List of matrilineal or matrilocal societies

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The following list includes societies that have been identified as matrilineal or matrilocal in ethnographic literature.

"Matrilineal" means property is passed down through the maternal line on the death of the mother, not that of the father.

The Akans of Ghana, West Africa, are matrilineal. Akans are the largest ethnic group in Ghana. They are made of the Akims, Asantes, Fantis, Akuapims, Kwahus, Denkyiras, Brongs, Akwamus, Krachis, etc.

"Matrilocal" means new families are established in proximity to the brides' extended family of origin, not that of the groom.

Note: separate in the marriage column refers to the practice of husbands and wives living in separate locations, often informally called walking marriages . See the articles for the specific cultures that practice this for further description.

Group nameContinentCountry / RegionMarriageLineageReference(c. year)
AkanAfricaGhanabothmatrilineal Meyer Fortes [1] 1950
Alor Asia Indonesia Cora du Bois 1944
Bamenda Africa Cameroon patrilocalonly Kom matrilineal Phyllis Kaberry 1952
Batek Asia Malaysia patrilocal Kirk Michael Endicott 1974
Bijagós Africa Guinea-Bissau matrilinealLuigi Scantarburlo1978
Billava Asia India patrilocalmatrilineal
Bontoc Asia Philippines Albert Jenks
Albert Bacdayan
Boyowan Australasia Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea patrilocalmatrilineal Bronisław Malinowski 1916
Bribri North America Costa Rica matrilocalmatrilineal William More Gabb 1875
Bunt Asia India patrilocalmatrilineal E Kathleen Gough 1954
Danes Europe Læsø matrilocalmatrilineal [2] Bjarne Stoklund [3] 1700-1900
Chambri Australasia Papua New Guinea Margaret Mead 1935
Ezhava Asia India bothmatrilineal
Fore Australasia Papua New Guinea Shirley Glasse (Lindenbaum) 1963
Garo Asia India matrilocalmatrilineal
Greek Europe various islandsmatrilocal John Hawkins to the end of the 18th century AD [4]
Hopi North America United States of America matrilocalmatrilineal Barbara Freire-Marreco 1914
Huaorani [ citation needed ] South America Ecuador John Man[ citation needed ]1982[ citation needed ]
Iban Asia Borneo bothneither Edwin H Gomes 1911
Imazighen Africa North Sahara George Peter Murdock 1959
Iroquois North America North East North America matrilocalmatrilineal Lewis Henry Morgan 1901
Jaintia Asia India matrilocalmatrilineal
Jívaro South America West Amazon Rafael Karsten 1926
Jews in the Kibbutzim Israel [5] matrilineal Judith Buber Agassi [6] 1989
Karen Asia Burma matrilocalmatrilineal Harry Ignatius Marshall [7] 1922
Kerinci  [ fr ] Asia Indonesia matrilocalmatrilineal C.W. Watson [8] 1992
Khasi Asia India matrilocalmatrilineal P. R. T. Gurdon [9] 1914
Kuna people South America Panama, Colombia matrilocal
!Kung San Africa Southern Africa Marjorie Shostak 1976
Marshallese Oceania Marshall Islands matrilocalmatrilineal
Maliku Asia India separatematrilineal Ellen Kattner 1996
Minangkabau Asia Indonesia separatematrilineal Pieter Johannes Veth 1882
Mosuo/Nakhi Asia China separatematrilineal Joseph Francis Charles Rock 1924
Nair Asia India matrilocal matrilineal E Kathleen Gough 1954
Navajo North America United States of America matrilocalmatrilineal
Ngazidja/Grande Comore Africa Comoros matrilocalmatrilineal Paul Guy [10]
Martine Gestin, Nicole-Claude Mathieu [11]
Nubians Africa Sudan Ernest Godard 1867
Ovambo Africa Namibia matrilineal Maija Hiltunen (Tuupainen) [12] 1970
subgroups : Saafi, Ndut, Palor, Laalaa, Noon and Niominka.
Africa Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania patrilocalboth Henry Gravrand [13]

