Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Shaw Name
Shaw Surname Name Meaning, Origin, History, & Etymology
This is a topographic/habitational last name meaning “at the shaw”, denoting a person who resides in or near a shaw, which is a term meaning a small wooded area or an open plain surrounded by trees. It is primarily a Scottish surname. Technically speaking, it is also a locational name denoting a person who was from a various towns and villages throughout England bearing the name Shaw (ex. Shaghe in Lancashire, Shaw in Berkshire, etc.). The term derives from the Norse word skogr or Swedish word skog, meaning a wood, or from the Anglo-Saxon word scua, a shade or a place shadowed or sheltered by trees, or from the Old English sceaga and Middle Engluish schage or schawe. One source also asserts that in its Irish and Scottish form, the name derives from various Gaelic last names that originate from the ancient personal (first) name Sitheac, meaning “wolf”, used by the clans of Pictish clans in ancient Scotland.
There were two distinct lines in Scotland, the Lowland Shaws and the Northern Shaws, each of which have distinct origins, the later of which is a branch of the Clan MacIntosh. It may also be a variant of O’Shea in Ireland. The English branch of the family established itself in Ireland in the seventeenth century.
In Scotland, the family was first found in Perthshire and became established on the eastern coast prior to the eleventh century AD. Some historians claim the family descends from the MacDuffs, whereas other genealogists believe they were present at the General Council held by King Malcom at Forfar in 1061 AD.
Common spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Shawe and Schaw. The name is also contained within several other surnames (ex. Bradshaw, Hinshaw, Ramshaw, Crenshaw, etc.). Similar foreign names include Schau (Danish), Schouw/Schowe (Dutch), and Schaugh (Flemish).
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Shaw ranks 150th in popularity in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following twelve states: Maine, Utah, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, Oregon, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Montana.
The surname Shaw frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (141st), Scotland (91st), Wales (136th), Ireland (525th) and Northern Ireland (173rd). In England, it ranks highest in counties Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire. In Scotland, the surname ranks highest in Invernessshire. In Wales, it ranks highest in counties Caernarfornshire and Denbighshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in county Westmeath. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in Down and Antrim.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (127th), New Zealand (62nd), Australia (93rd), and South Africa (491st).
The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “The great home of this name is in the West Riding, Cheshire, and Lancashire, and in the neighbouring northern midland counties of Derby, Stafford, and Notts. It is rare or absent in the south of England, excepting Sussex, and is similarly infrequent in the eastern coast counties south of the Wash. “Shaw” in Anglo – Saxon signified a small wood. In counties where the surname is numerous, as in Lancashire and Yorkshire, the name is attached to places. The Shaws are fairly represented in Scotland, but not in the northern part”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest known bearer of this surname was Simon de Schage who was documented in the Berkshire Pipe Rolls of 1191 AD. Other early bearers include Richard de la Schawe (Worcester 1275 AD, John ate Shaw (Essex 1295 AD), and William Bithe Shaghe (Somerset 1333 AD). John atte Schaghe was recorded in county Somerset in the year1327 AD in Kirby’s Quest. John atte Schawe was listed in the Rolls of Parliament. The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD lists four bearers of this last name: Johannes del Schagh, Radulph del Schagh, Alicia Shaghe, and Robertus del Schaghe. John de Schau witnessed the resignation of the lands of Aldhus, Scotland to the monks of Paisley in 1284 AD. In 1294 AD, William de Schaw witnessed a confirmation charter by James the Seneschal of Scotland to the church of Paisley. Symon del Schawe, Fergus del Shawe, and William de Shawe, all three designated “of the county of Lanark,” rendered homage in 1296 AD. John de Schawe was a burgess of Dundee in 1331 AD. An early baptism involving this name was Anthonie, son of Anthonie Shawe, at St. James Clerkenwell, London in 1608 AD.
