Search billions of records on Ancestry.com
   

The Shaw Genealogy

By Jared L. Olar

July 2007-April 2014

MY MOTHER'S family, the Shaws, are traditionally of Scottish origin, though culturally have been English for as long as we have record. But while our family tradition and our later cultural and ethnic identity could accurately indicate that we are either of English or Scottish origins (or both), thanks to DNA testing we have learned of a possibility that our Shaws may rather have been of Irish descent -- a branch of the O'Sheas or Shees of County Tipperary, Munster, and County Kilkenny, Leinster.

Our Shaws have long taken a strong interest in the investigation and preservation of their genealogy, and it is due to the happy influence of my mother and my mother's mother that I pretty early on inherited a desire to learn about our ancestry and to write it down for posterity. (If you wish, you may proceed immediately to my mother's Shaw genealogy: Ten Generations of the Shaw Family.) I was just a child when my mother first informed me that her Shaw line traced back to Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts and that her ancestry included several Mayflower Pilgrims. Later, as a young teenager I wished to find out just how much we knew about my mother's genealogy, so my grandmother Frances (Miller) Shaw (1917-1993) began to share her genealogical information with me. Thanks to her many years of research, and to the prior work of her sister-in-law, Eleanor (Shaw) Baylor (1909-1974), a large quantity of precious information about my mother's ancestors, along with old family photos and papers, eventually came into my possession after my grandmother's death. Adding to the information and family traditions she had received from her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, my great-aunt Eleanor also gathered information from our numerous cousins in Lee County, Illinois, who were related to us on the Shaw side. Our Shaw family in Illinois has always been aware that a branch of our Shaws had become Mormons and had migrated to Utah by way of Illinois, so Aunt Eleanor also made contact with our Mormon cousins in Ogden, Utah, who supplied her with information on their families and the results of their own Shaw genealogical research. From our late cousin Verda May (Shaw) Tullis (1909-1985) of Ogden, Utah, Aunt Eleanor and my grandmother received pages and pages of information on our Shaw ancestors in New England and our Shaw cousins in Utah. Taken together, all of these family records, notes, photographs, and papers form the basis of this account of the Shaw genealogy, but our records have also been greatly augmented and extended from other sources, chiefly John Shaw of Plymouth Plantation in Progress, the database of my distant cousin Kenneth L. Shaw III of Taunton, Massachusetts. Several other cousins have supplied their assistance as well, including Sherman M. Shaw of La Moille, Illinois, a descendant of the Shaw Station Shaws; Nancy Pratt of Wisconsin, whose husband belongs to the Thornton branch of the Lee Center Shaws; Jay Irvin Hadley of Oregon, whose mother was one of our Mormon Shaw cousins from Ogden, Utah; Scott M. Flood of New York, a great-great-grandson of Frances J. (Shaw) Woodworth, one of our New York Shaw cousins; and Paul H. Shaw of Tennessee, who may be a distant Shaw cousin whose ancestors left Massachusetts and settled in Mississippi in the early 1800s. (Paul had his Y chromosome tested and analyzed in the summer of 2012, and the results and implications of his y-DNA tests are discussed below.)

Origin of the Surname 'Shaw'

The surname of Shaw originated in Britain and is not at all rare in England and Scotland, spreading from Britain to Ireland. Most families who bear this name are not related to each other. The surname arose in three different ways: in England and the Scottish Lowlands, it originated as a placename, but in the Scottish Highlands it was a given name that became a patronymic, while in Ireland, or in families of male-line Irish descent, it sometimes stands for Shea or O'Shea (or Shee or O'Shee). We shall first survey Shaw families of English or Scottish Lowland origin, and then review the history of the Scottish Highland Clan Shaw before turning to the Shaw surname in Ireland. Among the sources for the following survey is The Shaw Family (The American Genealogical Research Institute, Arlington, Virginia, 1972), a short volume which my maternal grandmother had acquired in Dec. 1973, which names a few of our Shaw ancestors on pages 33 and 55.

English Shaws

Shaws of English or Lowland Scots descent derive their surname from the Anglo-Saxon word sceage, meaning a small wood or a copse or grove of trees (cf. the related Anglo-Saxon word sceacga, "rough matted hair or wool," which was cognate with the Old Norse skegg, "beard"), and thus are not connected to the Highland Clan Shaw. In Middle English the word was often spelled "schage," "schaghe," or "schawe." The family of a man who lived at or near a "shaw" might become known by a surname such as Shaw, Shawe, Shay, Shaye, Shayes, Shave, Shaves or Shafe. Similar surnames are Upshaw (the family that lives up past the shaw), Bradshaw (the family that lives at or near the broad forest), or simply Asshaw. It's also noteworthy that there is a place named "Shawbury" in Shropshire, England.

English families surnamed Shaw have historically been especially common in the midlands and northern parts of England, including the West Riding in Cheshire and Lancashire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Nottinghamshire. Being more common in northern England, unsurprisingly the form of the Shaw surname that originated as a placename is also found in the Lowlands of Scotland, which historically have long felt English cultural and linguistic influence and for a considerable period of time were partly under the control of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Bernicia and Northumbria. The first known English bearer of a "Shaw" surname was Simon de Schage mentioned in the Berkshire Pipe Rolls in A.D. 1191, during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart. Other early English "Shaws" include Johannes at Schaghe, mentioned in Somersetshire in 1273, Richard de la Schawe, mentioned in Worcestershire in 1275; John ate Shaw, who lived in Essex in 1295; John at Shawe and William bithe Shaghe, both of Somersetshire, the former named in 1307 and the latter in 1333; Robertus del Shaghe in 1379; and Anthonie Shawe in 1399.

One family of English Shaws came from Halifax, Yorkshire, and settled in Massachusetts during the 1630s. Their ancestor was Christopher Shaw of Halifax, born probably around 1540, whose son was Thomas Shaw of Halifax, husband of Elizabeth Longbottom, also of Halifax. Their son Abraham Shaw was born in 1585 in Halifax. In 1616, Abraham married Bridget Best, daughter of Henry Best and Grace Boithes. Abraham and Bridget had children named Joseph, John, Mary, and Martha. Abraham and his family left England and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts, around 1636, moving soon after to Watertown, Massachusetts. Abraham's son John Shaw, born 1630 in Halifax, married Alice Phillips of Weymouth, Massachusetts, daughter of Deacon Nicholas Phillips and Elizabeth Jepson (or Jewson). Genealogists sometimes confuse Abraham's son John with my Shaw immigrant ancestor JOHN SHAW, who like Abraham's son also had a wife named ALICE. They are clearly different Johns and Alices, however -- Abraham's son was about a whole generation too young to be our John, who was a married adult with children when he came to Massachusetts by 1630, the year Abraham's son was born in Yorkshire. Not only are my Shaws NOT descendants of Abraham's son John, but we have no genealogical or genetic connection to the Abraham Shaw family whatsoever. In the absence of genealogical records, the only way one could have proven or disproven a link between these two Shaw families was by testing the Y chromosomes of male-line descendants of the Abraham Shaw family and of our Shaw family. The y-DNA of the Abraham Shaw family has already been tested -- this family is Haplogroup I Lineage IV in the WorldFamilies.net Shaw DNA Project, and their y-DNA is the I1 haplogroup. It should be noted that this shows the Abraham Shaw family is not related to the Scottish Highland Clan Shaw. Shaw families with the I1 haplogroup have been identified in both England and Scotland.

