The Shaw family came to Plymouth, MA in the 1600's and quickly spread throughout what is now Plymouth County. My ancestors lived in all the typical Shaw towns - Plympton, Carver and Middleboro. Many of my aunts, uncles and cousins are still in the area.
My cousin Kenny certainly has done his best to put together the Shaw family puzzle. He has worked on practically every single line from Plymouth, as well as many others.
As for me, I tend to keep it simple. I save cluster genealogy for brick walls or post-1850 relationships. It can get far too confusing otherwise! Moreso with all the Josephs in the Shaw family (and the Bartlett family... but that is a post for a later date).
Starting with my great-grandfather and going back, I have a pretty simple line there:
1. Erastus Bartlett Shaw who married Emma Anna Murphy (my great-great grandma - the bane of my genealogical existence... ARGH! More about her later this week)
2. Harrison Shaw & Adaline Crocker Bent
3. Joseph Shaw, Jr. & Sarah Murdock
4. Joseph Shaw & Lydia Shaw (yup, another line that comes back around on itself; but who doesn't have tons of 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins who married each other?)
5. Nathaniel Shaw & Hannah Perkins
6. Jonathan Shaw, Jr. & Elizabeth Atwood
7. Jonathan Shaw & Mehitabell Pratt (I can't stand the name "Mehitabell" because the spelling variations are ridiculous)
8. Jonathan Shaw & Phebe Watson
9. John Shaw who came to Plymouth in the 1600's, but whose origins are unknown at this point.
I am glad that documentation in Massachusetts is plentiful. The Vital Records to 1850 series is extremely useful when it comes to the Shaw family; both Carver and Plympton give me almost all the births, marriages and deaths I need. When it comes to Middleboro, I feel fortunate that their vital records were indexed and placed online (in PDF format) by the Middleborough Public Library a few summers ago.
That was probably one of my most fortunate genealogical encounters... I think it was the summer of 2003 or 2004. I was sitting on the floor of the Middleboro Town Hall at their filing cabinet, going through births, deaths, and marriages on my Haley family (also a story for another day).
A woman was sitting at a laptop and told me that if I needed a certain group of index cards to let her know. I asked what she was doing, and she told me she was an employee of the library, transcribing the index cards to go online through the library's website.
It is funny to think of all the pleasant hours spent trudging through cemeteries, chatting with town clerks, and scrolling through microfilm in musty libraries, only to find a few years later that what you discovered then is available online now.
But I wouldn't trade those types of memories for the world. :-)