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Overheard in GenForum: Meaning of "daughtering out"
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

March 09, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I overhead a couple of people at the library talking about a family "daughtering out." Could someone explain what that means? -- Terry

A: One of the comments I hear the most often is how many different terms there seem to be in this hobby. One newcomer to genealogy jokingly said that she thought she needed a Genealogy-English dictionary to understand what some of the terms mean.

Of course, some of the terms are directly related to the types of records that we find ourselves looking in, such as land records and probate records. Terms like grantor and grantee or guardian and testator are legal terms that can be found in any law dictionary or in a good genealogical dictionary.

Sometimes you feel like you need a Genealogy-English dictionary to understand the terms bandied about in genealogy circles.

Definition One

When a line is said to "daughter out," it means that the last male descendant had only daughters. When this happens the surname is generally at an end as far as that line is concerned.

While in today's society when females marry they do not always take the surname of their husband, but this was generally not the case in past centuries. When a daughter married she took the surname of her husband. That meant that when a man had only daughters, there was no way for his surname to be carried on.

In some cases, I have seen where the male offspring of the daughters were given their mother's maiden surname as either a first or middle name to at least carry on a connection.

Definition Two

Another way that I have heard the term "daughter out" used is when an individual descends from a daughter in a line. It is usually at that point that the researcher ceases to research the descendants of a given individual, because they no longer carry on that surname in their own research.

Again, in researching the daughters' lineages, I have often found that they have carried on their maiden name in some way by using it in the name of one or more of their own children.

Matrilineal Kinship

In our current society we seem to be obsessed with the patrilineal connection, the patriarch or father of the family. However, there are many societies that have long considered the matrilineal kinship to be much more important. This had largely to do with the fact that it was only through the female that one could be assured of parentage. After all, the female gives birth to the offspring.

However, in today's society, tracing the matrilineal line is sometimes one of the most frustrating searches that we accomplish. A matrilineal or cognate kinship is from the daughter to the mother to the grandmother to the great grandmother and so on.

In Conclusion

You can "daughter out" and still be a descendant of an individual. In no way does descending from a daughter negate any claims of descent. As long as your records can prove a connection to an ancestor, regardless of how you get there, through a daughter or through a son, then you can claim descent.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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