Shaw Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Shaw Meaning
The Shaw surname in England may have either topographical
or locational origins. As a topographical name, Shaw was used for
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
elsewhere in England.
Shaw can also have Chinese roots, from the Chinese
Shao. Shao Xingyin, for instance, was the patriarch of Shaw movie
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.

Shaw Resources on

Select Shaw Ancestry

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.

de Shaw was recorded in Widnes, Lancashire in 1284 and an early
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
  • a Shaw family, beginning with
    John Shaw in the 1770’s, who were mill owners at Holywell Green near
    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
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
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
  • while Aeneas Shaw, a son of a latter chief, came to
    New York in 1770 but, being a Loyalist, he headed north after the
    War to Canada.

Ireland. Irish 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

America. 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
privileges belonging to old-timers, ‘those arriving on the first four
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
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
    in 1636 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts.
  • John Shaw who was born in
    Charles county, Maryland in 1663.
  • John
    Shaw, a Quaker
    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
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
from the Scottish Highlands.


Shaw Miscellany

Hugo de Shawe of Cheshire and Sir John Shaw of London.  Early Shaws were from Cheshire.  Hugo de Shawe of
Chester was said to have
distinguished himself in the fighting around Ruthinin 1280 against
Llewelyn the
Welsh prince and was granted the manor of Haslington (near present-day
Crewe).  His son Randal de Shaw was its
occupier.  The manor passed in the next
century to the Vernon family who were responsible for the building of
the Haslington
Hall which stands today.

Sir John Shaw,
the son of a London vintner, claimed descent from these Shaws.  He was a Royalist and
was made a baronet after the Restoration.
This position enabled him to build a new manor house, Eltham
Lodge, on
his estate in Kent.

Shaws of Saddleworth.  The Shaw name is a long-established name in Saddleworth, now a part of the conurbation of Oldham in Lancashire (although it
was originally in Yorkshire).  The Shaw
district of Oldham lies nearby.  The
earliest Shaw recorded in the parish records of Saddleworth was that of
Shaw, son of Giles, who was born in 1656.

were yeoman farmers in Furlane
hamlet and were also strongly associated with St. Chad’s church in
Uppermill.  St
Chad’s House and gardens were
originally owned by the Shaw family which
occupied the site from the early 18th century. The farm was rebuilt in
1798.  In the 1840’s the front was
rebuilt by George Shaw, a local architect who lived there.

The 1822 trade directory for Saddleworth showed
Shaw tradesmen being mainly in the Delph area of Saddleworth.

Shaws in Delph in 1822 Occupation
Abram Shaw baker
Charles Shaw drysalter
George Shaw innkeeper of White Lion
John Shaw boot and shoe mfg.
Joseph Shaw woollen merchant

But there were also other Shaws in trades in the
Uppermill and Dobcross
parts of Saddleworth.  In 1844 Giles Shaw
was recorded as letting his woollen mill in Uppermill to James Mills, a

The 1881 census counted more
than 700 Shaws in Saddleworth. 

The Highland Shaw Clan.  The Shaws were an ancient Highland clan which traced its ancestry to the old Earls of Fife.
Initially, prior to the general adoption of surnames and
specifically the use of the name Shaw for that purpose, the Shaws were the first
chiefs of
clan Mackintosh.

The clan name derived
from Shaw Mor Coriaclich, great-grandson
of Angus, the 6th chief of Mackintosh, and Eva, an heiress of clan
Chattan.  By tradition he led the clan
Chattan contingent to victory at the famed clan battle of the North
Inch at
Perth in 1396 and was, as a reward, given the lands of Rothiemurchus,
became the first seat
the clan.

The Shaw clan name later came
from the anglicization of the Gaelic name Sitheach meaning
“wolf.”  The Gaelic names for
the clan were Na Siach and
Mhic Sheaghd.

The Shaws of Sauchie.  The Shaws of Sauchie date from the early 1400’s when James Shaw of Greenock married
Mary de Annand, the heiress of Sauchie.

of their sons, James, was killed by a cannon-shot during the siege
of Dunbar castle in 1478, another, George, was the Abbot of Paisley.  Later came Sir James Shaw, known as the
“Sauchieburn Shaw,” who was involved in the conspiracy against James
which culminated in the 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn and the
assassination of the

was said that the Shaws of Sauchie were “borne from the
earliest times as hereditary cup-bearers to the Scots kings.”  Apparently in connection with that hereditary
office, these Shaws also held hereditarily the office of Master of His
Majesty’s wine cellar.

