Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
A matriarch is the female head of a family or tribe. Derived from the Latin "mater" meaning "mother," the matriarch is often the eldest surviving female within a family such as a mother or grandmother. Thus, the word matriarchal gives reference to female or mother as opposed to patriarchal which gives reference to male or father.
In some cultures a female is considered the family head and title is traced through the female line. In genealogy, researching the matriarchal or mother's ancestral line and can be challenging at best in cultures where women took the names of their husbands and women had such few legal rights. The mitochondrial DNA test (mtDNA) refers to DNA passed from mother to child, both daughters and sons and is used to trace one's deep ancestry.