Select Shaw Surname Genealogy

The Shaw surname in England may have either topographical or locational origins.  As a topographical name, Shaw was used for someone who lived by a copse, wood or thicket, derived from the Old English sceaga or "dweller by the wood."  Alternatively, the surname might have been come from a number of place names with the same root in Lancashire and elsewhere in England.

Shaw can also have Chinese roots, from the Chinese Shao.  Shao Xingyin, for instance, was the patriarch of Shaw movie family that was started by Runme Shaw in Singapore in 1924.  And Shaw could be Jewish.  Artie Shaw, born Arthur Arshawsky, was a popular American big band leader of the 1930’s.

Select Shaw Resources on The Internet

England.  The earliest spelling was Shaghe, as in William Shaghe in Somerset in 1333.   However, the name has been mainly found in the north of England.  The three counties of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire accounted for over half of the Shaws in the 1881 census. 

The largest Shaw concentration at that time was in the town of Oldham, which has a Shaw district.  The
Shaw name (del Shag) was to be found at Saddleworth, now part of Oldham, in 1379 and Shaws have continued there ever since.

Richard de Shaw was recorded in Widnes, Lancashire in 1284 and an early Lancashire family near Chorley was called Asshawe.  Hugo de Shawe
of Chester lived around 1280 and held the manor of Haslington in Cheshire.  Roger Shaw, born around 1550, was a yeoman farmer at Hulme Walfield near Congleton in Cheshire.  There was also a long-standing Shaw family in Kirkham, Lancashire.

Prominent Shaws in Yorkshire have been:
  • John Shawe from Ecclesfield near Sheffield who was an influential Puritan preacher at the time of the Protectorate.
  • William and George Shaw of Sheffield, Quakers who suffered for their beliefs in the 1680’s.
  • a Shaw family, beginning with John Shaw in the 1770's, who were mill owners at Holywell Green near Halifax until the 1930's.
  • and Percy Shaw, born in Halifax in 1890, who invented the ubiquitous cats-eyes on British roads.
Scotland.  The English Shaw name spread into the Lowlands of Scotland - particularly into Lanarkshire, with Shaws originally being found around Paisley Abbey.  One early family, which lasted until 1752, was known as the Shaws of Sauchie.

A Shaw family line has been traced from the marriage of Robert Shaw and Agnes Anderson at Kilsyth in north Lanarkshire about 1660.  Around the same time John Shaw was the laird of the small estate of Bagarran in Renfrewshire.  His daughter Christian Shaw had an eventful and eventually a very successful life. 

Shaw has also been a Highland clan name.  The name here can be an English rendering of the Gaelic personal name Sitheach, meaning "wolf."  The Shaw clan (or clan Ay) of Tordarroch near Inverness at one time held the stronghold of Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorms:
  • James Shaw, who was killed at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, was regarded as the first chief of these Shaws.  
  • while Aeneas Shaw, a son of a latter chief, came to New York in 1770 but, being a Loyalist, he headed north after the Revolutionary War to Canada.
IrelandIrish Shaws may be of Scottish or English origin.  The Shaws of Bushy Park near Dublin can trace their ancestry back to a Scottish soldier at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689.  A related line includes the playwright George Bernard Shaw.  The Shaws of Castledermot in county Kildare date back to Thomas Shaw in 1755.

Shaw may also have Irish origins, a variation of the O’Shea or Shee name in Tipperary and Kilkenny.

.   The earliest Shaw in America was probably John Shaw, of uncertain origins, who came to the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts in 1626:

“Although Shaw was not one of the first settlers of Plymouth colony, he and only one other man, Phineas Pratt, were given the privileges belonging to old-timers, ‘those arriving on the first four Pilgrim ships, the Mayflower, Fortune, Ann, and Little James.”

In 1633, John Shaw led a team of colonists that made the cut river between Green Harbor and Duxbury Bay, the first canal to be built in America.

Other early Shaws in America were:
  • Abraham Shaw from Halifax in Yorkshire who came with his family in 1636 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts.
  • John Shaw who was born in Charles county, Maryland in 1663.
  • John Shaw, a Quaker who came to Bucks county, Pennsylvania in 1697.  
  • and another Quaker Shaw, Samuel Shaw from Antrim in Ireland, who came to Richland, Pennsylvania in 1729.
Canada.  Early Shaws in Canada were from Scotland.  Their numbers included William Shaw, a soldier during the Seven Years War who returned and settled in Nova Scotia in the 1770’s; and Angus Shaw from the Scottish Highlands who came to Montreal in 1786 and was a fur trader in the employ of the NW Company.  
Even Aeneas Shaw, a Loyalist who departed New York in 1791 for New Brunswick and later settled in Ontario, was originally from the Scottish Highlands.

Select Shaw Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Shaw Names

John Shaw was a prominent English architect in the early 19th century who pioneered semi-detached housing in London.
George Bernard Shaw, born in Dublin, was a great English playwright and socialist advocate of the early 20th century.
Napier Shaw was the British meteorologist who developed the air pressure unit millibar.
Artie Shaw, born Arthur Arshawsky, was one of the great jazz clarinetists.
Runme Shaw and his brother Run Run Shaw, born in China, were the founders of the Shaw Organiization in Singapore and pioneers of the movie industry in SE Asia.

Select Shaws Today

  • 90,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 49,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

Return to Main Page