Shaw line
lasted until 1752.

The Story of Christian Shaw.  Christian Shaw was born in 1685, the eldest daughter of John Shaw, laird of the small estate of Bargarran in Renfrewshire.

At the age of eleven she began to have fits
and strange visions.  She claimed that
Catherine Campbell and others in the household whom she disliked were
her and that her body showed the signs of severed pinch marks.   Her father persuaded the sheriff deputy
Lanarkshire to jail those his daughter accused of harassing her since
lost their power when imprisoned.  But
the victim’s condition showed little improvement.

In total 21 men, women and children
thrown into prison and ‘witch prickers’ examined them.
They were brought to trial in Paisley in 1697
and charged with witchcraft and murder.
Four women, including Catherine Campbell, and three men were
to death. The executions were watched by a large crowd which probably
Christian.  And she was cured.

Understandably, Christian was not a hot
property on the marriage market.  She was
34 before she found a husband and he died within three years.  The widowed Christian then found a small
house in Johnstone and took up spinning.

At that time, Dutch lace and linen led the world. They
had invented a
mill that could twist flax to produce a strong, consistent thread.
found that she was unable to produce its equal.
But she saw an opportunity. She persuaded a
Glasgow merchant of her acquaintance to bring back the vital bits of
on his next visit to the Netherlands and she built a little thread mill
Bargarran.  Soon her products were in
demand from embroiders and lace-makers.
Others in Renfrewshire, particularly in Paisley, copied
methods and she had spawned a flourishing industry.

As for Christian?
In 1737, in her 50’s and the possessor of a
substantial fortune, she married William Livingstone, an Edinburgh
glover.  And they lived happily ever after. 

John Shaw the Quaker.  These Quaker Shaw lines may or may not have been related.

Shaw of Shipley in Sussex
was a Quaker who was jailed in 1659 for his refusal to pay church
tithes.  His Tudor house there, known as Little Slatter, was used as a Quaker
meeting house and was in 1691 sold to the Quakers for conversion to a
place of worship.

Penn, when not
in America, was a resident from 1676 at nearby Warminghurst and
attended Quaker
meetings at this house.  Penn was said to
have been delighted when this house, which later became known as the Blue Idol, was established for Quaker

second John Shaw, born around
1670, was also a Quaker and was said to have embarked with William Penn
on his
second voyage to America in 1697.  He and
his wife Susannah purchased land in Bucks county, Pennsylvania in
township where they raised their family.
John died there in 1722.

The Shaws of Bushy Park.  William Shaw had gone out to Ireland from Scotland and
fought for King William at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689.  He was rewarded by a grant of land.  But it was not until almost a century later
that his great-grandson Robert moved to Dublin and prospered there as a
merchant.  He acquired the Terenure House
estate outside Dublin in 1785.

years later his son Sir Robert married Maria
Wilkinson, the daughter of a neighboring family who brought with her
the 110
acre Bushy Park estate.  This now became
the principal Shaw estate.  The Shaw
family that was established there became an important and prominent
part of Dublin’s
financial and civic life.

Robert’s wife Maria died in 1831, having borne him
nine children.  His cousin, Bernard Shaw,
had died in 1826 and Sir Robert provided Bernard’s widow, Frances, with
cottage on the Terenure estate where she lived for the next 45 years.  On several occasions Sir Robert proposed to
Frances, but he was turned down each time.
One of Frances’ grandchildren, the playwright George Bernard
Shaw, was
to be a regular visitor.

1953 after 166 years, Maria Shaw the last of the
Shaw family left the house.


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 Shaw Numbers 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 Shaw and Like Surnames

These names are locational, describing someone who lived in those medieval times by the side of a bank, or by a barn or a lane or a shaw (which means a wood) or a wood and so forth.  Both the oak tree and the ash tree have in fact provided locational surnames – Oakes and Nash (from atten Ash).  Here are some of these locational surnames that you can check out.



Return to Main Page


Leave a Reply