,
Borgese Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borghese Italy, France View its current distribution in Italy
Borgesi Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borghesi Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borgesa Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borges Italy, France View its current distribution in Italy,
Borghes Italy View its current distribution in Italy,
Borgiani Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borgia Italy, France View its current distribution in Italy
Borja Spain, Italy, Portugal View its current distribution in Italy
Borgio Italy View its current distribution in Italy
Borgen France  
Borger France  
Borghoff France  
Borgman France  
Borgmann France  
Bourg France  
Bourgault France  
Bourgeau France  
Bourgeault France  
Bourgeois France  
Bourget France  
Bourgogne France  
Bourgoin France  
Bourgoine France  
Bourgois France  
Bourgoyne France  
Bourgue France  
Bourguignon France  
Source: For Italian maps - http://gens.labo.net ; for Belgian maps - http://www.familienaam.be/

A related and very famous (or some would claim infamous) surname is that of Borgia. The lives of Rodrigo (1431 - 1503), his son Cesare (1476 - 1507) and daughter Lucrezia Borgia (1480 - 1519) are very well known and their impact on Rome and the papacy is well documented. Rodrigo had two other less known sons - Giovanni (1474 - 1497) and Gioffre (1482–1522) the latter named after Rodrigo's father. Rodrigo was the son of Jofré Llançol i Escrivà and Isabel de Borja. Rodrigo took his mother’s surname of Borja, Italianised into Borgia, upon the appointment of his maternal uncle Alonso de Borja as Pope in 1455 taking the name Calixtus III. His mother’s (and his uncle's) surname must have later put him in good stead in his ambitions to hold an office at the Holy See. Rodrigo became Pope in 1492 taking the name Alexander VI. 

Also well documented is the fact that Rodrigo always claimed to be related to Aragonese Royalty. This directed my search to the Spanish Province of Aragon however I did not entertain high hopes since the Coat of Arms of Borgia was composed of a Red Bull, not a tower. This brought into doubt any relationship between the two surnames.

The Borgia Coat of Arms

Source: www.wikipedia.org

The Comune and Town of Borgia

It is almost certain that the surnames Borgese, Borghese, Borgesi, Borghesi, and Borgesa (and possibly others like Borges and Borghes) arise from the comune of Borgia found in the Province of Catanzaro in Italy. In fact the inhabitants of Borgia are known as Borgesi. 

Location of the Comune of Borgia in the Province of Catanzaro in Italy

Source: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borgia_(Italia) 

The Comune and town of Borgia actually originate from a Borgia, descendent of Rodrigo Borgia. 

 

Coat of arms of the Comune of Borgia

The Coat of arms depicts a red bull on hills with an olive branch on its left and vine on its right. There are also three five-pointed stars and it is topped by a crown and surrounded by oak and laurel branches.
Source: http://www.araldicacivica.it

As it turns out, however, Borgia did correctly point us to Aragon in Spain, where we do find the origins of both surnames and possibly those of other derivatives, in the city of Borja. Borja is a city of just over 5000 inhabitants (known as Borjanos) located in Zaragoza in the autonomous region of Aragon (for more information on Borja see http://www.borja.es).

The location of the City of Borja in Spain

Source: www.wikipedia.org

This may prove that Borgia originates from the city of Borja, as claimed by Rodrigo, who was born in Spain anyway so this fact was hardly in doubt, but what about Borg? Fortunately the coat of arms of the City of Borja discloses all. Borja’s coat of arms is in two parts – the top half depicts a tower, the lower half a red bull! We can therefore cofidently conclude that Borja gave rise to both surnames Borgia and Borg. While Borgia took the Red Bull for their Coat of Arms, Borg took the Tower.

The Coat of Arms of the City of Borja

Source: www.wikipedia.org

Why the tower? Do we find any particular tower, castle or other fortifications in the region? Yes we do, and not just any fortification, it's El castillo de Borja! 

El Castillo de Borja

Source: http://www.borja.es

El Castillo signifies the city's identity and was its raison d'être from its origins to the sixteenth century. 

I have not yet been able to determine how Borg, or its original form Borja, came to Malta but it should be noted that Malta came under the rule of the Aragonese in 1283 with Peter III as its King. (Note Peter III of Aragon was also known as Peter the Great, as Peter I of Valencia and Majorca and Peter II Count of Barcelona). Peter the Great had been King of Aragon since 1276 but he only became King of Sicily and Malta following the 1282 uprising of the Sicilians against the French (known as the Sicilian Vespers) and the restoration of the Island to the King of Aragon, the rightful heir to the crown of Sicily. Malta remained under the direct rule of the Aragonese until 1412. 

"In 1412, Ferdinand de Antequera was elected King of Aragon, Castille and Sicily, the first Castillian to ever occupy the throne. In 1421, King Alfonso granted the Maltese islands and all the revenue from them to Don Antonio Cardona in exchange for a loan of 30,000 gold florins. He then transferred his right over Malta and Gozo to Don Gonsalvo Monroy. The Maltese disagreed with this arrangement. After five years they finally rebelled. In 1426 they pillaged Monroy's house in Mdina and laid siege to his castle at Birgu. The Maltese bought back the island for 30,000 florins. They also insisted on radical reforms including one that said that the islands were never to be ceded again by the crown. Alfonso agreed to these reforms and finally ratified them in a Royal Charter in 1428. In 1479, Ferdinand II married Isabella of Castille. Their daughter Joanna married Philip Archduke of Austria. In 1518, the Habsburg dynasty was consolidated when their son Charles V, became the Holy Roman Emperor. Through the intercession of Pope Clement VIII, he granted Malta, Gozo and Tripoli to the homeless Order of St. John in 1530." (see http://www.maltamigration.com/about/malta.shtml).

In his research, the genealogist Charles Said Vassallo's first record of Borg goes back to 1502 (see http://www.maltagenealogy.com/libro%20d'Oro/borg.html) prior to the arrival of the Order of the Knights of St. John in 1530. So it is safe to assume that it was this Aragonese connection that brought this surname to Malta and not the Knights through one of its eight tongues (these being Provence, Auvergne, France, Italy, England, Germany, Aragon and Castile-León).

Mark Romanowski claims that he has in his possession a book written in old Spanish by a relative of his, which lists both surnames Borg and Borja as existing in Malta (see http://genforum.com/maltese/messages/29.html). I do not yet have any further details about the content of this book regarding the two surnames.

There are still a few questions that my research needs to answer, for example:

When did the first person with the surname Borg (or Borja) first get to Malta? 

Is Borg the Maltinised version of Borja, as Borgia was the Italianised version?

But now that we know where it all started, the research should proceed at a quicker pace.

Anyone who has any thoughts or other research on the surname Borg, please email me at mail@markborg.com