The y-DNA of my Shaws, however, appears to belong to the R1b1a2 haplogroup. This is based on the y-DNA of three Shaw males: Jonathan A. Shaw of Massachusetts, Jerry Walter Shaw, and Paul Hardy Shaw of Tennessee. Jonathan Shaw, who currently has his y-DNA tested out to 37 markers, is the author of "John Shaw of Plymouth Colony, Purchaser and Canal Builder," published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1997) 151:259-285, 417-437, and his genealogical research traces his Shaw lineage back to John Shaw of Plymouth Colony. The lineage of Jerry W. Shaw also has been traced back to John Shaw of Plymouth by a different branch. Similarly, Paul Shaw's research also traces his Shaw lineage back to John Shaw of Plymouth by yet another branch of this family. Curiously, however, while the y-DNA results of Jonathan Shaw and Jerry W. Shaw match perfectly, the y-DNA results of Paul Shaw do not match those of Jonathan Shaw and Jerry W. Shaw at all, which indicates a likely error in one or more of their genealogies, or perhaps there was an unrecorded adoption or instance of adultery somewhere along one of the lineages. Jonathan Shaw's test results are Kit No. N64745 ("JA Shaw") in the Shaw DNA Project, while Paul Shaw's results are Kit No. 242499 ("John Shaw b abt 1597 d. 1663/66 Plymouth, MA"). Whatever the explanation of their divergent DNA results, all three of these Shaw lineages belong to the R1b1a2 haplogroup, not the I1 haplogroup. The y-DNA test results of Jonathan Shaw and Jerry W. Shaw place them in a small group of Shaws who appear to be of English origin, Haplogroup R1b Lineage IV in the Shaw DNA Project. As for Paul Shaw, he has tested his Y chromosome out to 111 markers, which has placed him solidly in the R1b1a2a1a1b4 haplogroup and has revealed that his DNA is remarkably close to the y-DNA of the O'Sheas of Counties Kilkenny and Tipperary in Ireland. Further DNA testing will be required to determine whether our Shaws were of English origin (and/or Scottish origin), or rather were ultimately of Irish origin. The possible implications of Paul Shaw's DNA results are discussed in greater detail below.

Lowland Scottish Shaws

Shaws in the Scottish Lowlands -- not to be confused with the Highland Clan Shaw -- first appear on record in the late 1200s. Hypothetically, Lowland Scottish Shaws could be of native origin, perhaps ultimately Britons or Picts (for the original inhabitants of the Lowlands in far ancient times were Britons), or they could be families that were originally English or Anglo-Norman who moved north to Scotland in the 1100s or 1200s. "The Shaws, like the Cathcarts, Wallaces, and others, were originally vassals of the Stewarts, and so grouped around Paisley Abbey and are recorded in its Register. In 1284 John de Shaw is mentioned." (David Marshall's Genealogical notes anent some ancient Scottish families, page 102) He is mentioned that year because he was a witness to a land grant: "In 1284 John 'de Schau' witnessed a document which bestowed lands upon the monks of Paisley, and there are several similar examples of this kind." (Scottish Clans and Tartans (1973), Ian Grimble, page 247) Then in 1296, three Lowland Shaws in Lanarkshire are named in the Ragman Roll, a list of Scottish nobles who paid homage that year to Edward I Longshanks, King of England, as their feudal overlord. The Shaws named in the Ragman Roll are Fergus del Shawe, Symund del Shawe, and William de Schaw. William was "ancestor of the Shaws of Hailly and Sauchie. Their original charter of Hailly before 1309 was extant in Nisbet's time." (David Marshall's Genealogical notes anent some ancient Scottish families, ibid.) "In 1331, on the other side of Lowland Scotland, a John of Shaw became burgess of Dundee." (Grimble's Scottish Clans and Tartans (1973), page 247) This John of Dundee may or may not have been related to William de Schaw of Hailly and Sauchie.

Although the Shaws of Hailly and Sauchie, also known as the Shaws of Greenock and Sauchie but more usually known simply as the Shaws of Sauchie, have long been extinct in the senior male line, at one time they were a prominent family of Scottish nobility of relatively high status. Earlier Scots peerage writers and genealogists had suggested that the Shaws of Sauchie were a branch of the Highland Shaws, but the evidence mentioned above shows that "Shaw" was a topographical surname in the Lowlands, not a patronymic. In addition, the Lowland and Highland Shaws bore entirely different coat armor. Whereas the arms of the Highland Shaws feature a galley and the Lyon Rampant, the heraldic blazon of the Shaws of Sauchie was "Azure three covered cups, Or." Sir James Balfour Paul's Ordinary of Arms (1893) includes descriptions of three other blazons of Scottish Shaws that are similar to the arms of the Shaws of Sauchie, indicating descent or kinship. The arms of the Shaws of Elmwood, for example, registered with the Lord Lyon King of Arms in 1871, are "Azure on a chevron argent between three covered cups or as many crosses moline round-pierced gules" (Balfour Paul, page 47), while the Shaw of Sornbeg arms are "Azure three mullets in fess between as many covered cups argent" (Balfour Paul, pages 180-181). In 1804, a certain Sir James Shaw registered the following arms with the Lyon Court: "Azure three covered cups or, on a chief argent a ship under sail in a sea proper, a dexter canton gules charged with the mace of the City of London surmounted in saltire by a sword, also proper." This latter blazon incorporates the three covered cups of the Shaws of Sauchie, but the ship under sail is reminiscent of the galley of the Highland Clan Shaw, suggesting perhaps that Sir James was misled by earlier mistaken theories that the Shaws of Sauchie were a branch of Clan Shaw.

This artistic representation of the heraldic blazon of the Shaws of Greenock and Sauchie is stored among the Shaw family papers that I inherited from my grandmother, Frances (Miller) Shaw Keithahn, who had ordered this print from a genealogical-heraldic company. According to family tradition, our Shaws were of Scottish origin, but whatever truth there is in that tradition, it is unlikely that the ancestors of our Shaws ever bore this coat of arms.

