Matrilineal succession

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.


Other examples

One of early dynasties of China had similar practices. History postulates that there, a father-in-law was typically succeeded by his son-in-law. However, this again is obviously not a female succeeding a female, but a form of succession by appointment: the monarch chose his successor, and formalized that appointment by marrying the chosen man with a royal daughter, which also worked as a way to legitimize the succession.

Matrilineal succession in Africa

The order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen is an example in an African culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.

Matrilineal succession in Asia

The matrilineal succession is prevalent among many sects in Asia. These include the Minangkabau culture of West Sumatra, Marumakkathayam or Aliyasantana system among Nairs and Bunts of India. The Undangs of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia exhibit matrilineal succession in their elective chieftaincies. Similar traditions exist among the Khasi and Garo of Meghalaya, India, the Naxi of China, the Gitksan of British Columbia, the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee), the Hopi, the Berbers, In all of these systems,only males hold the leadership position.


In societies using matrilineal descent, the social relationship between children and their biological father tends to be different because he is not a member of their matrilineal family. For example, the man who would have the formal responsibilities that European cultures assign to a father would be a boy's mother's brother, since he is the closest elder male kinsman.

Similarly, inheritance patterns for men in matrilineal societies often reflect the importance of the mother's brother. For example, in the Ashanti Kingdom of Central Ghana, a king traditionally passes his title and status on to his sister's son. A king's own biological son does not inherit the kingship because he is not a member of the ruling matrilineal family group. Women usually inherit status and property directly from their mothers in matrilineal societies.[1]


  1. "The International Journal of African Historical Studies". 5 (1). 1972: 91–93. JSTOR 216803.
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