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Title: Patrilineality  
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Subject: Matrilineality, Chinese kinship, Marriage, Family, Matrifocal family
Collection: Kinship and Descent, Patriarchy
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12 generationsof a present day Hindu Lingayat male from central Karnataka worth over 275 years, depicted in descending order

Patrilineality (agnatic kinship) is a system in which an individual belongs to his or her father's lineage.[1] It generally involves the inheritance of property, names, or titles through the male line.

One's patriline (lit. father line)... is one's father and his father and his father and so on. Adjective forms are patrilineal, agnatic, and male-line. One's patriline is thus a record of descent from an ancestor to a descendant (of either sex) in which the individuals in all intervening generations are male. In cultural anthropology, a patrilineage is a consanguineal male and female kin group, each of whose members is descended from the common ancestor through male forebears. A person's family name (in most cultures) and a man's genetic Y-DNA have descended down this same line from father to son. In a patrilineal (or agnatic) descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as his or her father from which the members' family name is commonly derived, although matrilineality has also been used as the descent group in some cultures.

An agnate is one's genetic relative, male or female, exclusively through male ancestors.[2]


  • Salic Law 1
  • Genetic genealogy 2
  • Early medical theories 3
  • Roman law 4
  • In the Bible 5
  • Agnatic succession 6
    • Agnatic primogeniture 6.1
    • Agnatic seniority 6.2
  • See also 7
  • Notes and references 8
  • External links 9

Salic Law

Commonly understood in modern times to mean exclusion of women as hereditary monarchs, in parts of medieval and later Europe, the Salic Law was purported to be the grounds for males alone being eligible to inherit thrones, fiefs or land. The true scope and sway of the Salic Law was never defined rigidly, the original 6th century text being both ambiguously worded and originating in a kingdom long extinct. Although observance of, or disregard for, the law varied, it was broadly understood to prevail in domains that were originally Frankish or had at some time accepted Salian Frankish legal principles. Strict Salic inheritance has been officially revoked in all extant European monarchies except the Principality of Liechtenstein. However it still prevails in the transmission of most European titles of nobility, notably excepting Spain.

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.[3] Before this discovery, estimates of the date when Y-chromosomal Adam lived were much more recent.

Early medical theories

In ancient medicine, there was a dispute between the one-seed theory, expounded by Aristotle, and the two-seed theory of the 2nd century A.D. Roman physician Galen. According the one-seed theory, the germ of every embryo is contained entirely in the male seed, and the role of the mother is simply as an incubator and provider of food: on this view only a patrilineal relative is genetically related. By the two-seed theory, the embryo is not conceived unless the male and female seed meet: this implies a bilineal, or cognatic, theory of relationship. It may be significant that Galen lived at about the same time (129 – 199/217 AD) that Roman law changed from the agnate to the cognate system of relationships.

Common to both theories was the mistaken belief that the female emits seed, rather not an egg, and that a seed is only produced when she comes to orgasm. Given that assumption, the evidence for the one-seed theory is the fact that a woman can conceive without coming to orgasm (though this was still a matter of dispute in the ancient world and the Middle Ages.[4]) The evidence for the two-seed theory was the observable reality that individuals often resembled maternal relatives. These two pieces of evidence could not be reconciled until the discovery of ovulation in the early 19th century, confirming the two-seed theory as biological and dissociating the production of female seed from the occurrence of the orgasm.

In early Greek and Roman history, a few philosophers claimed that although every child has one absolute mother, it did not follow that every child had one absolute father ("mater semper certa est"). They suggested that a child's character could be influenced by the seed of two or more men if they had inseminated the same mother. This was considered a fringe theory even in its time, however, and never became widely accepted. Traces of such a theory appear to underline various myths of a hero (such as Heracles) with both a human and a divine father.

Roman law

In Roman law, agnati were persons related through males only, as opposed to cognati. Agnation was founded on the idea of the family being held together by the patria potestas; cognatio involves simply the modern idea of kinship.

In Roman times, all citizens were divided by gens (clan) and familia (sept), determined on a purely patrilineal basis, in the same way as the modern inheritance of surnames. (The gens was the larger unit, and was divided into several familiae: a person called "Gaius Iulius Caesar" belonged to the Julian gens and the Caesar family.)