The coat of arms of the Shaws of Sauchie was "borne from the earliest times as hereditary Cup-bearers to the Scots Kings." (Genealogical notes anent some ancient Scottish families, David Marshall, page 130) Apparently in connection with that hereditary office, these Shaws also held hereditarily the office of "Master of His Majesty's Wine Cellar." (ibid., page 111) As permanent members of the royal household, they wielded some degree of influence in the kingdom as advisers to the king. They had their seat at Sauchie in Clackmannanshire, but also held Greenock in Renfrewshire and Coldoun in Kinrossshire, as well as various lands in Ayrshire, Cunninghamshire, and other places. As a result, several cadet branches of this family were planted in various parts of the Lowlands, and no doubt descendants of the Shaws of Sauchie live in the Highlands today, just as Highland Shaws are known to have moved to the Lowlands.

The following account of the Shaws of Sauchie and their cadets is drawn chiefly from David Marshall's Genealogical notes anent some ancient Scottish families, "Shaw of Sauchie, 1431-1733," pages 102-125, 130, 136-141, 148-149. According to Nisbet's Heraldry, folio 1722, page 431, the Shaws of Hailly first acquired the lands of Greenock during the reign of King Robert III (1390-1406) through marriage with the co-heiress of the family of Galbreth of Greenock. They acquired Sauchie in the early 1400s, when James Shaw of Greenock married Mary de Annand, one of the two daughters and co-heiresses of Sir David Annand of Sauchie. In 1369, King David II Bruce (1329-1371) referred to Robert de Annand as consanguineo nostra ("our cousin by blood"), so the Shaws and Annands were related to the great family of Bruce of Annandale. The sons of James and Mary included John Shaw, who had died without issue by 1439, James Shaw, 2nd of Sauchie, who was killed by a cannon-shot during the siege of Dunbar Castle in May 1478, and George Shaw, Abbot of Paisley (1476-1504). Abbot George's nephew Robert Schaw, who "had the character of a man of great virtue," also was elected Abbot of Paisley and later became Bishop of Moray in 1524. In the following generation we find Sir James Shaw, 3rd of Sauchie, Captain of Stirling Castle, with custody of Prince James, eldest son of King James III (1460-1488). Sir James Shaw is known as "the Sauchieburn Shaw" due to his leading role in the conspiracy against James III that culminated in the 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn and the assassination of the king. James apparently married twice: one wife, Isobel, is named in a 1483 instrument of reinfeftment; but James apparently is the Sir James Schaw of Sauchie who around this time married Christian Bruce, daughter of Sir David Bruce of Clackmannan. His known children include John Shaw of Alveth, Co-captain of Stirling Castle with his father, David Shaw, Richard Shaw, and Helen Shaw, who married firstly Archibald Haliburton, Master of Haliburton, and secondly Sir Patrick Home of Polwart.

"The Sauchieburn Shaw" was succeeded by his grandson Sir James Shaw, 4th of Sauchie (died 1528), son of John Shaw of Alveth who had preceded his father in death. Margaret Shaw, wife of George Graham of Callander, was a member of the Shaws of Sauchie, and may have been a sister of Sir James, 4th of Sauchie. Sir James married his cousin Alison Home, daughter of Sir Patrick Home of Polwart and Helen Shaw, and had two sons, Alexander Shaw, 5th of Sauchie, and John Shaw of Broich. Alexander's son and heir was Sir James Shaw, 6th of Sauchie. In addition, by his second wife Elizabeth Cunningham, daughter of William Cunningham of Glengarnock, Alexander had a son, John Shaw, 1st of Greenock, ancestor of the Shaws of Greenock, and a daughter, Jonet Shaw, who died Feb. 1573. Alexander also had two illegitimate sons, James Shaw and Patrick Shaw. Sir James, 6th of Sauchie, married Marjory Kirkaldy and had two sons, Sir James Shaw, 7th of Sauchie, who succeeded him in turn, and William Shaw, and at least one daughter, Margaret Shaw, who married firstly in 1595 to James Bruce of Powfoulis and secondly in 1599 to Harry Lindsay of Coreston in Fife. In addition, Elizabeth Shaw, daughter of Shaw of Sauchie, was one of the mistresses of King James V (1513-1542), and her father is thought to have been Sir James, 6th of Sauchie. Sir James, 7th of Sauchie, married twice, firstly to Eupham Shaw and secondly to Margaret Meldrum, daughter of James Meldrum of Segy. His children included Sir Alexander Shaw, 8th of Sauchie, who was served heir to his late father on 27 Aug. 1623, Harry Shaw, who married Christian Callander of Bordy in 1609, and Elizabeth Shaw, second wife of Henry, 12th Earl of Crawfurd. Also, the baptisms of three daughters of Sir James and Margaret Meldrum are recorded in the old parish register of Clackmannan, namely Marjorie Shaw, baptised 30 Jan. 1595, Katherine Shaw, baptised 26 April 1597, and Jonet Shaw, baptised 27 Nov. 1601.

Sir Alexander married Helen Bruce, daughter of Sir Robert Bruce of Clackmannan and Helen Durie, and had one daughter and seven sons: Helen Shaw, James Shaw, twin sons Robert Shaw and John Shaw, William Shaw, Harry Shaw, George Shaw, 9th of Sauchie, and a second William Shaw. Almost all of their children died in infancy or childhood, and the barony of Sauchie and the other estates of the Shaws were inherited by the sixth son George, who died childless. By this time the Shaws of Sauchie had accrued significant debts, and to satisfy those debts the estates were adjudged to George's cousin and heir Sir John Shaw, 4th of Greenock, Baronet, on 28 March 1682, which was confirmed after Sir John's death by a charter dated 7 Jan. 1698. The new laird of Sauchie was the son of John Shaw, 3rd of Greenock (died 1679) and Helenor Houston, daughter of Houston of Houston. (Beginning With Kings: From Royal Stewart to Shaw Stewart -- Their Story (1989), Janet S. Bolton, page 77)

