In March I had a look at Pete Buttigieg’s maternal ancestry. Pete’s father’s line is very different and has some unexpected ethnic origins.
Pete Buttigieg’s father
was originally from Malta. His name was Dr. Joseph Anthony Buttigieg
(1947-2019), and he was a Professor of English. He became a US citizen in 1979,
though he was born a citizen of the British colony of Malta, and then a Maltese
citizen when it gained independence. The Buttigieg family is one of the oldest
of Maltese families, having an unbroken recorded male line of descent for over
a thousand years.
As mentioned at the end of
the article on his mother’s ancestry the name Buttigieg translates as “owner of
chickens” or, but it can also be translated as “chicken on a barrel”. I
mentioned a coat of arms as well last time. It’s a perfect example of a
heraldic pun. Whether the original family name really was actually meant to
refer to a chicken on a barrel or evolved from the similar sounding name is
uncertain but it has been used by the family since medieval times. I found
three variations of the coat of arms for the family, and have yet to determine
with certainty which one has been inherited by Pete Buttigieg (I favour the middle
Among the influential
members of the Buttigieg family were Anton Buttigieg (1912-1983), 2nd President
of Malta, and Monsignor Michele Francesco Buttigieg (1783-1816), 1st Bishop of
Gozo. Along with Pete Buttigieg they are descended from Silvestrino Buttigieg
Let’s see how far back the
family can be traced. From information in the Maltese National Archives and
various online genealogies I’ve found that there is a continuous father-to-son
bloodline for the family that probably goes back to 850 AD.
great-grandfather, Ansaldinu Buttigieg (b.1390), is listed as a Nobile, a title
similar to the feudal lords of the manor in medieval England. Owners of these
titles held great influence in the government of the Malta for several
The Buttigieg’s title of
Nobile was first held by Ansaldinu’s great-great-great-grandfather Antonio bin
Buttigieg. You may have noticed a slight change to the surname, the “bin”,
which indicates that Antonio belonged to a Muslim family. From unverified
information this brings an intriguing element into Pete Buttigieg’s ancestry,
because this Antonio is said to have been the son of a prince of the Muslim
The Kalbids were an Arab
family who settled in the Maghreb, the region in North Africa between present
day Morocco and Egypt. Arabs from the Maghreb captured Malta and Sicily from
the Byzantine Empire in the 9th century, and al-Hasan al-Kalbi, the founder of
the Kalbid dynasty and Pete Buttigieg’s direct male ancestor, because the Emir
of Sicily and Malta in 947. The throne of Sicily-Malta separated in 1053 and
the last Emir of Malta, Jafar III, Pete Buttigieg’s ancestral cousin, was
deposed in 1240.
The Buttigiegs descend
from the junior Kalbid line down to Prince Muhammad Kalbid, Hakim (i.e.
governor) of Catania. Between 1000 and 1150 different lines of Pete’s ancestral
Kalbid cousins were Kings of Badajoz, Majorca and Segura, and Emirs of Messina,
Agrigento and Castrogiovanni.
The Kalbids were deposed
by Norman invaders from Italy, led by Roger I de Hauteville (c.1031-1101),
Count of Sicily. Malta thus became a part of the county of Sicily. Many Muslim
family were permitted to remain and some converted to Christianity, including
some of the Kalbid princes.
Pete Buttigieg’s father is
also descended from the Hauteville dynasty. The bloodline goes down into the
royal family of Aragon who were subsequent conquerors of Malta and Sicily.
Princess Leonor de Aragona-Sicilie (c.1346-after 1369) was the daughter of
Prince Giovanni, Duke of Athens and Regent of Sicily-Malta (son of King
Federigo II of Sicily). Through her Pete Buttigieg acquires the bloodline from
Roger de Hauteville.
Eventually this Hauteville
and Aragon bloodline merged with the Kalbid bloodline in 1664 with the marriage
of Giuseppe Buttigieg and the Aragon descendant Domenica Galea.
Five generations later
another Giuseppe Buttigieg married Maria Micalief, a member of one of the many
other influential Maltese families in Pete’s ancestry. If we follow Maria’s
line back a few generations we find several lines of descent from a Spanish
soldier who arrived in Malta called Jofre Albano de Borja. If that name sounds
familiar it’s because his brother was great-grandfather to the notorious
Italian Borgias and Pope Alexander VI.
The Maltese Borjas changed
their name to Borg, and one of Pete’s distant cousins from this family was
George Borg Olivier (1911-1980), who was twice Prime Minister of Malta. With
Malta being a small nation it is not surprising that a very high proportion of
people on the Maltese islands are interrelated or are distant cousins, more so
than in the USA where there are millions of people. So, its also no surprise to
learn that as well and George Borg Olivier and Anton Buttigieg (both above-mentioned)
Pete Buttigieg is related by blood to most of the Presidents, Prime Ministers
and medieval rulers of Malta.