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The origin of Ibizan surnames

Many Ibizan surnames can be traced back to towns, rivers and areas in Catalonia.
by Fanny Tur Riera
20/11/2023

Names, both of places and of people, say a lot about the legacy of a territory. In the case of the Pityusic Islands, the origin of some lineages and place names tells us about our Arab past. Meanwhile, many more –most of them until recently– link us to the Catalan legacy after the conquest of Ibiza and Formentera in 1235. Many traditional surnames among Pityusic people stem from the names of regions, places or municipalities in Catalonia, such as Ribes, Rosselló, Cardona, Francolí, Noguera and Ripoll, referring to the places of origin of some of the island’s incoming inhabitants from the 13th century onwards.

Certain surnames were to be found in specific places on the island. For instance, the Arabí, (a place name used as a surname from the 14th century), Noguera and Clapés were mainly located in the eastern area, in the current municipality of Santa Eulària des Riu. Others, such as Marí and Prats, mostly cropped up in places such as Sa Cala de Sant Vicent and Sant Antoni de Portmany, respectively. The original nucleus of the surname Balansat is in the north of the island, in Sant Miquel.

We know the history of Ibiza’s traditional surnames thanks mainly to the historians Isidor Macabich Llobet, Joan Marí Cardona and Joan Planells Ripoll. The latter is responsible for an analysis of the origin of the surname Balansat, mentioned as far back as in 1235 in writings about the carving up of Ibiza among the island’s Catalan conquerors, and for which Planells suggests a possible Mozarabic origin. This was the name of two Ibizan generals, Ignacio and Lluís Balansat de Orvai Briones, who were illustrious sons of the city. Both participated in the Peninsular War (1808-1814) and both were ministers of war, albeit for short periods of time. As in the case of Balansat, the islands’ most common surnames have been documented since the 13th century. This is the case for the surname Ribes, which is one of the most common in the old quarter of Portmany, in the west of Ibiza.

The first reference to another of the most common and oldest surnames, Serra, is to be found in a document from 1273, which mentions a resident of Portmany of that name. (Ibiza, 1992, no. 21, p.40-41). As for the very common surname Tur, according to Macabich, the first known mention dates back to the year 1298 and is also found in the Portmany area (Macabich, History of Ibiza, 1, p.179). Another surname documented in Ibiza since the 13th century is that of Riera, which is also common in Mallorca and especially connected to the central Ibizan areas of Corona, Albarca and Santa Gertrudis, although it was also found on the plain of Villa, closer to the capital.

The surname Ferrer, which is now more common in Formentera than in Ibiza, was the most frequent in Barcelona in 1389 (CSIC – UPF. ‘Catalan surnames. Genetic study of Catalan, Valencian and Balearic surnames’). And it is also common in places such as northern Catalonia. The Llobet lineage also dates back to the early days of repopulation. As for Colomar, which is common in both Formentera and Ibiza, it appeared in Ibiza in the 14th century, a century after which it began to be used as a lineage, according to the aforementioned Planells Ripoll.

After the Catalan conquest and the subsequent repopulation of the island, other surnames arrived in the following centuries, such as Verdera in the early 16th century, Clapés, in the late 17th century, Tuells, in the early 18th century, Ramis and Wallis in the second half of the same century, and Fajarnés in the 19th century. The first Matutes and Fajarnés established in Ibiza hailed from Valencia. Finally, we have been able to document a custom that lasted until the 19th century, which was that of feminizing lineages and nicknames –employed due to the repetition of the same surnames– when the person who bore them was a woman: thus, Tur became Tura, Sunyer became Sunyera, Rosselló became Rossellona, Palau became Palava, and an independent branch emerged from nicknames such as Pelleu: ca na Palleva.

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