List of matrilineal or matrilocal societies

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 name Continent Country / Region Marriage Lineage Reference (c. year)
Akan Africa Ghana both matrilineal Meyer Fortes[1] 1950
Alor Asia Indonesia Cora du Bois 1944
Bamenda Africa Cameroon patrilocal only Kom matrilineal Phyllis Kaberry 1952
Batek Asia Malaysia patrilocal Kirk Michael Endicott 1974
Bijagós Africa Guinea-Bissau matrilineal Luigi Scantarburlo 1978
Billava Asia India patrilocal matrilineal
Bontoc Asia Philippines Albert Jenks
Albert Bacdayan
Boyowan Australasia Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea patrilocal matrilineal Bronisław Malinowski 1916
Bribri North America Costa Rica matrilocal matrilineal William More Gabb 1875
Bunt Asia India patrilocal matrilineal E Kathleen Gough 1954
Danes Europe Læsø matrilocal matrilineal[2] Bjarne Stoklund[3] 1700-1900
Chambri Australasia Papua New Guinea Margaret Mead 1935
Ezhava Asia India both matrilineal
Fore Australasia Papua New Guinea Shirley Glasse (Lindenbaum) 1963
Garo Asia India matrilocal matrilineal
Greek Europe various islands matrilocal John Hawkins to the end of the 18th century AD[4]
Hopi North America United States of America matrilocal matrilineal Barbara Freire-Marreco 1914
Huaorani[citation needed] South America Ecuador John Man[citation needed] 1982[citation needed]
Iban Asia Borneo both neither Edwin H Gomes 1911
Imazighen Africa North Sahara George Peter Murdock 1959
Iroquois North America North East North America matrilocal matrilineal Lewis Henry Morgan 1901
Jaintia Asia India matrilocal matrilineal
Jívaro South America West Amazon Rafael Karsten 1926
Jews in the Kibbutzim Israel [5] matrilineal Judith Buber Agassi[6] 1989
Karen Asia Burma matrilocal matrilineal Harry Ignatius Marshall[7] 1922
Kerinci [fr] Asia Indonesia matrilocal matrilineal C.W. Watson[8] 1992
Khasi Asia India matrilocal matrilineal 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 matrilocal matrilineal
Maliku Asia India separate matrilineal Ellen Kattner 1996
Minangkabau Asia Indonesia separate matrilineal Pieter Johannes Veth 1882
Mosuo/Nakhi Asia China separate matrilineal Joseph Francis Charles Rock 1924
Nair Asia India matrilocal matrilineal E Kathleen Gough 1954
Navajo North America United States of America matrilocal matrilineal
Ngazidja/Grande Comore Africa Comoros matrilocal matrilineal 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 patrilocal both Henry Gravrand[13]

Charles Becker[14]



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


  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.
  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.
  17. ^’s+surname&source=bl&ots=P-KNQZl88i&sig=ACfU3U3k16Mok76D_3Cc3503T8JmcJKFvQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiS38risYLqAhViIjQIHR3vDcMQ6AEwC3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=true