In matrilineal descent, descent is traced through mothers rather than through fathers. Matrilineal societies, property is often passed from mothers to daughters and the custom of matrilocal residence may be practiced.
Patrilineal Descent is a system in which family descent is reckoned through the blood links of males. Typically names and property follow the male line of descent. A man's descendants are his own children, and women are little recognized as ancestors.
In matrilineal societies, the descendants of men are their sister's children and not their own, who belong to their mother's matrilineage.
Matrilineage is sometimes associated with polyandry or group marriage where women have a variety of sexual partners and lines of male descent are uncertain.
Ancient societies are known to have recognised matrilineal descent. Matriliny is not the mirror image of patriliny. Matrilineal societies differ from both patrilineal and bilateral societies in that the institution of marriage tends to be, relatively weak (Schneider and Gough 1961, Goode 1963).
In a gerontocratic matrilineal society, women's influence
and prestige tended to increase with age and were usually expressed in informal settings,
although there were offices of formalised informality such as "mothers" of
matrilineages. Matriliny required the subordination of marriage and conjugal duties to
loyalty to and participation in the descent group. This, combined with economic
activities, farming, artisan work, and trading, gave women considerable independence.
Women (like elders) had prestige in the matrilineal home town, where black stools
symbolised the "seat of power." (Bartle).
Land Inheritance and Schooling in Matrilineal Societies:
Evidence from Sumatra - Agnes R. Quisumbing, and Keijiro Otsuka