Sir John was created 1st Baronet of Greenock in 1687 by King James VII (1685-1701), and upon his death in 1694 was succeeded by his son Sir John Shaw, 5th of Greenock, 2nd Baronet, who married Helenor Nicolson (Eleanor), daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Nicolson, 3rd Baronet of Carnock in Stirlingshire. (Burke's Peerage (1956), "Shaw-Stewart," page 2070) Sir John and Helenor had six sons and one daughter: Sir John Shaw, 6th of Greenock, 3rd Baronet, Thomas Shaw, who was killed at Mons, George Shaw, who was killed at the Siege of Lisle, Ensign Hugh Shaw, murdered in 1708 by the Master of Sinclair, Captain Alexander Shaw, murdered in 1709 in Flanders by the same Master of Sinclair, James Shaw, who died young, and Margaret Shaw, who married her cousin Sir John Houston of Houston and had a daughter, Helenor Houston. (See Bolton's From Royal Stewart to Shaw Stewart, pages 77-78) Sir John, 3rd Baronet, succeeded his father in 1702. His wife was Margaret Dalrymple, by whom he had just one daughter, Marion Shaw, died 21 March 1733, first wife of Charles, 8th Lord Cathcart, died 20 Dec. 1741. Charles and Marion had two sons, Charles Schaw, 9th Lord Cathcart, and Schaw Cathcart, an officer in the Guards who was killed at Fontenoy. (Burke's Peerage (1970), "Cathcart," page 498) With Sir John Shaw's death in 1752, the male line of the Shaws of Greenock and Sauchie came to an end. By a 1700 Deed of Entail, the estates of Greenock and Carnock, along with the Shaw name, passed to the family of Sir John's niece Helenor Houston, wife of Sir Michael Stewart, Baronet of Blackhall and Ardgowan in Renfrewshire. Thus, the eldest son of Helenor and Sir Michael became Sir John Shaw Stewart, 4th Baronet of Greenock, Blackhall, and Ardgowan, and their second son became Houston Stewart Nicolson of Carnock. Sir John Shaw Stewart died in 1812 and was succeeded by his nephew, Houston Stewart Nicolson's son, Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, 5th Baronet, whose male line descendants still retain their baronetcy and the ancestral estate of Ardgowan. (Burke's Peerage (1956), "Shaw-Stewart," page 2070; cf. Bolton's From Royal Stewart to Shaw Stewart, pages 41, 78) The Shaw Stewarts quarter the arms of the Stewarts of Blackhall and Ardgowan with the arms of the Shaws of Greenock and Sauchie. Although the senior male lines of the ancient family of the Shaws of Greenock and Sauchie are extinct, they are represented by their female-line descendants the Cathcarts and the Shaw Stewarts.

It is also likely that many Shaw families of Scottish descent today are cadets of the Shaws of Sauchie. Among the cadets of Sauchie were the Shaws of Broich, descended from the abovementioned John Shaw of Broich, younger son of Sir James Shaw, 4th of Sauchie. Several other branches of the Shaws of Sauchie settled very early on in Kinrossshire, where the Shaws of Sauchie are known to have later held lands. (See Genealogical notes anent some ancient Scottish families, pages 140-141) In 1306, Christian Wavane, Lady of Dirleton, granted a precept for infefting Richard Shaw, son of George Shaw, and Richard's son George Shaw, in the lands of Nether-Craigo in the barony of Segy. In 1480, a John of Schaw purchased half of Blair of Crambeth in Kinrossshire from Robert de Wyntoun. In 1505, Elizabeth Schaw, lady of Blair of Crambeth, probably John's daughter, disponed the lands of Haltoun and Middle Cleish to Robert Colville of Hiltoun. The following year, Elizabeth and her husband John Balfour sold Blair of Crambeth to the same Robert Colville. Later, in 1518, we find George Shaw and his wife Margaret Weymes in possession of the lands of Lethangie, in the Regality of Dunfermline and parish of Kinross -- lands that were held by George's descendants until 1675. On 29 Sept. 1590, "Johnne Schaw, Portioner of Segy" gave sasine of the half-lands of Finderlie on behalf of his kinsman James Shaw of Sauchie to Peter Broune, son and heir of John Broune of Finderlie. This John Shaw was ancestor of the Shaws formerly of Meikle Seggie, Gospetrie, and Balneathil. From these facts, we see that numerous Shaw families originated in the Lowlands of Scotland during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Highland Scottish Shaws

The Highland Clan Shaw -- known in Gaelic as Chloinn na Si'each ("Children of the Shaws") -- is one of the tribes in the Clan Chattan confederation which includes such ancient families as Clan Mackintosh, Clan MacPherson, Clan Farquarson, and Clan MacGillivray -- specifically, the Highland Shaws are a branch of the Mackintoshes. The families of Clan Chattan trace their origins from an individual named Gillechattan ("Servant of St. Catan"). The medieval Gaelic pedigrees of Clan Chattan, Clan Mackintosh, Clan MacLaren, and Clan MacKay all include the given names Disiabh and Tseadh, that is "Shaw" -- a name also found in medieval Scottish documents under forms such as "Sitheach," "Sethi," "Scayth," "Schetho," "Schethoc," and "Scheo." However it is spelled, though, this Gaelic name derives from the Middle Irish word sidheach, a wolf. (See Ian Grimble's Scottish Clans & Tartans (1973, 1993), "Shaw," pages 246-247, and Charles MacKinnon of Dunakin's Scottish Highlanders (1984), "Shaw," pages 232-233) On the other hand, an alternate etymology derives the clan's name from the Old Gaelic word seaghdha, happy or lucky (See Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk's The Highland Clans (1967), page 128). Some fancifully interpret the clan's Gaelic appellative Chloinn na Si'each as "Children of the Pine Forests," but given Clan Shaw's known descent from several notable individuals named "Shaw," there can be no doubt that this surname is a patronymic.

This is a representation of the badge of Clan Mackintosh, whose motto -- "Touch not the cat bot a glove" (Don't touch the cat without a glove) -- is a play-on-words referring to the fighting spirit of the Clan Chattan confederation. The chiefs of Clan Mackintosh are hereditary captains of Clan Chattan. Clan Shaw is a junior branch of Clan Mackintosh.

The traditional genealogy of Clan Mackintosh traces their lineage back to a legendary "Shaw 'Mor' Mackintosh," supposed son of John of Fordun's and William Shakespeare's legendary MacDuff, Thane of Fife, whose historical prototype apparently was Gillemichael MacDuff, 3rd. Earl of Fife. Another version of the Mackintosh legend claims that Shaw Mor was the son of Duncan, 4th Earl of Fife, son of Gillemichael. Shaw Mor is said to have put down a rebellion in Moray around A.D. 1153 or 1163. He was in turn, according to tradition, the father of "Shaw Mackintosh of that Ilk," said to have died in 1210. "Mackintosh" in Gaelic is Mac-an-Toiseach, "Son of the Chieftain" or "Son of the Thane," but there is no reason to believe, nor any evidence, that the ancestral "Thane" of the Mackintoshes was the Earl of Fife, who was of much higher rank than a mere thane. Sir Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk opined, "There seems little reason to doubt the tradition" of the descent from the MacDuffs of Fife (See Moncreiffe's The Highland Clans (1967), page 126). However, as William F. Skene explained, it is far more likely that Clan Mackintosh descended from the old Thanes of Brass (Birse) in Aberdeenshire, known to have been associated with and maybe also related to the Comyn Lords of Badenoch (who had a cousin named "Kelehathonin" or Gillechattan, perhaps none other than Clan Chattan's ancestor). The old Gaelic pedigree of Clan Mackintosh includes a Gillemichael -- "Servant of St. Michael" -- who may or may not have been confused in clan tradition with Gillemichael MacDuff, Earl of Fife. Significantly, St. Michael the Archangel was the patron of the parish of Birse. (See Skene's Celtic Scotland (1876), vol. III, pages 356-358)

Shown here are the badge of Clan Shaw, with the clan's motto "Fide et Fortitudine" (Faith and Fortitude, that is, Loyalty and Endurance), and the tartan of Clan Shaw.