Shaw Family Tree & Shaw Genealogy
Shaw of Arrowe Park
The Shaw genealogy of this line begins with Orho Nicholson, who built Carfazx and the Library of Christ Church, Oxon, descended from the Nicholsons of Heaton Norris. Several generations later came William Nicholson, an Esquire of Chadkirk and Springfield House who was a Major of the 2nd Lancashire Militia. In 1802, he married Hannah, daughter of Samuel Shaw, and had issue with her named William, John, Ralph, Cristopher, and Hannah Catherine. His son John assumed name Shaw in 1837 per the will of his maternal great-uncle, John Shaw of Liverpool. John Ralph Shaw was an Esquire of Arrowe Park, county Chester, England who was born in 1811. He was a Justice of the Peace, High Sheriff (1864), and Captain in the 1st Royal Lancashire Militia. In 1837, he married Fanny Harriet, daughter of Reverend William Cruttenden, and he fathered nine children with her as follows: William Otho Nicholson (Justice of Peace for Chester), John Arthur MacDougall (1851), Herbert Jocelyn Cruttenden (1856), Duncan Alfred Michael Legh (1857), Fanny Dorothea Nicholson, Florence Alice Stewart (married Captain H.H. Rawson of the Royal Navy), Annie Elizabeth Nicholson (married Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Hosken France Hayhurst of Davenham Hall), Mary Christine Nicholson, and Edith Hannah Nicholson. The Shaw Coat of Arms (erroneously called the Shaw Family Crest) is blazoned in heraldry as follows: Quarterly, 1st and 4th, argent, two chevronels between three lozenges ermines, for Shaw; 2nd and 3rd, azure, two bars ermine in chief three suns or, for Nicholson. Crests: 1st, Shaw, A dove bendy sinister of six argent and sable in the beak an olive branch proper the dexter leg resting on a lozenge; 2nd, Nicholson, Out of a ducal coronet gules a lion’s head ermine. Motto: Per castra ad astra.
Shaw of Bushy Park
The ancestry of this branch of the Shaw family tree traces back to William Shaw, who was born in Hampshire around 1651 AD, a man of Scottish descent that was a Captain in Sir Henry Ponsonby’s Regiment. He married a woman named Elizabeth and had four sons and one daughter with her. His eldest son was Richard Shaw of Ballinderry, county Tipperary, who was born in 1673 and in 1696 married Judith, daughter of Edward Briscowe of Timakilly, having six sons and three daughters with her. His eldest son was Robert Shaw of Sandpitts, born in 1698. In 1736, he married Mary, daughter of Bernard Markham of Fanningstown, and he died in 1758, leaving behind numerous issue, including William (married Ms. English and had issue with her named Robert, John, and Bernard), Thomas (of Clonmel, married Susanna, had issue), Robert, Rebecca (married William Briscoe). His son Robert was of Dublin and was a prominent merchant in said city. He married Mary Higgins and had issue with her as follows: Sir Robert (1st Baronet), Bernard (Collector of Cork, married Jane, daughter of Michael Westrop, had issue named Robert, Eyre, and others), Ponsonby (a banker in Dublin who married Alice Eade), Thomas (Captain of the 25th Light Dragoons), John (married Harriet Eade), Mary (married John Cathcart), and Charlotte (married Air William McMahon). He later married Priscilla Cecilia, daughter of Colonel Armitage of Ross, and had four issue with her: George (married Maria Chipendall), Lees (married Caroline Chipendall), Caroline (married Sir James Caleb Anderson), and Sylvia (married Mons Viennpt, an officer in the French Army). He died in 1796 and his son and heir was Robert. Sir Robert Shaw, 1st Baronet, was of the Dublin Militia and a Member of Parliament for Dublin, and was born in 1774. He was created a Baronet in 1821. He married Maria, daughter and heiress of Abraham Wilkinson of Bushy Park, and had two daughters and five sons with her. His sons were named Sir Robert (2nd Baronet), Sir Frederick (3rd Baronet), Beresford William (member of the 5th Regiment and a Major in the Dublin Milita), George Augustus (in Holy Orders), and Charles (married Mary Barton of Grove and had issue with her). He died in 1834 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Robert Shaw, 2nd Baronet. Several generations later came Sir Robert de Vere Shaw, 6th Baronet, of Bushy Park in county Dublin, Ireland was born in 1890 and was educated at Harrow and was a Lieutenant Colonel who served in World War I and II. He succeeded his father in 1927. In 1923, he married Dorothy Joan, daughter of Thomas Cross of Insetton House, Bellbroughton, and fathered two children with her: Robert (Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, born 1925) and John Frederick de Vere (born 1930). He was the son of Sir Frederick William Shaw, the 5th Baronet. The Shaw Arms (erroneously called the Shaw Family Shield) is blazoned in the European art of heraldry as follows: Or, on a chevron, engrailed, between three eagles displayed, sable, as many trefoils, slipped of the field. Crest: A hind’s head couped azure, the neck transpierced by an arrow, in bend, or, flighted argent. They were seated at Bushby Park, Terenure, county Dublin. They resided at Bodoni, Kona, Kenya Colony.