Charles Becker [14]



Siraya Austronesia Taiwan duolocal, uxorilocalmatrilineal Shepherd & Candidius 1995
Thai people Asia matrilocal
Tlingit North America United States of America matrilocalmatrilineal Aurel Krause 1885
Vanatinai Australasia Papua New Guinea matrilocalmatrilineal Maria Lepowsky 1981
Wemale Asia Indonesia Adolf E Jensen 1939
Basques Europe Spain and France matrilocalmatrilineal
Chams Asia Vietnam, Cambodia matrilocalmatrilineal [15]
Rhade (Ê Đê)Asia Vietnam, Cambodia matrilocalmatrilineal [16]
Amis Asia Taiwan matrilocalmatrilineal
Han Taiwanese (antiquated, mostly rural)Asia Taiwan matrilocalmatrilineal [17]

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In social anthropology, matrilocal residence or matrilocality is the societal system in which a married couple resides with or near the wife's parents. Thus, the female offspring of a mother remain living in the mother's house, thereby forming large clan-families, typically consisting of three or four generations living in the same place.

The Akan is a meta-ethnicity living in the southern regions of present-day Ghana and Ivory Coast in West Africa. The Akan language is a group of dialects within the Central Tano branch of the Potou–Tano subfamily of the Niger–Congo family.

The avunculate, sometimes called avunculism or avuncularism, is any social institution where a special relationship exists between an uncle and his sisters' children. This relationship can be formal or informal, depending on the society. Early anthropological research focused on the association between the avunculate and matrilineal descent, while later research has expanded to consider the avunculate in general society.

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Marumakkathayam was a system of matrilineal inheritance prevalent in what is now Kerala, India. Descent and the inheritance of property was traced through females. It was followed by all Nair castes, some of the Ambalavasis, Mappilas, and tribal groups. The elder male was considered the head known as karanavar and the entire assets of the family were controlled by him as if he was the sole owner. The properties were not handed to his sons but to the daughters of his sons or to their sisters.

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The Serer people are a West African ethnoreligious group. They are the third largest ethnic group in Senegal making up 15% of the Senegalese population. They are also found in northern Gambia and southern Mauritania.

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Women in Senegal have a traditional social status as shaped by local custom and religion. According to 2005 survey, the female genital mutilation prevalence rate stands at 28% of all women in Senegal aged between 15 and 49.

Serer prehistory

The prehistoric and ancient history of the Serer people of modern-day Senegambia has been extensively studied and documented over the years. Much of it comes from archaeological discoveries and Serer tradition rooted in the Serer religion.

Serer history

The medieval history of the Serer people of Senegambia is partly characterised by resisting Islamization from perhaps the 11th century during the Almoravid movement, to the 19th century Marabout movement of Senegambia and continuation of the old Serer paternal dynasties.

Father Henry Gravrand was a French Catholic missionary to Africa and an anthropologist who has written extensively on Serer religion and culture. He was one of the leading pioneers of interfaith dialog and believed that African religion was the "'first covenant between God and man". His works about the Serer people are cited by other historians and scholars writing on Serer history, religion and culture, for instance Martin A. Klein, Charles Becker, Alioune Sarr, Marguerite Dupire, Issa Laye Thiaw, etc. Papa Massène Sene argues that his approach lacks scientific rigor and include fundamental linguistic and historical errors. Alioune Sarr noted that Gravrand reported an oral tradition describing what he called the "Battle of Troubang", a dynastic war between the two maternal royal houses of Ñaanco and the Guelowar,an off-shot and relatives of the Ñaanco maternal dynasty of Kaabu, in modern-day Guinea Bissau. According to Charles Becker, Gravrand is confusing a description of the 1867 Battle of Kansala.

