Shaw Surname Genealogy

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

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

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

Shaw Names

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
, born Arthur Arshawsky, was one of the great jazz
clarinetists.  Runme
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)



Return to Main Page


Leave a Reply