Shaw of Eltham
The Shaw ancestry of this branch of the Shaw family tree begins with William Shaw, who lived around 1443, and married Elizabeth, daughter of the Starkie family of Stretton, and had issue with her, including a son named Randal. Randal was of Haslington, Chester and he married Margery, daughter of Vernon, and had issue with her. His son was Roger, who married Alice, daughter of John Walker of Leigh Green. His son was Robert Shaw of Haslington and he married Alice, daughter of Humphrey Perrot and had issue with her. His son was Robert Shaw of Burgh of Southwark, Surrey, England who lived in 1633. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Domilawe of Mincing Lane, London, and he had three daughters and three sons with her. His second son was Sir John Shaw, 1st Baronet, of London who was a Member of Parliament for Lyme. He was created a Baronet in 1665. In 1660, he married Sarah, daughter of Joseph Ashe, and had issue with her: Sir John (2nd Baronet), Charles (the godson of King Charles II of England, married Elizabeth, daughter of Philip Harbord of Besthorpe), and Elizabeth (married King Gould). Sir John Shaw, 2nd Baronet, married Margery, daughter and heiress of Sir John Peak, and had issue with her as follows: John (3rd Baronet), William, Sarah (married William Smith), and Elizabeth (married Stephen, son of Sir Abel Ram). He later married Sarah, daughter and co-heir of William Paggen of London, and had three sons and six daughters with her. Several generations down the Shaw genealogy came Sir John James Kenward Shaw, 9th Baronet, of Eltham, county Kent, England who was born in 1895 and was a Commander in the Royal Navy who served in both World Wars. He succeeded his father in 1922. In 1921, he married Elizabeth Mary Theodora, daughter of Sir Robert Heywood Hughes, and had issue with her as follows: John Michel Robert (Captain of the Q.O. Royal W. Kent Regiment, served in WW2), Charles John Hughes, Stephen Bosanquet, Mary Elizabeth Helen (married Captain Patrick Henry Coates), Julia Alymer (served in WW2), Hermione Theodora, and Martha Mary. The Shaw Coat of Arms (sometimes mistakenly called the Shaw Family Crest or Shield) has the following heraldic blazon: Argent, a chevron between three fusils, ermines. Crest: Six arrows interlaced saltirewise or, flighted headed, tied together by a belt gules, buckle and pendant, gold. Motto: Vincit qui patitur. They resided at The White House, Fawkham, near Dartford, Kent, England.
Other Shaw Pedigree & Family Trees
Unk de Shawe was born in Scotland in 1280 AD. He had a son, also named Unk, who was born in Greenock, Stirlingshire in 1323 AD. He in turn had a son named Alexander Shaw (or de Shaw) who was born in the same town around 1349. He is turn had a son named James who was born in Greenock, Scotland around 1374. James married Mary De Annandio and had two issue with her: James Sauchie Shaw and Helen (Houston). His son Sir James Sauchie de Shawe was born in Clackmannanshire, Scotland around 1412. He was the Comptroller of the Royal Household of King James III, and he married twice: to Christian Bruce and Isabel Ross. His son John was born in Sauchie. He died in 1500 leaving a son named James. This Sir James Shaw was born before 1490 and he married Alison Home, with whom he had two sons: Alexander and John. His son Sir Alexander married Elizabeth Cunningham and he had four issue with her: James, John, Patrick, and Elizabeth. His son Sir James Shaw was born in Sauchie around 1520. He married Marjory Kirkcaldy and had three issue with her: James, John, and Elizabeth. His son James was born in Sauchie around 1516 and he married Eupham and later Margaret Meldrum, having fathered three children: Majorie, Alexander, and Katherine. His son Sir Alexander Shaw was born around 1590 and he married Helen Bruce, having issue with her as follows: Helen, James, Robert, William, Mary, George, and William.
James Shaw was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, England around 1470 AD. He married Christina Bruce and was the father of James Shaw of Northowram.
Early American and New World Settlers
Joseph Shaw, age 21, came to Virginia aboard the Plaine Joan in May 1635.
John Shawe, age 30, came to Virginia aboard the Phillip in June 1635.
Sara Shawe, age 18, came to Virginia aboard the Phillip in June 1635.
John Shawe, age 16, came to Virginia aboard the America in June 1635.
Anne Shawe, age 32, came to Virginia aboard the Assurance in July 1635.
William Shawe, age 25, came to Virginia aboard the Primrose in July 1635.
Abram Shawe, age 20, came to the Barbados aboard the Falcon in December 1635.
Annis Shaw came to Virginia aboard the Southampton in 1623, under the Muster of Abraham Peirsey Marchannt.
Thomas Shaw was a member of the governing council and assembly in the Sommer Islands in August 1673.
Other settlers in colonial America bearing this surname include Nicholas Shaw (Virginia 1618), , Abraham Shaw (Massachusetts 1637), Roger Shaw (Massachusetts 1636), Elizabeth Shaw (Virginia 1701),Ewen Shaw (South Carolina 1716), Angus Shaw (Virginia 1716), and Donald Shaw (South Carolina 1716).
In Canada, some of the earliest bearers of this last name were John, Thomas, and Sarah Shaw, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1760. In Australia, one of the first bearers was William Shaw, a convict from Middlesex, England who came to New South Wales (then a penal colony) aboard the Asia in 1820. In New Zealand, Elihu Shaw came to the city of Kaipara aboard the Coromandel in 1836.
