Matrilineality

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Matrilineality is a system in which lineage is traced through the mother and maternal ancestors. Matrilineality also is a societal system in which one belongs to one's matriline or mother's lineage, which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles.

A matriline is a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant (of either sex) in which the individuals in all intervening generations are mothers. In a matrilineal descent system an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as her or his mother. This matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the more common modern pattern of patrilineal descent from which a Family name is usually derived.

The matriline of historical nobility was also called her or his enatic or uterine ancestry, to match the patrilineal agnatic ancestry treated in depth in the article Patrilineality.

In some ancient cultures, membership in their groups was (and still is if in bold) inherited matrilineally. Example cultures include the Cherokee, Gitksan, Haida, Hopi, Iroquois, Lenape, and Navajo of North America; the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia; the Nairs and the Bunts of Kerala and Karnataka in south India; the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo of Meghalaya in northeast India; the Mosuo of China; the Basques of Spain and France; the Akan of west Africa; and the Tuaregs of west and north Africa. Some of these examples are discussed in this article, see Contents below.

Throughout this article, matrilineal complications caused by adoptions or other exceptions are ignored, for readability.

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