top of page

Getting my Scots-Irish line back to Ireland

A few weeks ago I wrote about Brick Walls. I have a number of them on both sides of the Pond. I've been working recently on my Shaw family from Fayette County, Pennsylvania. I started with two items on my Research Plan. First, to re-read everything I had in my files, which also gave me the opportunity to scan items or in some cases to pull down digitized copies of records from online sources. I began working on this family in the 1990s so my paper files had census records, both photocopies and transcriptions, which I could easily pull down from online databases and throw out the extra paper. One thing I did keep was the full pension file I copied at the National Archives for my 2x great uncle, Robert D. Shaw...don't forget the collaterals. Some of this material is now online at Fold3, but later on I'll compare that with what I have.

At the same time I was going through the file, I was adding items to my Research Plan as well as creating a Timeline. Putting items in the Timeline generated additional questions and more items to be added to my Research Plan.

One of the next items on my Research Plan was a review of material, including online trees. Now there's a rabbit hole! Remember, that online trees can be great hints, but you shouldn't add anything to your family tree until you've confirmed the information. One of the biggest errors in the online family trees is the assumption that William Shaw was married to Ruth Haney and that the children are his. Wrong! I can't blame people for that assumption as I made it myself when I started. The fact is that Ruth Haney was married to Robert Shaw who died about 1846 when she relinquished the administration of his estate. In the 1850 census, the first nominal census, Ruth is living in the household of William Shaw (indexed as Shane) with her unmarried children, Frances, Sarah and Robert D., and her two married daughters and their husbands, Eliza and Perry Gaddis, and Margaret and Robert McDowell (my 3x great grandparents). William was an Inn/Tavern Keeper who never married. Remember to do an exhaustive search of the records, including all of the collaterals. By following all of the children through to their deaths, I was able to confirm that their father was as Robert (not William).

It's important to correlate information that you have, with what you find to make certain that it fits. I just came across a record that had someone dying at 128 years old...not likely. Does your information make sense? Remember that my objective is to get the family back to a location in Ireland. I was helped by the Shaw Family document I identified in my October 26th blog that was completed by a descendant of David Shaw, my Robert's younger brother. In it, he identified the parents of Robert Shaw (born in Ireland) as Robert (I'm going to identify him as Sr to ease the confusion) and Jane Downey. One of the family trees I viewed goes on to identify the father of Robert Sr as Victor Shaw. A Victor Shaw does live in Fayette County, but the tree indicates Victor was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and married in Maryland. My Robert naturalized in Fayette County in 1825 indicating he was born in Antrim, Ireland and emigrated in 1794. It is very unlikely that Victor, born and married in the US could have been his grandfather. That's not to say that there couldn't be a relationship, but it is unlikely that Victor is the father of Robert Sr.

Another one of the items on my Research Plan is to research the other Shaws and Downeys in Fayette. People typically emigrated to a place where they knew someone. What took the Shaws to Fayette County? I haven't found my Robert in the 1800 census so they may have stopped somewhere else on the way West. It's also interesting that when they do show up in the census, they are not indicated as working in agriculture, so what was Robert Sr's occupation? Robert (Jr) was the Steward of the Poor House in Union Township, and his brother William, was a Deputy Sheriff as well as a Tavern Keeper. More questions.

But that's what it's all about...questions! I'll keep you posted.

Happy Hunting and Stay Safe!

The holiday sales have begun. Check out the Promotions Page to see what's happening!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page