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

A matriline is literally a mothers line; one's matriline is one's mother and her mother and her mother and... ad infinitum, one's nearly infinite line of mothers; clearly one's matriline is also a line of descent for one. One's mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has descended down this same line from mother to child, whether or not any surname came down with it. One's matriline is thus one's pure female ancestry, and is also sometimes called one's uterine ancestry.

Matrilineal is simply the adjective form of the noun matriline. The corresponding adjective form, mothers-line, is easier to use, with only three syllables. Mothers-line and matrilineal will be used interchangeably, and similarly fathers-line and [[patrilineal]].

A matriline, defined above, also may be given a restricted definition closer to Webster's as follows: 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 is in contrast to the more common modern pattern of patrilineal descent which underlies the whole Family name article, for example.

Mitochondria are cellular organelles involved in metabolism and energy production, and contain DNA (mtDNA) that is normally inherited exclusively from the mother. Thus, human offspring contain both chromosomal DNA, contained within the nucleus and inherited from both parents, and mitochondrial DNA, which is found outside the nucleus and inherited only from the mother. As mitochondria are considered "cellular power plants," one's metabolism and energy conversion are much influenced by these matrilineal genetic materials, and thereby by one's matrilineal descent. Even ancient physicians had an inkling about such matrilineal heredity: Galen taught that a child's physical frame would (mostly) be provided by maternal heredity.

In some cultures, membership in their groups is inherited matrilineally; examples of this cultural practice include many ancient cultures and continues in the contemporary cultures of those ancient origins such as Huron, Cherokee, Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee), Hopi, Navajo, and Gitksan of North America. In the Old World cultures it is found in Ancient Egypt, the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia); the Ezhava, Nairs, and Kurichiyas of Kerala, India; Bunts, Billavas and Mogaveeras of Karnataka, Pillai caste in Nagercoil District of Tamil Nadu; the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo of Meghalaya, India; the Naxi of China, the Basque people, the Akan, and the Tuaregs.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Matrilineality" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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