Patrilineality is a system in which one belongs to one's father's lineage. It generally involves the inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

 of property, names or titles through the male
Male refers to the biological sex of an organism, or part of an organism, which produces small mobile gametes, called spermatozoa. Each spermatozoon can fuse with a larger female gamete or ovum, in the process of fertilization...

 line as well.

A patriline is literally a father line; one's patriline is one's father and his father and his father... ad infinitum, one's nearly infinite line of fathers. The two corresponding adjective forms are patrilineal and father-line. One's patriline is thus a line of descent from a male ancestor to a descendant
Kinship is a relationship between any entities that share a genealogical origin, through either biological, cultural, or historical descent. And descent groups, lineages, etc. are treated in their own subsections....

 (of either sex) in which the individuals in all intervening generations are fathers. A man's genetic Y-DNA and his family name
Family name
A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

 (in most cultures) have descended down this same line from father to son. In a patrilineal descent system (= agnatic descent), an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as his or her father. This patrilineal descent pattern is much more common than matrilineal descent
Matrilineality is a system in which descent is traced through the mother and maternal ancestors. Matrilineality is also a societal system in which one belongs to one's matriline or mother's lineage, which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles.A matriline is a line of descent from a...

, see the article on family name
Family name
A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

s which are almost all patrilineal surnames. Also for an indepth treatment of current patrilineal surnames, globally, see the same article.

The agnatic ancestry of an individual is that person's pure male ancestry.
An agnate is one's genetic relative exclusively through males: a kinsman with whom one has a common ancestor by descent in unbroken male line.

In cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

, a patrilineage (or patriclan) is a consanguineal male and female kin group each of whom is related to the common ancestor
An ancestor is a parent or the parent of an ancestor ....

 through male forebears.

Salic Law

In parts of medieval and later Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the Salic Law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 was purported to be the grounds for males alone being eligible to inherit land, with particular emphasis applied to hereditary succession of monarchies and fiefs, i.e. in patrilineal or agnatic succession. 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 was primarily a matter of political expediency rather than legal principle, it was broadly understood to prevail in domains that were originally Frank
Frank may refer to:* A member of the medieval Germanic people, the Franks* Frank * Frank * Crusaders or any persons originating in Catholic western Europe, in medieval Middle Eastern history...

ish or at some time accepted Salian Frankish juridical principles. The last practical effect of the Salic Law at the international level was the separation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg from the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with territory in Western Europe and in the Caribbean. The four parts of the Kingdom—Aruba, Curaçao, the Netherlands, and Sint Maarten—are referred to as "countries", and participate on a basis of equality...

 in 1890, almost fourteen centuries after the Law was codified. Strict Salic inheritance has been officially revoked in all extant European monarchies except for the Principality of Liechtenstein; however it is still recognized in the House law
House law
House law or House laws are rules that govern a royal family or dynasty in matters of eligibility for succession to a throne, membership in a dynasty, exercise of a regency, or entitlement to dynastic rank, titles and styles...

s of many non-sovereign noble families.

Genetic genealogy

The fact that Y-chromosome
Y chromosome
The Y chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in most mammals, including humans. In mammals, it contains the gene SRY, which triggers testis development if present. The human Y chromosome is composed of about 60 million base pairs...

 DNA (Y-DNA) is paternally inherited enables patrilines, and agnatic kinships, of men to be traced through genetic analysis.

Y-chromosomal Adam
Y-chromosomal Adam
In human genetics, Y-chromosomal Adam is the theoretical most recent common ancestor from whom all living people are descended patrilineally . Many studies report that Y-chromosomal Adam lived as early as around 142,000 years ago and possibly as recently as 60,000 years ago...

 (Y-MRCA) is the patrilineal human most recent common ancestor
Most recent common ancestor
In genetics, the most recent common ancestor of any set of organisms is the most recent individual from which all organisms in the group are directly descended...

, from whom all Y-DNA in living men is descended. Y-chromosomal Adam probably lived between 60,000 and 90,000 years ago, judging from molecular clock
Molecular clock
The molecular clock is a technique in molecular evolution that uses fossil constraints and rates of molecular change to deduce the time in geologic history when two species or other taxa diverged. It is used to estimate the time of occurrence of events called speciation or radiation...

 and genetic marker
Genetic marker
A genetic marker is a gene or DNA sequence with a known location on a chromosome that can be used to identify cells, individuals or species. It can be described as a variation that can be observed...


Early medical theories

In ancient medicine there was a dispute between the one-seed theory, expounded by Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, and the two-seed theory of the 2nd century A.D. Roman physician Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

. By 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 only 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). The evidence for the two-seed theory is the fact that a person can look like his or her maternal relatives. These two facts could not be reconciled until the discovery of ovulation
Ovulation is the process in a female's menstrual cycle by which a mature ovarian follicle ruptures and discharges an ovum . Ovulation also occurs in the estrous cycle of other female mammals, which differs in many fundamental ways from the menstrual cycle...

 in the early 19th century, confirming the two-seed theory as biological fact 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. They suggested that a child's genetic 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 was never widely accepted. Traces of such a theory appear to underline various myths of a hero (such as Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

) with both a human and a divine father.

Roman law

In Roman law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

, agnati were persons related through males only, as opposed to cognati.
Agnation was founded on the idea of the family held together by the patria potestas; cognatio involves simply the modern idea of kindred
In the Heathen movements, a kindred is a local worship group and organisational unit. Other terms used are hearth, theod , blotgroup, sippe, and other less popular ones such as garth, stead, and others....


