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Patrilineality, also known as the male line, the spear side [1] or agnatic kinship, is a common kinship system in which an individual's family membership derives from and is recorded through their father's lineage. It generally involves the inheritance of property, rights, names, or titles by persons related through male kin.


A patriline ("father line") is a person's father, and additional ancestors, as traced only through males.

In the Bible

In the Bible, family and tribal membership appears to be transmitted through the father. For example, a person is considered to be a priest or Levite, if his father is a priest or Levite, and the members of all the twelve tribes are called Israelites because their father is Israel (Jacob). Because of this they are called the "chosen people" by virtue of being "sons of Israel"; that is, the biological male descendants of Israel, who is referred to as their "father" in the sense that he is their lineal male ancestor.

Agnatic succession

Patrilineal or agnatic succession gives priority to or restricts inheritance of a throne or fief to heirs, male or female, descended from the original title holder through males only. Traditionally, agnatic succession is applied in determining the names and membership of European dynasties. The prevalent forms of dynastic succession in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa were male-preference primogeniture, agnatic primogeniture, or agnatic seniority until after World War II. There are, however, matrilineal examples like the Lobedu Rain Queen.

By the 21st century most ongoing European monarchies had replaced their traditional agnatic succession with absolute primogeniture, meaning that the first child born to a monarch inherits the throne, regardless of the child's sex.

Salic law

Variations of Salic law, generally understood in modern times to mean exclusion of women as hereditary monarchs, restricted succession to thrones and inheritance of fiefs or land to men in parts of medieval and later Europe. Once common,[ citation needed ] strict Salic inheritance has been officially revoked in all extant European monarchies except the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Genetic genealogy

The fact that human Y-chromosome DNA (Y-DNA) is paternally inherited enables patrilines and agnatic kinships of men to be traced through genetic analysis.

Y-chromosomal Adam (Y-MRCA) is the patrilineal most recent common ancestor from whom all Y-DNA in living men is descended. An identification of a very rare and previously unknown Y-chromosome variant in 2012 led researchers to estimate that Y-chromosomal Adam lived 338,000 years ago (237,000 to 581,000 years ago with 95% confidence), judging from molecular clock and genetic marker studies. [2] Before this discovery, estimates of the date when Y-chromosomal Adam lived were much more recent, estimated to be tens of thousands of years.

See also

Related Research Articles

A Levite is a Jewish male who claims patrilineal descent from the Tribe of Levi. The Tribe of Levi descended from Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah. The surname Halevi, which consists of the Hebrew definite article "ה‎" Ha- ("the") plus Levi (Levite) is not conclusive regarding being a Levite; a titular use of HaLevi indicates being a Levite. The daughter of a Levite is a "Bat Levi".

Salic law Major body of Frankish law governing all the Franks of Frankia under the rule of its kings during the Old Frankish Period

The Salic law, also called the Salian law, was the ancient Frankish civil law code compiled around AD 500 by the first Frankish King, Clovis. The written text is in Latin and contains some of the earliest known instances of Old Dutch. It remained the basis of Frankish law throughout the early Medieval period, and influenced future European legal systems. The best-known tenet of the old law is the principle of exclusion of women from inheritance of thrones, fiefs and other property. The Salic laws were arbitrated by a committee appointed and empowered by the King of the Franks. Dozens of manuscripts dating from the sixth to eighth centuries and three emendations as late as the ninth century have survived.

Matrilineality is the tracing of kinship through the female line. It may also correlate with a social system in which each person is identified with their matriline – their mother's lineage – and which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles. A matriline is a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant in which the individuals in all intervening generations are mothers – in other words, a "mother line". In a matrilineal descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as their mother. This ancient matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the currently more popular pattern of patrilineal descent from which a family name is usually derived. The matriline of historical nobility was also called their enatic or uterine ancestry, corresponding to the patrilineal or "agnatic" ancestry.

Mitochondrial Eve Most recent common matrilineal ancestor of all humans

In human genetics, the Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of all living humans. In other words, she is defined as the most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line purely through their mothers and through the mothers of those mothers, back until all lines converge on one woman.

Primogeniture ( ) is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inherit the parent's entire or main estate in preference to shared inheritance among all or some children, any illegitimate child or any collateral relative. In most contexts it means the inheritance of the firstborn son ; it can also mean by the firstborn daughter.

In human genetics, the Y-chromosomal most recent common ancestor is the patrilineal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) from whom all currently living humans are descended. He is the most recent male from whom all living humans are descended through an unbroken line of their male ancestors. The term Y-MRCA reflects the fact that the Y chromosomes of all currently living human males are directly derived from the Y chromosome of this remote ancestor. The analogous concept of the matrilineal most recent common ancestor is known as "Mitochondrial Eve", the most recent woman from whom all living humans are descended matrilineally. As with "Mitochondrial Eve", the title of "Y-chromosomal Adam" is not permanently fixed to a single individual, but can advance over the course of human history as paternal lineages become extinct.