Be all of that as it may, the direct ancestor of Clan Shaw, and the man from whom they acquired their surname, was one of the heroes of Clan Chattan, Shaw Sgorfhiaclach Mackintosh (Shaw the Bucktoothed, died 1405), a cousin of the Mackintosh chief. Shaw led Clan Chattan on the Raid of Angus in 1391. His son was James Mackintosh, who fell fighting for Clan Donald at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411. The son of James was Alexander Ciar Mackintosh, Lord of Rothiemurchus in 1469. Alexander was ancestor of the Shaws of Rothiemurchus, who were the original Chiefs of Clan Shaw, while Alexander's younger brother Adam Mackintosh (Aedh or Ay) was the ancestor of the Shaws of Tordarroch, hereditary Chiefs of Clan Ay and current Chiefs of Clan Shaw. One branch of the Shaws of Tordarroch became the ancestors of the family of Shaw-MacKenzie of Newhall, and another branch left the Highlands and settled in Ayrshire in the Scottish Lowlands during the 1600s. The Ayrshire branch were descendants of Andrew MacBean Shaw, younger son of Bean M'Robert of Tordarroch, 2nd Chief of Clan Ay, younger son of Robert MacKay, son of the above-named Adam Mackintosh. (See Burke's Landed Gentry (1939), "Shaw-MacKenzie of Newhall," page 1476) In the Shaw DNA Project, the y-DNA of the Shaws of Tordarroch has been identified as the R1b1a2 haplogroup, and several individual participants in the Shaw DNA Project from Scotland, England, Ireland, and the United States have been shown to have the same or similar y-DNA, indicating their descent from or close kinship to Clan Shaw. Although my Shaw family also appears to belong to the R1b1a2 haplogroup, neither of our two possible y-DNA Shaw signatures is anywhere close to that of Clan Shaw.

Irish Shaws

The Shaw surname also appears in Ireland, and among families of Irish descent. In some cases, Irish Shaw families are relatively recent transplants from England or Scotland -- descendants of English or Scottish Shaw families who settled in Ireland within the past four centuries. In other cases, however, the surname "Shaw" is derived from SHEA or O'SHEA, surnames that have also been spelled "Shay," "Shee," and "O'Shee." The "Shea = Shaw" change has been documented in at least one family from County Kerry. In a comment dated 10 June 2005, an O'Shea genealogical researcher said (emphasis added):

"Bartholomew left Ireland some time in the late 1800s on his way to the US with a couple of his brothers. He never made it as he married Emma Gould in 1905 (I have a copy of the marriage certificate). On the certificate his family name is shown as Shaw and his father's name is also shown as Shaw (deceased). In 1907 they had a daughter who was registered as Lily O'Shea (again I have a copy of the certificate). O'Shea is the family name all living relatives remember and they know the family was from Kerry where there are a lot of O'Shea's and Shea's."

In addition, Dick Shea of Texas, one of the administrators of the O'Shea y-DNA Project, commented in a 29 July 2012 email to me:

"We have already found a Dan Shaw whose yDNA is spot on the Kerry O'Shea modal, who was undoubtedly a Shea before emigrating to the U.S."

These examples of Kerry O'Sheas becoming "Shaws" illustrate that some Irish Shaws were formerly O'Sheas. In these instances, the name change probably was due to an anglicisation of the older Gaelic surname. This may well have been the case with my own Shaw family, assuming we are connected to Paul H. Shaw's family, which also saw a name change from Shee or O'Shea to Shaw.

Possible Origins of My Shaw Family

As I mentioned above, my Shaws are descendants of the colonist JOHN SHAW, who came from England to Plymouth, Massachusetts, circa 1626. The parentage and genealogy of John Shaw is unknown, and DNA testing indicates that he was either of male-line English ancestry or else of male-line Irish ancestry (having descended from the O'Sheas or Shees in the area of County Tipperary, Munster, and County Kilkenny, Leinster). However, my Shaws traditionally have held that they were paternally of Scottish origin. Our family tradition was recorded in two old reference books: Frank Everett Stevens' History of Lee County, Illinois (1914), vol. 2, page 360, and Who's Who in Engineering: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries, 1922-1923, vol. 1, edited by John William Leonard, Winfield Scott Downs, and M.M. Lewis, pages 1134-1135. In the 1914 History of Lee County is a biography of my great-grandfather SHERMAN LINN SHAW (1864-1942), which gives the following account of his family origins:

". . . his parents being James M. and M. Rebecca (Linn) Shaw. He comes of Scotch ancestry on the paternal side, while the Linns are of Irish lineage, and a representative of the name served in the patriot army during the Revolutionary war."

More precisely, the Linns are of Scots-Irish or Ulster Scots lineage. In the past, sometimes the Scottish Presbyterians who settled in Ulster were less precisely called "Irish" because they were inhabitants of Ireland, even though they were ethnically and religiously distinct from most of the Irish. Now, this biography is based on information personally supplied by Sherman Linn Shaw, so it represents his own knowledge and beliefs regarding his ancestry. Very often family traditions are accurate, but even when a tradition is wrong there is usually still some grain of truth in it. We know the biography's statements about the Linns are correct (Rebecca's grandfather John Linn was the Revolutionary War patriot), which lends credibility to the statement that Sherman Linn Shaw's father was of Scottish ancestry. If Sherman had an accurate knowledge of his maternal ancestry, he may well have had an accurate knowledge of his paternal ancestry as well.

