Shaw & O’Donnell – an interfaith marriage that divides a family

The phrase, “beyond the ministration of the Christian ministry”, used in reference to Shaw family by the Methodist Newspaper in 1892, may be an adept description of two periods of young Ann Shaw’s life.

Ann Shaw, my 3x great-grandmother, and the subject of this story, was five years old when she arrived in Australia with her parents, Alexander and Kerstine Shaw. It is said that Alexander and Kerstine were victims of the Highland Clearances (which basically amounts to ethnic cleansing in todays terms). Whether by force or choice, the couple brought their three daughters out to Australia, from the Isle of Skye, on board the Midothia, arriving in 1837. The children they brought with them were Ann (5), Christina (3) and Margaret (1). Shortly after their arrival they took up residence on the Murrumbidgee River near Yass. This would prove to be a remote and isolating place for a young family and the area was not, at the time, covered by the Christian church circuit. Father Alexander was of the Presbyterian faith when he arrived in Australia, later becoming a member of the Wesleyan Church. So, when Alexanders oldest daughter, Ann (at age 16) married, without her parents blessing, an Irish Catholic named John O’Donnell (26 years old) in 1848, you can imagine the families’ response. This may have begun a second period of isolation for Ann, further removed from the Christian ministry and the understanding of her father. Family tradition suggests that Ann was cut out of the family inheritance due to the interfaith marriage, and the absence of her name in documentation detailing Alexanders last will and testament appears to support this claim.

Ann and husband John initially settled at ‘Glenbower’ on the Murrumbidgee River. Family tradition tells that their son Edward later moved to West Wyalong where he ‘struck gold’, encouraging this parents to join him. It was here in West Wyalong that Ann and John later died; buried in the Catholic section of the local cemetery.

O'Donnell_John&Ann(nee Shaw)
Left: said to be Ann O’Donnell (nee Shaw). Right: said to be John O’Donnell (both images were received from a third party)

Alexander and Kerstine Shaw moved from Yass to Dalton late in life, where they died and were buried in the cemetery behind the then Methodist Church; now the Uniting Church.


Note: Ann’s younger sister, Christina married another of my direct ancestors, John Wheatley (my 3xgreat-grandfather) after the death of his first wife. The family connections can be seen in the abridged family tree below.

Shaw O'Donnell and Wheatley - Page 1
(click to enlarge)

Individuals discussed in this post:
Alexander Shaw b.1810 d.1892
Kerstine Shaw (nee Ross) b.1810 d.1884
Ann O’Donnell (nee Shaw) b.1832 d.1899
John O’Donnell b.1822 d.1896
Christina Wheatley (nee Shaw) b.1837 d.1919
John Wheatley b.1823 d.1916

Methodist Newspaper, (1892). In Memoriam. Saturday 18 June, page 8. Sydney, NSW.

See also:
Wheatley Family Tree
Blog Post: Three Wheatleys


One thought on “Shaw & O’Donnell – an interfaith marriage that divides a family

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  1. Hello , John O’Donnell and Ann Shaw were also my Great Great Grandparents . I am thrilled to find this photo of them , ( I am still hoping one day to find one of my Grandfather Jack .)
    Their eldest son Edward was my Great Grandfather, his son John William (Jack) my Grandfather. My Dad was Errol Bernard.
    I have travelled to Uig Isle of Skye to be where Ann Shaw left as a young child.
    Sad that she was cut off by her father for marrying John .
    Margaret Beazley née O’Donnell


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