Early Americans Bearing the Shaw Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory (1927) contains two entries for this surname:
1) Azure three covered dishes 2 and 1 [or]. Crest: a phoenix rising from flames. Motto: Dum spire spero. Bookplate T. A. Shaw.
2) Or on a chevron sable between three eagles displayed of the second three cinquefoils slipped or. The badge of Ulster. Crest: a fawn’s head couped azure wounded by an arrow [or]. Motto: Te ipsum nosce. Bookplate —– Shaw, N. Y.
Crozier’s General Armory (1904) and Matthew’s American Armoury and Bluebook (1907) do not contain an entry for this last name.
I have identified 13 Shaw family mottos:
1) Sans changer (Without changing)
2) Laetitia et spe immortalitatis (With joy and hope of immortality)
3) Per castra ad astra (Through hardships to the stars)
4) Te ipsum nosce (Know thyself) (Shaw of Dublin)
5) Vincit amor patriae (He conquers who endures)
6) I mean well
7) Bene denoto (Well denote (?) )
8) I die for those I love
9) Au fait (In fact)
10) Aut mors aut rita decora (Either death or honourable life)
11) Mens immota (A constant mind)
12) Spero meliora (I hope for better things)
13) Dum spire spero (While I breathe, I hope)
We have 29 coats of arms for the Shaw surname depicted here. These 29 blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People with this last name that bore an Shaw Coat of Arms (or mistakenly called the Shaw Family Crest)
1) Edward Shaw, Proctor, Court of Arches, 21 June 1698
2) Robert Shaw of Ardesley, county York, son of Robert, served in the Duke of Northumberand’s Royal Regiment of Horse, 4 December 1707
3) Thomas Shaw, son of Thomas, Coventry and Coundon, county Warwick, 1781
4) Shaw, late Nicholson, John Ralph, of Arrow Hall, co. Chester, 1837
5) Shaw, of Winterdyne, Ribbesford, co. Worc., 1867
6) Bentley, of county York and Woodfield House, Scotswood 1874, arms for wife, Jane Elizabeth, only daughter of John Lancaster, 1874
7) Shaw-Yates, Ernest Bentley, of Oakwood House, county York, 1865
8) George Shaw, son of Seth, of Stamfordham, county Northumberland, and Fairleigh, Thames Ditton, county, Surrey, 1879
9) Shaw, no Hellier, Reverend Thomas, of Woodhouse, county Stafford, Quarterly Arms, 13 July 1786
10) of Coseby, county Stafford, Quarterly Arms, 1786
11) Shaw before Lefevre, Charles, of Lincoln’s Inn, London 1789
12) Charles Shaw Lefevre, Viscount Eversley, 11 April 1857
13) Shaw, of Gower Street, Lonon, 1794
14) Sir James Shaw, Member of Parliament, Lord Mayor of London, 1806
15) Shaw, late Macfie, John, nephew of the Lord Mayor of London, 1807
16) Shawe, before Brooke, Reverend John K., of county Kent, Quarterly Arms, with Kennard, 1797
17) Shawe to Shawe-Storey, Laurence, P., of Arcot, Cramlington, county Northumberland, Captain, Bengal Marines, 1873.
There are hundreds of notable people with the Shaw surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) who was an Irish playwright and critic who was very influential in his contributions to Western theatre, politics, and culture, known for works such as Man and Superman, Pygmalion, and Saint Joan, 2) George Clymer Shaw (1866-1960) who was an Brigadier General in the United States Army, born in Pontiac, Michigan, who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Philppine-American War, and also served in World War I, 3) Aaron Shaw (1811-1887) who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois who was from Goshen, New York, 4) Anna Howard Shaw (1847-1919) who was a leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, having been born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, and was also one of the first ordained female ministers in the US, 5) Artie Shaw 1910-2004), whose birth name was Arthur Jacob Arshawsky, was an American composer, band leader, clarinet player, and actor from New York City who was active during the big band years, 6) William Lewis “Billy” Shaw (1938) was an American college and professional football player from Vicksburg, Mississippi who was played offensive guard for the Buffalo Bills for much of the 1960s, 7) Brewster Hopkinson Shaw Jr. (1945) who was an astronaut and U.S. Air Force Colonel and former Boeing executive from Cass City, MI, 8) Robert Gould Shaw II (1872-1930) was a wealthy landowner and socialist in Boston and Massachusetts who was a prominent figure in the Gilded Age, 9) Caroline Adelaide Shaw (1982) who is a violinist, singer, and composer based in New York who won a Pulitzer Price and was born in Greenville, North Carolina, 10) Esther Popel Shaw (1896-1958) who was a female African-American poet of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as an educator and activist, and 11) Richard Norman (1831-1912) who was a Scottish architect, born in Edinburgh, known for his commercial buildings and country houses.