Lingeer Fatim Beye Lingeer of Sine

Lingeer Fatim Beye Joos Fadiou was a 14th-century Serer princess and queen (Lingeer) from the Kingdom of Sine. She is the matriarch and early ancestor of the Joos Maternal Dynasty of Waalo. She is usually regarded by some sources as the founder of the Joos Maternal Dynasty. The pre-colonial Kingdoms of Sine and Waalo now lies within present-day Senegal. Her surname is Beye (English-Gambia) or Bèye (French-Senegal). Joos Fadiou is her maternal clan. In Serer, "Fa-tim" means "the maternal clan of..."

Joos Maternal Dynasty

The Joos Maternal Dynasty was a Serer maternal dynasty which originated from the Serer pre-colonial Kingdom of Sine in the 14th century and spread to the Wolof Kingdom of Waalo. The matriarch or founder of this maternal dynasty was Lingeer Fatim Beye, a princess and queen originally from the Kingdom of Sine. In Waalo, it was founded by the princess Lingeer Ndoye Demba of Sine. Lingeer Ndoye Demba was the maternal granddaughter of Lingeer Fatim Beye. They both came from the Serer ethnic group. Although the pre-colonial Kingdoms of Sine and Waalo now form part of modern-day Senegal, in pre-colonial Senegambia, present-day Gambia had open-borders with Senegal and share the same historical and cultural heritage. The demarcation of the two countries is purely geographical due to their colonial past, with Britain colonizing the Gambia and France colonizing Senegal. For a background to these events see the History of Senegal, History of the Gambia, Senegambia and Timeline of Serer history.

Serer maternal clans or Serer matriclans are the maternal clans of the Serer people of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania. The Serer are both patrilineal and matrilineal. Inheritance depends on the nature of the asset being inherited – i.e. whether it is a maternal asset which requires maternal inheritance or paternal asset requiring paternal inheritance (kucarla). The Serer woman play a vital role in royal and religious affairs. In pre-colonial times until the abolition of their monarchies, a Serer king would be required to crown his mother, maternal aunt or sister as Lingeer (queen) after his own coronation. This re-affirms the maternal lineage to which they both belong (Tim). The Lingeer was very powerful and had her own army and palace. She was the queen of all women and presided over female cases. From a religious perspective, the Serer woman plays a vital role in Serer religion. As members of the Serer priestly class, they are among the guardians of Serer religion, sciences, ethics and culture. There are several Serer matriclans; not all of them are listed here. Alliance between matriclans in order to achieve a common goal was, and still is very common. The same clan can be called a different name depending on which part of Serer country one finds oneself in. Some of these matriclans form part of Serer mythology and dynastic history. The mythology afforded to some of these clans draws parallels with the Serer creation narrative, which posits that: the first human to be created was a female. Many Serers who adhere to the tenets of Serer religion believe these narratives to contain profound truths which are historic or pre-historic in nature.

Primitive communism is a way of describing the gift economies of hunter-gatherers throughout history, where resources and property hunted and gathered are shared with all members of a group, in accordance with individual needs. In political sociology and anthropology, it is also a concept often credited to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels for originating, who wrote that hunter-gatherer societies were traditionally based on egalitarian social relations and common ownership. A primary inspiration for both Marx and Engels were Lewis Henry Morgan's descriptions of "communism in living" as practised by the Iroquois Nation of North America. In Marx's model of socioeconomic structures, societies with primitive communism had no hierarchical social class structures or capital accumulation.

Historical inheritance systems are different systems of inheritance among various people.

Matrilineal society of Meghalaya Migration flow in Meghalaya

Multiple tribes in the state of Meghalaya in northeast India practise matrilineal descent. Often referred to as Khasi people and Garo people, among the Khasi people which is a term used as a blanket term for various subgroups in Meghalaya who have distinguishing languages, rites, ceremonies, and habits, but share an ethnic identity as Ki Hynniew Trep whereas the Garo people refers to the various groups of Achik people. The Khasi, Garo, and other subgroups have a proud heritage, including matrilineality, although it was reported in 2004 that they were losing some of their matrilineal traits. The tribes are said to belong to one of the "largest surviving matrilineal culture[s]" in the world.