Published about eight years after Sherman's biography, the short biographies of his younger brothers GEORGE HARRY THORNTON SHAW (1869-1934) and ARTHUR MONROE SHAW (1870-1942) that were included in Who's Who in Engineering repeat the same traditions of our Shaw family's origins:

"SHAW, George Harry Thornton, 509 West 60th St., Chicago, Ill. Civil Engr; b. June 14th, 1869; s. James Monroe and Mary Rebecca (Linn) Shaw; Scotch ancestry, dating from settlement in Mass., 1660; . . ."
"SHAW, Arthur Monroe, Hibernian Bank Bldg; 1828 Calhoun St., New Orleans, La. Cons. Civil Engr; b. Lee Center, Lee Co., Ill: s. J. Monroe and Rebecca (Linn) Shaw; all American of Scotch, Irish, Welsh and French derivation; . . ."

Again, this information was personally supplied by George and Arthur, so it represents their own knowledge and beliefs regarding their ancestry. Most remarkable is the tradition that our Shaws are of "Scotch ancestry, dating from settlement in Mass., 1660." It is an accurate memory of descent from a Massachusetts colonist during the 1600s, but the date is about three decades too late. "Irish, Welsh and French derivation" is also accurate -- interpreting "Irish," of course, as "Scots-Irish" (the Linns), and interpreting "French" as "Flemish" (the Shaws' Delano ancestors on the Sherman side of the family). However, given the fact that most of our Shaws' ancestors were of English extraction, it is somewhat surprising that these biographies do not mention "English" alongside the other ethnic derivations. Had Sherman, George, and Arthur inherited, as it were, some anti-English animus from their mother Mary Rebecca Linn, whose grandfather John had a strong disdain for Englishmen due to the severe mistreatment he had endured as a prisoner of war during the American Revolution? In any case, clearly my great-grandfather and his brothers believed their Shaw family to have been of Scottish rather than of English origin. Since their basic knowledge of their ancestry was generally accurate and trustworthy, it is likely that this tradition of Scottish origins is also trustworthy. (I have learned that my Shaw cousins of the male-line of Arthur Monroe Shaw have preserved the tradition of our Scottish descent, and they also own a depiction of Scottish Shaw heraldry -- specifically, the clan badge and tartan of the Highland Clan Shaw.) It may be significant that Paul H. Shaw's family, possibly another branch of our Shaw family, also has a tradition that they are ancestrally of Scottish origin. Paul's family has been traced back to Darius Shaw (born 1767), whose putative son Oliver Abbot Shaw left Massachusetts and settled in Mississippi. That this tradition was handed down independently in two separate Shaw families who may be related, but who have been unknown to each other for more than 200 years, suggests that the tradition could be correct -- or at any rate may have arisen prior to circa 1785, while my branch of the Shaws and the Darius Shaw family both still lived in Massachusetts. However, I do not know if the same or similar tradition has been preserved by any other branches of our Shaw family besides the descendants of Oliver Abbot Shaw and the descendants of James Monroe Shaw. If they did, it would add further credence to it.

Whatever truth there may be in our Scottish origins tradition, DNA testing has failed either to prove or disprove it. First of all, Jonathan A. Shaw's 37-marker test of his y-DNA seems to indicate an English origin for his family. As noted above, Jonathan Shaw's genealogical research traces him back to our Shaw family. However, the research of Paul H. Shaw also traces him back to another branch of our Shaw family. In the summer of 2012, Paul Shaw did a 67-marker test, which failed to find a match with any Shaws in the Shaw DNA Project. A comparison of Jonathan's and Paul's y-DNA with that of known Scottish Shaw families yields no matches with Shaw families of known Scottish descent. Surprisingly, Paul's Shaws belong to the Irish Type IV sub-clade, which includes Anglo-Norman families who settled in Ireland in the 1100s and 1200s A.D. The closest matches to Paul's y-DNA turned out to be members of the O'Sheas or Sheas (or Shees) of the area of Counties Tipperary and Kilkenny, traditionally known as one of the Ten Tribes of Kilkenny. Additional analysis indicates that his Shaws have a genetic connection specifically to the O'Sheas or Shees of South Tipperary. Subsequent y-DNA testing has confirmed that his Shaws did indeed branch off the O'Sheas or Shees of Tipperary/Kilkenny.

In a 29 July 2012 email, Dick Shea of Texas, one of the administrators of the O'Shea DNA Project, offered these preliminary comments on the closeness of Paul's y-DNA test results to that of the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas:

"The simplest explanation is that your family were descended from Kilkenny Shees/Sheas. This family was well off, and at least one was knighted (Sir Richard Shee). It wouldn't be surprising if some members of the family moved to England, and then moved to America shortly after the Pilgrims. . . . Since the Kilkenny O'Sheas were probably Anglo/Norman, it is possible that the Shaws and the Shees had a common ancestor in, say, the 11th century, and your family stayed in England while the Shees moved to Ireland. I would tend to believe the simpler explanation that your family were an English branch of the Shee family, particularly since Shea and Shaw sound so much alike. I think this is very interesting!! It's a whole new concept to think of some O'Shea relatives in America in the early 1600's."

In a second email of 29 July 2012, another O'Shea DNA Project administrator, Margaret Jordan, explained that additional testing was needed to confirm that Paul's Shaws had once been Irish Shees or Sheas:

"We have found that the Tipperary/Kilkenny Group of O'Sheas (also Shees and Sheas) matches several other surnames even at 67 markers. We don't fully understand how all the surnames such as Coker, Allen, Fletcher, Burton, etc., match these O'Sheas at 67 markers but to me it looks like a late adoption of surnames in the country where these people settled in Norman times. However, not all of these surnames are connected with Ireland. With a name like Shaw it is possible that it was Shea. Some of the surnames matching the Sheas of Tipperary/Kilkenny are English and a few are continental, hence the description 'Irish Type 4/Continental' for the cluster."

In other words, based only upon the initial results of his 67-marker y-DNA test, his Shaws could have been a branch of the Shees or O'Sheas of the Tipperary/Kilkenny area of Ireland, or our Shaws could have shared a common male ancestor with the Kilkenny O'Sheas -- an ancestor who lived before the Shees/Sheas came to Ireland in the late 1100s A.D., and who left male-line descendants in England who became the ancestors of our Shaws. In an email of 30 July 2012, the third administrator of the O'Shea DNA Project, James O'Shea, wisely advised against assuming too readily that his Shaws had once been O'Sheas:

"[Paul Shaw] does have a 7/8 match with the eight signature markers of the Irish Type IV, and he would thus appear to belong to it. However he only distantly matches our Kilkenny/Tipperary group so any relationship is very distant. Unfortunately not too many of the group have tested to Y67 so it's hard to be too emphatic. I see the Shaw surname itself appears to be Anglo-Saxon with only a relatively recent history in Ireland. If the date of 1597 for the birth of the ancestor is correct it's actually hard to believe that his father could have been an Irish arrival from S.E. Ireland. It's just too early. I think we would have to be very cautious on assuming your cousin is a Shea/Shee. While of course possible, it's more likely he is of the same Norman extraction as were the Shea/Shees and just ended up with a similar sounding surname. We will probably never know."