In Roman times, all citizens were divided by gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

(clan) and familia
Familia was the name of a Polish political party led by the Czartoryski magnates and families allied with them, and formed toward the end of the reign of King August II...

(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 Republic, inheritance could only occur 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
Lex Voconia
Lex Voconia was a law established in ancient Rome in 169 BC.Introduced by Q. Voconius Saxa with support from Cato the Elder, Voconius being tribune of the people in that year, this law prohibited those who owned property valued at 100,000 asses from making a woman their heir...

 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
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....

 or a Levite
In Jewish tradition, a Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. When Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, the Levites were the only Israelite tribe that received cities but were not allowed to be landowners "because the Lord the God of Israel himself is their inheritance"...

, is still inherited patrilineally in Judaism, as is communal identity as a Sephardi
Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the Spanish Inquisition. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy or would otherwise define themselves in terms of the Jewish customs and...

 or Ashkenazi
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

. This contrasts with the rule for inheritance of Jewish status in Orthodox
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 and Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism is a modern stream of Judaism that arose out of intellectual currents in Germany in the mid-19th century and took institutional form in the United States in the early 1900s.Conservative Judaism has its roots in the school of thought known as Positive-Historical Judaism,...

, which is matrilineal. Karaite Judaism
Karaite Judaism
Karaite Judaism or Karaism is a Jewish movement characterized by the recognition of the Tanakh alone as its supreme legal authority in Halakhah, as well as in theology...

 interprets the Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 to indicate that Jewish status is only inherited patrilineally. See Davidic line
Davidic line
The Davidic line refers to the tracing of lineage to the King David referred to in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the New Testament...

 and Matrilineality in Judaism
Matrilineality in Judaism
Matrilineality in Judaism is the view that people born of a Jewish mother are themselves Jewish. The Torah does not explicitly discuss the conferring of Jewish status through matrilineality, and in apparent contrast to this position, the Tanakh provides many examples of Israelite men whose...


Agnatic succession

Traditionally, agnatic succession is applied in determining the names and membership of European dynasties
A dynasty is a sequence of rulers considered members of the same family. Historians traditionally consider many sovereign states' history within a framework of successive dynasties, e.g., China, Ancient Egypt and the Persian Empire...

, often with reference to the tenets of Salic law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

, which emphasized male primogeniture
Primogeniture is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings . Historically, the term implied male primogeniture, to the exclusion of females...

. Under Salic law an agnatic heir to a throne or title can still be female, provided that the kinship is calculated patrilineally and there are no male siblings of equal descent.

As an example, because Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 was married to a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha served as the collective name of two duchies, Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Gotha, in Germany. They were located in what today are the states of Bavaria and Thuringia, respectively, and the two were in personal union between 1826 and 1918...

, her son and successor, Edward VII
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910...

, 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
House of Windsor
The House of Windsor is the royal house of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V by royal proclamation on the 17 July 1917, when he changed the name of his family from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor, due to the anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom...

), as are his descendants in the male line. Victoria is reckoned to have belonged to her father's House of Hanover
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

, 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
Wettin is:*House of Wettin, a German Royal House*Wettin Castle, near Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, ancestral seat of the House of Wettin*Asteroid 90709 Wettin, named in the castle's and House's honour...

. Agnatically she was a Hanover 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
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

, who had adopted the surname Mountbatten
Mountbatten is the family name originally adopted by a branch of the Battenberg family due to rising anti-German sentiment among the British public during World War I...

 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." On 8 February 1960, the Queen confirmed that she and her children would continue to be known as the House and Family of Windsor, as would any agnatic descendants who enjoy the style
Style (manner of address)
A style of office, or honorific, is a legal, official, or recognized title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal...

 of Royal Highness
Royal Highness
Royal Highness is a style ; plural Royal Highnesses...

, and the title of Prince or Princess. Elizabeth also decreed that her agnatic descendants who do not have that style and title would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor
Mountbatten-Windsor is the personal surname of some of the descendants of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh under an ambiguously-worded Order in Council issued in 1960, and as such a cadet branch of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg , which in turn is a branch of...


A variant to agnatic succession through primogeniture is agnatic seniority
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...

 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, such as the Monarchy of Sweden, have had their traditional agnatic succession replaced with equal primogeniture, meaning that the first child born to a monarch becomes the heir to the throne, regardless of the sex of the child.

See also

  • Agnatic seniority
    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...

  • Family name
    Family name
    A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

    , including Patrilineal surnames around the world.
  • Hypodescent
    In societies that regard some races of people as dominant or superior and others as subordinate or inferior, hypodescent is the automatic assignment of children of a mixed union or mating between members of different socioeconomic groups or ethnic groups to the subordinate group...

  • Hyperdescent
    Hyperdescent is the practice of classifying a child of mixed race ancestry in the more socially dominant of the parents' races.Hyperdescent is the opposite of hypodescent...

  • Matrilineality
    Matrilineality is a system in which descent is traced through the mother and maternal ancestors. Matrilineality is also a societal system in which one belongs to one's matriline or mother's lineage, which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles.A matriline is a line of descent from a...

    , including Matrilineal surname section.
  • Patrilineal descent of Elizabeth II—an example.
  • Patrilocal residence
    Patrilocal residence
    In social anthropology, patrilocal residence or patrilocality is a term referring to the social system in which a married couple resides with or near the husband's parents. The concept of location may extend to a larger area such as a village, town, or clan area...

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