  1. Val'Dman, A. V.; Kozlovskaia, M. M. (1975). "1950 Ashanti Kinship. In A.R. Radcliffe Brown. African systems of Kinship and Marriage. London: Oxford University Press". Zhurnal Nevropatologii I Psikhiatrii Imeni S.s. Korsakova (Moscow, Russia : 1952). 75 (11): 1710–7. PMID   1950.
  2. only in informal everyday language.
  3. Gårdene gik i arv på spindesiden. Kvinderne drev landbruget, medens mændene mest tog sig af strandinger og fiskeri og hjalp med pløjning og tærskning.
    The farms were inherited in the distaff side. The women drive agriculture, while men most took care of shipwrecks and fishing and helped with plowing and threshing.
    • Stoklund, Bjarne: "Arbejde og kønsroller på Læsø o. 1200-1900" ISBN   87-88683-08-7
    • "Kvindefællesskaber" (Anna Birte Ravn og Marianne Rostgård). ISBN   87-982062-1-4
  4. Myers, Peter (November 23, 2001). "Aryan Invasions – Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Colin Renfew, Marija Gimbutas and Martin Bernal on the Indo-European invasions and the earlier Goddess cultures". Neither Aryan Nor Jew. Retrieved 10 March 2014. Traces of matrilineal practices have been found in recent centuries in peripheral areas of the west and north of Europe, and in the Aegean islands. In a number of islands, including Lesbos, Lemnos, Naxos, and Kos, matrilineal succession to real property was the rule at the end of the 18th century A.D. The facts were reported by an English traveller, John Hawkins, who wrote: "In the large number of the islands, the eldest daughter takes as her inheritance a portion of the family house, together with its furniture, and one third of the share of the maternal property, which in reality in most of these cases constitutes the chief means of subsistence; the other daughters, when they marry off in succession, are likewise entitled to (a portion of) the family house and the same share of whatever property remains. These observations were applicable to the islands of Mytilin (Lesbos), Lemnos, Scopelo, Skyros, Syra, Zea Ipsera, Myconi, Paros, Naxia, Siphno, Santorini and Cos, where I have either collected my information in person or had obtained it through others."
  5. see Jewish views of marriage
  6. Agassi, Judith Buber, (1989) "Theories of Gender Equality: Lessons from the Israeli Kibbutz", Gender and Society, 3/2, 160-186.
  7. Marshall, Harry Ignatius (1922). "The Karen People of Burma: A Study in Anthropology and Ethnology." Ohio State University Bulletin 26(13). ISBN   974-8496-86-4
  8. C. W. Watson Kinship, Property and Inheritance in Kerinci, Central Sumatra 1992 ISBN   0 904938 19 0
  9. The Khasis by P. R. T. Gurdon
  10. Guy, Paul (October–December 1942). "Sur une coutume locale de droit musulman de l'Archipel des Comores". Revue algérienne, tunisienne et marocaine de législation et de jurisprudence (in French). pp. 78–79. Lay summary.
  11. Gestin, Martine; Mathieu, Nicole-Claude (2007). Une maison sans fille est une maison morte (in French). Maison des sciences de l'homme  [ fr ]. Lay summary.
  12. Marriage in a matrilineal African tribe: A social anthropological study of marriage in the Ondonga tribe in Ovamboland.
  13. (in French) Gravrand, Henry, "La civilisation sereer, vol. II : Pangool ", Nouvelles éditions africaines, Dakar (1990), pp 193-4, ISBN   2-7236-1055-1
  14. (in French) Becker, Charles, "Vestiges historiques, témoins matériels du passé dans les pays sereer", Dakar (1993), CNRS - ORS TO M Excerpt (Retrieved : 23 July 2012)
  15. Phuong, Tran Ky; Lockhart, Bruce (2011-01-01). The Cham of Vietnam: History, Society and Art. NUS Press. ISBN   978-9971-69-459-3.
  16. Lebar, Frank M.; Gerald C. Hickey; John K. Musgrave (1964). Ethnic Groups of Mainland Southeast Asia. New Haven, Connecticut: Human Relations Area Files Press. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 64-25414.