As explained above, the Shaw surname originated in Britain as an Anglo-Saxon placename in England and the Scottish Lowlands, but as a Gaelic patronymic in the Scottish Highlands. In Ireland, Shaw families are almost always relatively recent arrivals, descended from Englishmen or Scots who settled in Ireland within the past four centuries. Therefore, as James O'Shea said, it would be unusual for a Shaw family to be descended from an Irishman named Shee/Shea who had settled in England prior to 1600. However, human history is full of strange and unexpected events, and the period from 1200 to 1600 offers more than enough time for a scion of the Tipperary/Kilkenny Shees/O'Sheas to have arisen in Ireland and migrated to England. The similarity of "Shaw" and "Shea" could have just been a remarkable coincidence, but further analysis and testing of Paul's Shaw y-DNA has established that his surname was changed in the course of history from "Shee" or "Shea" to "Shaw."

James O'Shea's preliminary appraisal of our DNA results -- that Paul H. Shaw "only distantly matches our Kilkenny/Tipperary group" -- was in contrast (but not necessarily contradiction) with that of his fellow project administrator Dick Shea, who said in an email of 29 July 2012, "I agree they are very close to the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea modal." Study of the human Y chromosome has shown that "very close" test results nevertheless often mean only a "distant" kinship with other families within the same group. Thus, according to a Family Tree DNA report dated 30 July 2012, based on then-available y-DNA results, there was a 92.42% probability that Paul H. Shaw and a fellow participant in the O'Shea DNA Project surnamed "Shea" shared a common male ancestor 16 generations ago (that is, the common ancestor lived in the 1400s or 1500s), but a 99.88% probability that they shared a common ancestor 28 generations ago (that is, the common ancestor lived in the 1200s or 1300s).

Further DNA testing refines and alters calculations of probability, however. Thus, the analysis of the results of a 111-marker test of Paul H. Shaw's y-DNA completed in April 2013 again yields a 92.42% probability that Paul and the same "Shea"-surnamed individual shared a common male ancestor 16 generations ago, but a 99.48% probability that they share a common male ancestor 24 generations ago (that is, the common ancestor lived in the 1300s). This means his Shaws are male-line descendants of the Sheas/Shees of Tipperary/Kilkenny who branched off anywhere from the 1300s to the 1500s. As Margaret Jordan informed me on 5 April 2013:

"One Shea, one Shaw and one Allen have results for 111 markers in the Tipperary/Kilkenny Group to date. These indicate that all are connected subsequent to the origin of the Shee/Shea surname within this group. This is good news for Shaw and Allen. We await one more O'Shea result. There is no pattern in the small number of mutations in the 38-111 set of markers and two of these mutations are on volatile markers."

In early May 2013, an O'Shea belonging to the Tipperary/Kilkenny group also obtained 111-marker y-DNA test results. The O'Shea results indicate that his branch did not belong to the South Tipperary subgroup of this family.

Now, calculations of probability aside, it is remarkable that Paul's Shaw y-DNA does not closely match any other results in the Shaw DNA Project. Perhaps that is because his English or Scottish Shaw kin have not yet submitted their DNA for testing, or perhaps his English or Scottish Shaw kin are extinct in the male line. But it more likely means that his Shaws, having originally been Irish Shees/Sheas who moved to England, did not live in England under the surname of "Shaw" long enough for collateral branches of his family to arise in England or Scotland. (This is in contrast to Jonathan A. Shaw's results, which suggest a possible English origin due to the presence of a known English Shaw in the Shaw DNA Project whose results are close to Jonathan Shaw's.) Along with the possible implications of the lack of any close matches with other Shaws, in an email dated 8 Aug. 2012, Margaret Jordan informed Paul H. Shaw of a possibly significant development in the further comparison of our Shaw y-DNA with that of the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas:

"I have been studying the results for the Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Sheas in conjunction with others of the same y-haplotype and I spotted that some of them, noticeably those of South Tipperary, have a value of 12 on DYS392. This value is very rare in this cluster (13 is typical) and I believe the mutation from 13 to 12 occurred in Ireland. There is more work to be done but so far it looks like this marker is a very good indicator of having Irish ancestry in common with the Tipperary O'Sheas."

If further y-DNA testing continues to support these findings, it would strengthen the conclusion that Paul's Shaws were of Irish descent, because his DNA results show a value of 12 on marker DYS392. Furthermore, in August 2012, Paul H. Shaw had additional analysis and testing of his y-DNA conducted, in order to see if his Shaws have significant identifying "single nucleotide polymorphisms" (SNPs) that would more precisely place him in the human family tree. Margaret Jordan comments on Paul Shaw's SNP test results in an email dated 21 Aug. 2012:

"Your SNP results put you firmly into the subclade of L21, which is Z253+. This subclade (Z253+) is divided into separate clusters, some of which have further SNPs which differentiate them from other Z253+ people. The cluster which your pattern of ySTRs (results for yDNA markers) places you, also includes people with surnames other than O'Shea and we are finding that a few of these people have close STR matches to O'Sheas at 67 markers and we are working to understand this more fully. However, as I mentioned before, DYS392=12 is very rare in this cluster and appears to represent a South Tipperary branch of the O'Sheas. You also have 12 (not 13) on DYS392. Note that Shea, Shee and O'Shea are interchangeable in the Tipperary/Kilkenny Group."

In emails on the same day, Jordan's fellow project administrator James O'Shea also commented, "Your confirmation of Z253+ does strengthen the possibility of your being of our Tipperary/Kilkenny group," while the third project administrator Dick Shea explained his own analysis (emphasis added):

"I copied the results from the L21 Project into a spreadsheet. Sheet 1 in the attached spreadsheet shows the distribution of the values for each marker in the L21 group. This helps understand how quickly the various markers mutate, and also shows how common or rare a given value is for each marker. I've put Paul's results alongside the Tipperary group in Sheet 2. I then put the percentages of the L21 group that match Paul or the Tipperary group's value for each marker. As you can see, Paul matches all the rare values of the markers that the Tipperary group has, so there is no doubt in my mind that he belongs to that group."

In a subsequent email to Paul H. Shaw dated 21 Aug. 2012, Dick Shea reiterated his conclusion: "I agree that you match almost all of the rare values for the [Tipperary/Kilkenny O'Shea] group, so there is little doubt that you belong to it."