In the early Roman Republic, inheritance could occur only within the family, and was therefore purely agnatic. Women were largely excluded from inheritance until the Middle Republic, but suffered a legal setback in the passage of the Lex Voconia in 169 BC. This was however evaded by careful planning, and by 42 BC, many women had inherited large wealth.

In Imperial times, the system favoring patrilineal inheritance was changed by the Praetorian edict, giving paternal and maternal relatives equal rights.

In the Bible

The line of descent for monarchs and main personalities is almost exclusively through males. Tribal descent, such as whether one is a kohen or a Levite, is still inherited patrilineally in Judaism,[5] as is communal identity as a Sephardi or Ashkenazi. This contrasts with the rule for inheritance of Jewish status in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, which is matrilineal. Karaite Judaism interprets the Tanakh to indicate that Jewish status is only inherited patrilineally. See Davidic line and Matrilineality in Judaism.[6][7]

Agnatic succession

Agnatic succession is the formal attempt to limit inheritance of a throne or fief (succession) to heirs descended from the original title holder through males only, excluding all descendants through females. Traditionally, agnatic succession is applied in determining the names and membership of European dynasties, often with reference to the tenets of Salic law, which emphasized male primogeniture. The most common forms of agnatic succession are agnatic primogeniture and agnatic seniority.

Agnatic primogeniture

Under agnatic primogeniture, or patrilineal primogeniture, kinship (of males and females) is determined by tracing through only male ancestors to commonality:[2] Those who share agnatic kinship are termed agnates. When an agnatic primogeniture system altogether excludes females from inheritance of the family's main possessions, it is known in Europe as application of the Salic law (see Terra salica). Under Salic law an agnatic successor to a throne or title can still be female, provided that the kinship is calculated patrilineally and there are no living men of male-line descent.[2]

As an example, because Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom was married to a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her son and successor, Edward VII, was a member of that dynasty, and is considered the first British king of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (changed in 1917 to House of Windsor), as are his descendants in the male line. Victoria is reckoned to have belonged to her father's House of Hanover, despite the fact that, upon marriage in 1840, she legally became a member of the Saxon dynasty and acquired the surname of that family, Wettin. Agnatically, she was Hanoverian and is considered the last member of that dynasty to reign over Britain.

A roughly similar situation occurred on the accession of Elizabeth II, agnatically a Windsor, married to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, who had adopted the surname Mountbatten but whose actual patriline is of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. On 9 April 1952, Queen Elizabeth officially declared "that I and My children shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor, and that my descendants who marry and their descendants, shall bear the name of Windsor."[8] On 8 February 1960, the Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor, while those of her descendants not entitled to the title of Prince or Princess and the style of Royal Highness would bear that of Mountbatten-Windsor.[8]

Agnatic seniority

A variant to agnatic succession through primogeniture is agnatic seniority in which inheritance passes to the eldest male member of the family, typically the eldest surviving brother, rather than the eldest son of the deceased father.

Some European dynasties have had their traditional agnatic succession replaced with the child turned out to be male). The Succession to the Crown Act 2013 was passed into British law on 25 April 2013 but will only come into force once all 15 other Commonwealth Realms also approve it.[10]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Benokraitis, N. V. Marriages and Families. 7th Edition, Pearson Education, Inc., 2011
  2. ^ a b c Murphy, Michael Dean. "A Kinship Glossary: Symbols, Terms, and Concepts". Retrieved 2006-10-05. 
  3. ^ 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.  
  4. ^ In some cultures a rapist could not be convicted if his victim had conceived, as this was taken as evidence that she had come to orgasm and therefore welcomed his attentions.
  5. ^ This has led to the idea of a single male ancestor of all males members of these groups. In the Bible this individual is identified as Aaron, brother of Moses, so the hypothetical figure is known as the Y-chromosomal Aaron.
  6. ^ intermarriage.html
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Royal Styles and Titles – 1960 Letters Patent
  9. ^
  10. ^ BBC: Law ending exclusively male royal succession now law

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