Records of the Family of Sclater

Claude Sclater

Preface

Records of the Family of Sclater was originally published privately in 1966 after extensive research into the family history by Claude Edward Lutley Sclater. In what must have been an expensive exercise a small number of copies of the book were printed for the family, both in hardback and paperback format. Little could Claude have envisaged that several decades later a universal and virtually free publishing medium in the form of the Internet would come into existence and begin to replace the printed text as the primary means for genealogical publication. Were he researching our history today Claude would be an avid Internet user, accessing family records through digital archives where possible and establishing contact with cousins and others using social media. In an attempt to preserve his work for future generations and for anyone interested in Sclater family history Claude’s book has now been digitised by his eldest grandson, born just in time to receive a mention in the printed volume.

Claude’s introduction makes interesting reading and now itself feels very much from a different era. In the 1960s there was a stronger identification with the concept of the patrilineal line of descent and the name which went with it. Ancestry brought social status and allowed you to place yourself within society. Marrying “well” allowed you to maintain or enhance this status. We now inhabit a rapidly changing world of complex non-nuclear families, women retaining their maiden names or simply co-habiting, children adopting their mothers’ surnames, and the increasing social, economic and political status of women. All this has contributed to the decline in importance of the surname as a rallying point for the family, while status in society is increasingly defined by money and fame rather than breeding.

Genetically of course the family name was always irrelevant. While in the 21st Century a descendant of Philip Lutley Sclater might take some pride in the achievements of his great great grandfather, the Victorian provides only 1/16th of his genes. The other fifteen of his ancestors at this level have entirely different surnames but are of potentially equal relevance to his genetic make-up.

There is however more to a family than genetics. Ancestors who pass on their names to you will inevitably have more importance in your perception than those whose names you have barely or never heard of. The concept of the family based on a single surname is perpetuated by our need to establish identity and to feel part of a tribe. Claude, in the pursuit of his own genealogy, must have felt this need more acutely than most, and hence developed an extraordinary interest in and knowledge of his ancestors.

An undercurrent throughout the book is a quest to discover greatness in our origins, an understandable objective when faced with little more than names, dates and wills, particularly in the earlier generations. A long line of Sclater churchmen and landowners achieved a measure of social recognition and economic success. Claude’s work includes details of a few colourful and talented individuals such as Eliza Sclater, who developed a strong friendship with the Anglo-Irish novelist Laurence Sterne. It is with Philip Lutley Sclater however that the family reached its apogee of worldly achievement. Philip was undoubtedly our most successful ancestor by most measures, building up a vast number of publications throughout his life, worldwide recognition for his knowledge of zoology and ornithology, a friend to Darwin and other prominent scientists, and a fellow of the Royal Society and many foreign scientific societies, with more than forty species named after him. Meanwhile his brother, George, was a Westminster politician for thirty years and became the first Lord Basing.

Philip's son, William Lutley Sclater, followed in his father’s zoological footsteps but was not, at least in Claude’s eyes, quite of Philip’s calibre. Claude’s disappointment at the lesser success of his father’s generation and still less his own is interesting; while his own life was not undistinguished he perhaps felt that he himself had failed to live up to the standards of excellence set by his grandfather.

There was presumably still even in Claude’s day a greater importance attached to the ancestral home, giving further relevance to the concept of patrilineal descent and the family name. His regret at the losses of Hoddington and Tangier Park is clear; the importance he gives to these properties is evident in the subtitle of the book. Claude’s own descendants (now numbering more than thirty) are currently dispersed across England, Scotland, Australia and Canada. Little is known about some of our ancestors other than a few dates and details of the property they passed to the next generation. Ultimately of course it is only the genes that are passed to our distant descendants.

There are currently no particularly famous or distinguished people of the name “Sclater”. This does not necessarily matter; success is perhaps better measured by living an interesting life, contributing in some positive way to society or raising children to the point where they are capable of producing the next generation. Nevertheless, the achievements of our ancestors can provide inspiration for us and our children. Claude’s urging of us to “regain the impetus of [our] forebears” is a clear challenge to his own descendants.

While the earlier chapters necessarily contain somewhat bare facts and figures, the works and travels of more recent generations are of great interest and require further research. We are indebted to Claude for his diligent efforts in visiting various churches, offices and libraries to establish our origins and set them out in this volume. His work is presented in the current edition virtually intact with the additions of this preface, a few footnotes, updated images and some new pedigree charts to obtain a quick overview at the start of each chapter. A further edition is planned with updates on Claude’s descendants.

Technical note

This e-book was created using Calibre v1.41.0, with a lot of tweaking of the xhtml by hand. Images are in JPG format and were either scanned from the book, photographed, or in one case sourced from the Internet. The new pedigrees were created using familyecho.com. Images were edited using pixlr.com. The book is provided in the following formats:

  1. EPUB3 - validated using the validator at idpf.org and tested with various ebook readers on the Android and iPad platforms
  2. MOBI – created automatically using Calibre and tested on a Kindle
  3. PDF – laboriously hand-crafted from an RTF export from Calibre

It is likely that these versions may be rendered strangely or become unreadable on future platforms, however software will hopefully be available to convert the book into new formats.

Niall Lutley Sclater
Seven miles from Leighton Buzzard
June 2014

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