Additional SNP testing has confirmed that Paul's Shaws are L1066+, which further strengthens the classification of his Shaws as members of the Irish Type IV/Continental subclade. In an email of 20 Sept. 2012, Margaret Jordan told Paul H. Shaw:

"It is fairly certain that all 'Irish Type IV' people are L1066 thanks to you and the others who tested on this SNP (Shee, also in the O'Shea yDNA Project has tested L1066+)."

A further SNP test has shown that his Shaws are L2183+, but the implications of that test result cannot yet be discerned. So far, only men who belong to the L1066 group have tested positive for the L2183 single nucleotide polymorphism, while all the L1066- men who have tested for L2183 have found that they do not have this SNP. In an email to Margaret Jordan dated 25 Oct. 2012, Greg Hockings, one of the administrators of the R-Z253 DNA Project, commented on current understanding of the Z2183 SNP:

"So we still don't know if Z2183 is upstream or downstream from L1066; at present they're equivalent. We do know that both Z2183 and L1066 are downstream from Z2185 and Z2184."

A further development in Paul Shaw's genetic testing occurred in March 2014, when Paul learned that his y-DNA had tested positive for an SNP called CTS9881. The significance of this SNP is that it appears to be specific to individuals who belong to the Irish Type IV/Continental sub-clade. In an email of 8 Feb. 2014, Greg Hockings said to Paul:

"Two L1066+ persons, McElroy (157233) and Barry (288343), who fit the Irish Type 4 STR signature, have tested positive for CTS9881 in their Chromo 2 results. McElroy has now confirmed this result by testing with FTDNA by Sanger sequencing, currently the gold standard for SNP testing. Importantly, twelve other L1066+ persons who have their Chromo 2 results and do not fit the Irish Type 4 STR signature did not have CTS9881 listed among their positive SNPs. So it looks as though CTS9881 is specific for Irish Type 4 and probably covers all or most of this subclade, as the Genetic Distance between McElroy and Barry at 67 markers is 13. Therefore we can conclude that CTS9881 is a new terminal SNP downstream of L1066."

Then, after Paul Shaw was determined to be CTS9881+, Hockings told Paul in an email of 17 March 2014, "Your result is consistent with CTS9881 being specific for Irish Type 4. It will be interesting to see the Big Y results for type 4 and also the rest of L1066 to see if this holds up."

Based on genetic testing, then, Paul Shaw's prehistoric male lineage traces back to a man whose Y chromosome had the M269 single nucleotide polymorphism. Among that man's descendants was a man who had the L23 SNP. He in turn had a male descendant who had the L11/S127 SNP, from whom descended a man with the P312/S116 SNP. That man had a descendant who acquired the L21 SNP, and from him descended a man with the DF13 SNP. Among his male-line descendants was a man who had the Z253 SNP, and from him descended a man with the Z2185 SNP. From that man descended the male ancestor of the vast, ancient L1066 family, which includes the Irish Type IV/Continental sub-clade -- a genealogical group that includes Anglo-Norman families, and from whom Paul's Shaw family descends in the direct male line. Members of the Irish Type IV/Continental sub-clade apparently all have the CTS9881 SNP. Researchers have offered speculation about when and where these male ancestors, who are known today only by the classification codes of single nucleotide polymorphisms on the Y chromosomes of their male descendants, may have lived. The general picture is one of gradual migration over several thousands of years from the Middle East to Central Asia, then west into Europe by way of Scythia (modern Ukraine), eventually reaching Northwest Europe, and finally arriving in Britain and Ireland. But such great uncertainty attaches to this speculation that I can only feel safe to say that God alone knows who they were, and just when and where and how they lived.

To sum up, then, here are three hypothetical interpretations of the data regarding our Shaw family history, Shaw y-DNA, and our family tradition of Scottish ancestry:

* Our Shaws are an English family who moved to the Lowlands of Scotland at some unknown time during the Middle Ages, and then moved back south to England in the late Middle Ages or Renaissance, and finally joined a company of Puritan colonists headed to Massachusetts, or,

* Our Shaws are an English family who joined a company of Puritan colonists headed to Massachusetts, and later acquired a mistaken belief that they had originally been Scottish, or,

* Our Shaws are a branch of the Shees/Sheas of Tipperary/Kilkenny who moved to Scotland at some unknown time during the Middle Ages, and then moved south to England in the late Middle Ages or Renaissance, and finally joined a company of Puritan colonists headed to Massachusetts, or,

* Our Shaws are a branch of the Shees/Sheas of Tipperary/Kilkenny who moved to England at some unknown time during the Middle Ages or Renaissance, and then joined a company of Puritan colonists headed to Massachusetts. They remembered that they were originally not English but forgot that they had been Irish, and wrongly came to believe that they had been Scottish -- perhaps due to a garbled memory of a female-line Scottish descent, or perhaps there was confusion over the name "Scot," which formerly meant "Irish," or,

* Perhaps our Shaws are a branch of the Shees/Sheas of Tipperary/Kilkenny who moved to England at some unknown time during the Renaissance. Encountering English Protestant bigotry against Irish Catholics, they became Protestants and decided to cover up their Irish origins by claiming to be of Scottish descent and by changing their surname from Shee/Shea to Shaw, and then joined a company of Puritan colonists headed to Massachusetts.

Going on what we know at this time, any of those five scenarios is possible and can account for our genetic link to the O'Sheas, the similarity of "Shea" and "Shaw," and our tradition of Scottish origins.

Whatever the case, our earliest known ancestor John Shaw lived among English colonists and he and his descendants were fully assimilated into the English colonial culture of Massachusetts. If John was Irish or Scottish or both, he and his family quickly became "Englished" in New England. Again, if he was Scottish he more likely was a Lowlander who spoke a Scots English dialect, not a Gaelic-speaking Highlander -- or if he was Irish, he could also speak English (as could some Shees/Sheas of Kilkenny). If John Shaw was born a Shee or Shea, and knew of his Irish origins, he certainly could have changed his name -- as an Irishman living among and working with English Puritans, even a Protestant Irishman, he would definitely not have wanted to advertise that he or his father had come from Tipperary or Kilkenny.

----------

Genealogy Trails -- Lee County, Illinois
Lee County Historical Society
The Shaw DNA Project
The O'Shea Y-DNA Surname Project
O'Shea Surname: O'Shea, Shea, Shay y-DNA and Family History Weblog
Clan Shaw Official Homepage

The O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny (Part One)
The O'Sheas of Tipperary and Kilkenny (Part Two)

Ten Generations of the Shaw Family (Part One) Ten Generations of the Shaw Family (Part Two) Ten Generations of the Shaw Family (Part Three) Ten Generations of the Shaw Family (Part Four) Ten Generations of the Shaw Family (Part Five)

Return to Website Index


You may contact me with genealogical questions by clicking here.