Y-chromosomal Aaron is the name given to the hypothesized most recent common ancestor of the patrilineal Jewish priestly caste known as Kohanim. According to the traditional understanding of the Hebrew Bible, this ancestor was Aaron, the brother of Moses,. However a historical-critical reading of the biblical text suggests that the origin of the priesthood is much more complex than this, and that for much if not all of the First Temple period, kohen was not (necessarily) synonymous with "Aaronide". Rather, this traditional identity seems to have been adopted sometime around around the second temple period.

Ambilineality is a form of kinship affiliation of cognatic descent that relies on self-defined affiliation within a given social system. Meaning individuals have the choice to be affiliated with their mother’s or father’s group. Common features of societies that practice ambilineality are a shared set of land, communal responsibilities, and collective ownership of some segments of wealth and debt in their societies. This system of descent is distinct from more common genealogical structures in that rather than determining affiliation and descent using the standard determinants of biological and genealogical relation, it instead relies heavily on voluntary affiliation with one's group, oftentimes being determined by factors including residence.

In biology and genealogy, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA), last common ancestor (LCA), or concestor of a set of organisms is the most recent individual from which all the organisms of the set are descended. The term is also used in reference to the ancestry of groups of genes (haplotypes) rather than organisms.

In history and heraldry, a cadet branch consists of the male-line descendants of a monarch or patriarch's younger sons (cadets). In the ruling dynasties and noble families of much of Europe and Asia, the family's major assets—realm, titles, fiefs, property and income—have historically been passed from a father to his firstborn son in what is known as primogeniture; younger sons—cadets—inherited less wealth and authority to pass to future generations of descendants.

Agnatic seniority

Agnatic seniority is a patrilineal principle of inheritance where the order of succession to the throne prefers the monarch's younger brother over the monarch's own sons. A monarch's children succeed only after the males of the elder generation have all been exhausted. Agnatic seniority essentially excludes females of the dynasty and their descendants from the succession. Contrast agnatic primogeniture, where the king's sons stand higher in succession than his brothers.

Matrilineal succession is a form of hereditary succession or other inheritance through which the subject's female relatives are traced back in a matrilineal line.

A genealogical DNA test is a DNA-based test which looks at specific locations of a person's genome, in order to find or verify ancestral genealogical relationships or to estimate the ethnic mixture of an individual as part of genetic genealogy. Since different testing companies use different ethnic reference groups and different matching algorithms, ethnicity estimates for an individual will vary between tests, sometimes dramatically.

A haplotype is a group of alleles in an organism that are inherited together from a single parent, and a haplogroup is a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor with a single-nucleotide polymorphism mutation. More specifically, a haplogroup is a combination of alleles at different chromosomal regions that are closely linked and that tend to be inherited together. As a haplogroup consists of similar haplotypes, it is usually possible to predict a haplogroup from haplotypes. Haplogroups pertain to a single line of descent. As such, membership of a haplogroup, by any individual, relies on a relatively small proportion of the genetic material possessed by that individual.

An order of succession or right of succession is the line of individuals entitled to hold a high office when it becomes vacated such as head of state or an honour such as a title of nobility. This sequence may be regulated through descent or by statute.

In inheritance, a hereditary successor is a person who inherits an indivisible title or office after the death of the previous title holder. The hereditary line of succession may be limited to heirs of the body, or may pass also to collateral lines, in case of extinction of heirs of the body, depending on the succession rules. These concepts are in use in English inheritance law.

Casato is the principle of kinship practiced in early modern Europe. Casato focuses on the vertical lineage passed on from fathers to sons. It is also known as the agnatic perspective. This is different from the opposing term parentado which stresses kinship formation that included the role of women and men. Both casato and parentado coexisted in early modern Italy.

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

Detailed anthropological and sociological studies have been made about customs of patrilineal inheritance, where only male children can inherit. Some cultures also employ matrilineal succession, where property can only pass along the female line, most commonly going to the sister's sons of the decedent; but also, in some societies, from the mother to her daughters. Some ancient societies and most modern states employ egalitarian inheritance, without discrimination based on gender and/or birth order.


  1. "spear side".
  2. Mendez, Fernando; Krahn, Thomas; Schrack, Bonnie; Krahn, Astrid-Maria; Veeramah, Krishna; Woerner, August; Fomine, Forka Leypey Mathew; Bradman, Neil; Thomas, Mark; Karafet, Tatiana; Hammer, Michael (2013). "An African American Paternal Lineage Adds an Extremely Ancient Root to the Human Y Chromosome Phylogenetic Tree". The American Journal of Human Genetics. 92 (3): 454–9. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2013.02.002. PMC   3591855 . PMID   23453668.